If you're curious about your
partner's past relationships, and want to talk about them just for fun, then go for it. It can be mighty interesting to poke around and learn more about what your partner's life was like before you two met. But don't feel like you have to learn everything about your partner's exes, if you don't want to. It’s perfectly fine to leave the past in the past, and allow yourselves room to move forward free of baggage.
You may, however, benefit from clarifying a few details before committing to your partner — all in the name of creating the healthiest of relationships. After all, as the saying goes, "the biggest predictor of future behavior is past behavior," Jonathan Bennett, relationship and dating expert at
Double Trust Dating, tells Bustle. "So, looking at your partner’s old relationships and exes could give you clues about how your relationship will eventually unfold."
Knowing their history can be a great way of protecting yourself from issues such as infidelity, toxic relationship habits, codependency, etc. But
learning more about your partner's ex, and how that relationship went down, can also make you a better partner.
your significant other has some baggage, or a few painful things they're trying to let go. By knowing what they dealt with in their last relationship, or how their ex treated them, you can be that much more understanding. Here are a few things experts say you might want to know about your partner's ex, and about their past relationships in general, before fully committing.
If you feel like your partner's past may come back to haunt your current relationship, it may be worth it to ask what caused their most recent break up, as well as what kinds of problems they encountered during the relationship.
"If you know the problems they had, you can ask your partner what they did to try to resolve them,"
psychic and spiritual counselor Davida Rappaport tells Bustle. "If your partner did not step up, you can expect that they may not step up if you have problems. If they made an effort to work on the relationship, you can be assured they will work through problems with you."
How Their Relationship Ended
Even if you don't want to press your partner for details about why the relationship ended, it can be helpful to know
how it all came to a close. Was it a mutual and calm and respectful parting of ways? Or was it a super toxic and angry breakup that lasted for months or years?
"How a couple breaks up can be very enlightening," Bennett says. "If the end was nasty, bitter, and dramatic, it can say a lot about how your partner handles conflict. And, that drama can spill over into new relationships."
Of course, if things were messy, it might mean the ex was toxic, and your partner was simply caught up in it. So don't hold their past against them — especially if they truly want to change and start afresh with you.
How The Ex Views Your Partner Now
If you can, try to find out how your partner's ex views them now, perhaps by asking a mutual friend. "Is there anger? Perhaps it’s respect. Or, an ex could still be attracted," Bennett says. "Knowing how an ex feels about your partner now can be important information, especially if there is hostility or continued attraction."
If attraction still exists, now may not be the best time to move forward with this relationship. And if their ex is super angry at them — or your partner has a history of all their exes dumping them — let it serve as a red flag that they may have anger issues or some other toxic habit, that you may want to learn more about before fully committing.
Again, thanks to what we know about patterns, it can be super helpful to learn more about your partner's history of infidelity. As Bennett says, "One study showed that
people who cheated in the past are 3.5 times more likely to do it in the future. So, if your partner’s relationship ended due to [their] infidelity, it’s a giant red flag."
Of course, your partner might not readily admit that they cheated. And even if they did, it doesn't 100 percent guarantee that they'll cheat on you. But it doesn't hurt to ask and create an honest conversation, so that you can set up new rules and boundaries for your relationship.
If Their Ex Cheated On Them
It may also be good to know — and ask a few questions about — any cheating that happened
to your partner. If they had their heart broken, there's a good chance that baggage will affect your current relationship. And it may be something you'll need to address.
"Getting cheated on creates a lot of trust issues and you’ll want to know this so you can be extra loving and patient," Bethany Ricciardi, one of
TooTimid.com's sex and relationship educators, tells Bustle. You may, for example, want to establish some boundaries in your relationship from the get-go, so that your partner can feel safe and secure.
Whether Or Not They're Still Friends
It can be tough to date someone who's still friends with their ex, so go ahead and gather more information, as necessary. "If your partner is still friendly with their ex-partner, ask them why they broke up," Rappaport says. "Maybe their interests changed or they wanted different things." And in that case, their friendship isn't likely to threaten your relationship.
Knowing where they stand can be a huge comfort. "Once you know that the partner was amicable, learn to be comfortable with them still talking or seeing one another," Rappaport says. And "perhaps you can become their ex’s friend, too."
Whether Or Not Their Ex Has Moved On
If you're still feeling
insecure about your partner's friendship with their ex, it may be helpful to know whether or not the ex has moved on — as that can tell you a lot about the nature of the friendship.
Is the ex with someone new? Are they married? "If you have an open and honest and healthy relationship with your partner then, while it may feel uncomfortable, they should be OK with discussing their ex with you," Joshua Klapow, PhD, clinical psychologist and host of
The Kurre and Klapow Show, tells Bustle. So don't be afraid to ask the questions you need answers to, in order to feel secure.
If They Were Each Other's First True Love
If your partner's ex was their first true love — and it all ended very recently — tread lightly. As
therapist Kimberly Hershenson, LMSW tells Bustle, "your partner may not fully be over them or may compare you to their ex."
In this situation, it can be helpful to create an open dialogue about their ex, why they broke up, what they learned from the relationship, and so on. That way, your partner will be better able to move on, and not compare the two of you.
Whether Or Not The Ex Was Toxic
You might also want to see if your partner would be willing to open up about whether or not their ex was toxic, what they used to fight about, and what they didn't like about each other. Because if their ex was toxic or hurtful or rude, "your partner may have trauma that will need to be worked through," Hershenson says. And that may affect you two going forward.
Of course, none of this means you need to end your relationship. You can still commit to your partner, even as they work on recovering from their past. But knowing what they dealt with can be incredibly eye-opening. Depending on what their ex was like, and what happened in their past relationships, it may explain a lot. And yet, by sticking together, and keeping a conversation going, the past
doesn't have to affect your future.