I used to think that it was poor form to talk about past relationships on the first few dates. When I did inquire, I asked, “When was your last relationship?” I thought that if given enough time for recovery and a rebound a man whom I met on a dating site and who said they were looking for a relationship, was over his ex. On my date with Dan for example, the fact that he’d just separated from his wife two weeks prior (when she found out he was cheating on her) was an obvious red flag.
We all have exes, but some are in our heads more than others and I’ve come to the conclusion (agreed, my sample size is small) that for guys it doesn’t matter how long ago the relationship was or how many women he’s dated between her and you. I believe that men more than women suffer from a delayed reaction to big breakups.
After a recent experience with bringing up my date’s ex and having him almost cry, I’ve learned that, “Tell me about your last long term relationship” is a better question. One date told me that it was too soon and too raw to talk about his last love. Another keeps running into his ex at yoga and it makes him feel sad. The man who almost cried told me he’d gotten back together with his ex several times only to have her dump him again and again. They’re still in touch.
I think the most obvious counter argument here is that delayed breakup reaction is just an excuse women like me tell myself to feel better when guys who just happen to get teary on dates with us don’t want to see us ever again. I think there’s at least some truth to my theory because take for example, what many men and many women do after break ups. While I was crying, not eating, and torturing my friends and family with endless “What happened?” whining, my ex was on Coffee Meets Bagel. After that happened for a while he tried to get back together with me. I was moving on.
I ran this idea of delayed breakup pain past an actual guy and he said something really smart. While not giving anything away about his last relationship or any indication that he’s experienced this himself, he suggested that women have a way to process breakups in a way that me don’t. He said that women talk it through with friends and men pass another beer offering, “sucks man” and not much else. Processing trauma is key if you don’t want those feelings to pop out on you wearing convincing zombie makeup when you least expect them.
Everyone’s different I realize, but why not ask early? When he’s looking at you like he’s 4 years old and you just threw his teddy bear in the trash for not practicing piano, expect to be ghosted.