The last thing you want to hear out of a partner's mouth is the name of his or her ex -- but talking about an ex doesn't always signal romantic doom. In fact, it can help build a solid foundation for your current relationship.
Experts say the individual
growth that leads to healthy, stable relationships begins with heartbreaks, and one of the best ways to turn past disappointments into future relationship successes is to share these experiences with your new partner.
But how should you broach the subject? If you've kept in touch with your former flames on social media platforms such as Facebook, you've got an easy in, said Dr. Linda Young, a psychologist .
But dredging up stories of past flames can be treacherous, and it's worth taking the time to think about how to do it right. Here are five things to know before talking about an ex with your partner.
1.Recalling past relationship mistakes makes you less inclined to repeat them.
When you've been dumped, areas of the brain associated with addiction as well as physical pain light up, said Helen Fisher, chief scientific adviser to Match.com and a senior research fellow at The Kinsey Institute. Human brains have evolved to "attach" to other people after forming romantic bonds. When a relationship ends and that attachment severs, there's a huge emotional and physiological hit. After that, brain regions associated with processing what happened fire up.
2.Talking about past relationships can give your partner insight into who you are.
Aside from the evolutionary benefits, talking about your exes can help you communicate to your new partner how you grew into the person you are today. Often, romantic relationships serve as learning experiences that let you test the boundaries of your interests and needs. Reflecting on a past relationship can even help you find out something about yourself that you may have missed during the relationship and breakup.
3.When it comes to talking about an ex, timing is everything.
The beginning of a new relationship may not be the best time to drop the ex bomb. Fisher explained that there's no hard and fast rule when it comes to timing, but you probably want to give a relationship time to develop before adding in any emotional third parties -- i.e., avoid talk of your ex on the first date.
4.Remember that perception may not match reality.
When Fisher polled a representative sample of 5,000 Americans for Match.com recently, she asked people how long it takes them to get over an ex and found the average answer was about three months.
"But you know what? It's one of the few things I didn’t believe," she said. "I actually don't believe that. I've seen people take 10 years."
However long it may take you to get over an ex, how you talk about that person when you're in a new relationship can reveal a great deal. If you're still grieving over an ex, that can create a barrier between you and your current partner and signify that you're not "over it."
You can still have fond memories of your exes and bring them up occasionally, but be wary of spending too much time dwelling on the past.
5.Know that the reason you're talking about your ex is to move forward, not backward.
Once you've shared the lessons of past relationships with your partner, it's best to continue to get to know him or her, form a new bond and create new memories -- don't let your current relationship stagnate
. There's always more to learn about the relationship at hand, so you'll need to give it as much attention as possible.