There are plenty of things that can go wrong on a first date, but one that’s especially frustrating and confusing is when your date, regardless of the topic, keeps circling back to talking about their ex. Isn’t discussing your former partners on the first date kind of a known taboo? And does this mean it’s time to pull the plug on the date? If your first date keeps bringing up their ex, Julie Spira, online dating expert and author of Love in the Age of Trump: How Politics is Polarizing Relationships, tells Elite Daily this is something you shouldn’t just breeze over. “If you’ve tried to change the subject when your date talks on-and-on about their ex, and the convo reverts to chatting about their ex, it’s a clear sign that they’ve got unresolved issues,” she explains. “Going on a date is an opportunity to learn something new about someone you could become romantically interested in, and not the place to dwell on the past.”
Next time you’re on a date and you find that the conversation continually returns to their romantic past, here’s what the experts say that likely means about where their head and heart are at.
What it means when your date can’t stop talking about their ex.
The most obvious interpretation of your dates’ repeated need to dwell on the past is that they simply aren’t over it yet. “[If] memories of your date’s ex monopolize the conversation … it’s clear that you’re not a priority, and they’re just not emotionally ready to leave their baggage behind and start a new relationship,” says Spira.
Even more concerning is when your date uses your time together to bash their ex, as Cherlyn Chong, a dating and breakup recovery coach for professional women, tells Elite Daily. “[It’s] a problem if someone still has feelings for or harbors resentment, bitterness, or disgust at the ex, which they clearly show every time they talk about their ex,” says Chong. It’s a bad idea in general to speak hatefully or cruelly about an ex to someone they’ve just met, as this may indicate some more serious issues.
There are, however, a few exceptions to the no ex talk on a first date, says Chong — provided, of course, it’s discussed respectfully. “Context matters in this case. For example, it doesn’t mean too much if someone keeps bringing up their ex to tell a good story or if they were in a 15-year relationship and their ex was simply present in much of their life,” she says. “Also, it’s OK if they talk about the ex in a way that signifies a good co-parenting relationship or friendship. Sometimes people are simply grateful for the learning experience they had with the ex and are now ready for more.”
What to do if your date keeps mentioning their former partner.
Discussing an ex really only becomes an issue if your date repeatedly steers the conversation back to the topic, especially on subsequent dates, says Spira. If you’ve decided to give someone a second chance (we’ve all had first date jitters that caused us to put our foot in our mouth), but they keep bringing up the subject of their ex, Spira says this is a pretty clear indication they’re stuck in the past. She suggests being straightforward and asking your date about it. “It’s time to interrupt them and point-blank ask them if they’d rather be with their ex or with you on this date,” says Spira. “It will give your date time to leave the ex behind or possibly admit that they’re not ready to move on right now.”
Chong adds that, if you decide to ask them about why they keep mentioning their ex, to pay close attention to how they respond. “I would question around it and observe the feelings and actions it evokes in the other person. If it’s negative, I wouldn’t spend time with this person any further, for they haven’t yet moved on and resolved their issues,” she says.
It’s ultimately going to be up to you to decide if you want to proceed with the date, because if you sense they still harbor feelings for someone else, that can make the date feel awfully crowded. “With someone’s ex tagging onto your date, it doesn’t set the tone for romance and a new beginning,” says Spira. Not to mention the fact that it can make you feel like you are being compared to their ex, which isn’t exactly a great first date vibe. “It’s up to you to let your date know you didn’t sign up for a love triangle and would love to continue the conversation as a duo instead of a trio,” Spira adds.
That being said, pretty much everyone has been through a heartbreak or a breakup before and knows moving on can be hard. Spira stresses that even though this may not be someone you want to continue seeing in the future, it’s important to still be kind. “Remember to show compassion if someone seems like they were hurt in the past, and let your date know that everyone deserves another chance to find someone more compatible,” she concludes.
First dates are usually a little (sometimes a lot) awkward, but they’re also a great learning experience. And going out with someone who keeps talking about the past is an opportunity to learn about why you don’t talk about your past romances on day one, and how to handle someone who does so with grace and dignity. Even if your date is emotionally unavailable, it’s not a total loss. It’s just time to get back out there and meet some folks who are on your page and ready for something more. Who knows, you might end up crossing paths with them again sometime in the future when you’re both ready to give it a shot.
Cherlyn Chong, a dating and breakup recovery coach for professional women
Julie Spira, online dating expert and author of Love in the Age of Trump: How Politics is Polarizing Relationships