Unless you’re 18 or haven’t been getting out much, you have an ex. If you’re like many of my clients, you have an ex-spouse, which, let’s face it, is like an ex to the third power. And chances are, you have at least one ex you don’t like or who did things he or she shouldn’t have. Maybe you’ve been lied to, cheated on, talked down to, criticized, dumped, or just misunderstood. And that sucks. But no matter how much it sucks, don’t even think about badmouthing your ex.
If you’ve read any of my stuff (Dating the Divorced Man, Changing Your Game), you know that I frown upon talking about one’s ex when on a date or in a relationship. But there are times when it’s useful, even necessary, to share a bit about your past and history. And when you do, be careful of what you say.
In all of the interviews I’ve done and all of the people I’ve talked with, I’ve noticed a pattern. The people with the rottenest, lousiest exes weren’t the ones badmouthing them. They never said how stupid, sick, disturbed, or lame their exes were. And I also noticed that the people saying the meanest things and being the most critical of their exes didn’t really have exes that were all that bad – more often, it was simply a mismatch or a case of “she dumped me so I’m going to tell the world how stupid she is.”
What Badmouthing Your Ex REALLY Says
When you badmouth an ex, it doesn’t reflect on him or her, it reflects on YOU. When people trash their exes, they think they’re conveying:
“I want people to know what my ex is like, what I’ve been through, that I deserve compassion.”
But what they actually convey is:
“My ex hurt me and I’m STILL pissed off about it, and I’m going to badmouth YOU if you hurt me too.”
Is that what you wanted to say? I didn’t think so. When you trash an ex, your date will wonder if you aren’t over him/her. They’ll wonder why you put up with someone so stupid/mean/abusive. They’ll wonder if you’ll say the same things about them.
How to Talk About Your Ex
This doesn’t mean you have to lie or say good things about your ex if there aren’t good things to say. It means you need to deal with the past, and then focus on reporting the facts rather than being mean. For example:
Say: “My ex is not the nicest guy, unfortunately” rather than “My ex is an asshole.”
Say: “I wish my ex-wife and I got along better” rather than “She’s spoiled and living off my money.”
Say: “We weren’t a good match” rather than “He had the IQ of a pigeon.”
Yeah, from time to time we all let one slip about an ex we dislike. But it should be the exception, not the rule. You can’t play the game of love and not get hurt from time to time. Grieve, learn from it, and move on.
What’s the meanest thing you’ve heard a date say about an ex?
“I don’t know why my ex was always so tired from work. I manage lots of people; she scrapes teeth for a living.” (His ex was a dental hygienist)