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Talking too much about an ex

Talking too much about our ex’s October 15, 2016

Last week, a widow asked, “How much time should a person spend talking about an ex or deceased spouse? I polled my On Life and Love After 50 Newsletter subscribers and here were some of their responses.

Gale said, “Not enough to bore your current partner. I suggest a mutual exchange where each of you get to talk about your exes, but briefly. I don’t believe anyone wants to hear a running dialogue about an ex, especially if the date involves getting to know your current partner. If there is a shared interest ok. But, as stated…briefly is best.”

Art emailed, “This is how I handle the subject of my late wife. My feeling is that an occasional mention is OK when talking about a place you visited, or something that relates to a current situation.

“I asked Joanie, my current lady friend, to come to the beach with me when I brought my late wife's ashes to the beach and opened the bag into the water. That was more than two years ago.

“Since then, I rarely mention my late wife. I have been with Joanie for nearly 3 1/2 years, and think of her as my future.”

Marian said, “I can speak to the talking about an ex topic. My 'wasband' came up during my 3rd or 4th date recently (I haven't dated since 2009.)

“Too much or too little divulged by either person isn't good for obvious reasons--still grieving/angry or unwilling to take ownership comes to mind.

“When asked questions about my ex, I was succinct in my sharing. Being able to talk about previous relationships opens a window to where the other person is in his/her healing and state of mind. The most important takeaway for me was to know that even though he is divorced, he is able to communicate with his ex regarding their children.”

Gail, “As a widow, I offer my opinion on talking about the departed spouse. I feel it is appropriate to tell your date that you are a widow or widower and for how long. Offer nothing else unless asked. It is very easy to ‘elevate’ a departed spouse to sainthood and should be avoided at all times. A dear older friend of mine has told me I am still single because I am too picky and she is right, although, time does help.”

Brenda, “I think it's ok to mention an ex. But don't point out similarities or differences in your date. Don't reference your previous life in every event. Be careful not to bring up 'we did that' or 'she would have liked that' as that is very annoying. I dated a widower briefly and he did that. He even told me several times I was just like her. That made me angry. I think he was trying to justify dating me by making me seem just like her. She had been deceased for ten years.”

Linda, after corresponding with a widower online, met him in person five months ago. A relationship began.

The widower was married one time. Linda said, "He doesn't have photos of his wife out (deceased three years), but he speaks frequently about the life they had." She wonders if he has gotten past the grief and can move forward into a new relationship.

Dr. John, divorced after 21-year marriage:

“Death or divorce, if you were with a partner for a significant length of time, that's part of who you are, and where you're coming from. To expect a person to never talk about his or her ex, I think, is to refuse to deal with part of who that person is.

“Be very leery of a person who talks negatively about their ex - chances are, down the line, that person will be talking negatively to someone else about - YOU! Talking about the ex's good and not so good qualities is one thing, having nothing positive to say about the ex is another.

“NONE OF US ARE MIND READERS! All the opinions given above were based on the idea that we CAN read the other person's mind regarding how much talk about the ex is too much.How about JUST ASKING?

“For example: ‘Do you want to hear about my previous relationship?’ Or, ‘Do I talk too much about my ex?’ Or, ‘If you're getting too much information about my ex, just let me know.’

“EVERYTHING in a relationship is negotiable, but to negotiate, you must bring the issues out into the open and talk about them. Not asking, not talking, and making mind-reading assumptions are the path to anger and resentment.”

Maria agreed with Dr. John, “Since we are older folks, we all have a history. We are bound to talk about people we have loved in the past, especially if someone has been widowed. I agree, though, it shouldn't dominate the conversation, but I would like to hear where a person has been with their past experiences - all part of getting to know and assessing the potential partner. I think we all need to be tolerant, but if someone is talking too much about an ex or past love, tell them how you feel. Communication is the key to a successful relationship.


Tom’s comments: If a person talks about an ex frequently, it likely means he or she is not over the situation. That isn’t wrong, it’s just a sign that the healing process is still going on. It could be the person is still angry, hurt, or the heart is still broken. Perhaps, with more time, the person will be able to focus more on the feelings of the new person in his or her life.

As the recipient of those types of comments, you may understand where the person is coming from, but when a person you are dating keeps mentioning an ex, it can make you feel like you are in second place. And you want to be on the top rung of the ladder; you want to be that person’s top priority.

I once dated a widow. She called me “Sam” (her deceased husband’s name) so often, it was almost comical. When she did that, I would call her “Betsy” in return, which wasn’t her name, to try to send her a subtle message. It didn’t work. I moved on; I didn’t want to be “Sam” anymore.

Overall, it’s natural for seniors to mention occasionally a former spouse or significant other. After all, those people were a part of our life. But, keep in mind, when doing so you could be hurting the feelings of the new person in your life. Do it often enough, and you might find him or her gone, and then, you might regret that you weren’t more conscious of their feelings. Have empathy and be aware of that.

Photo of talking too much about ex's

Tom and Greta don't discuss ex's anymore--enough is enough

Copies of this article also appeared in these newspapers:

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