I know talking about exes is off limits on a first date, but I was in an actual relationship with a guy who never told me anything real about his exes, ever. It started to feel like such a strange omission that it actually became a dealbreaker for me. Here’s why.
He was holding back.
I asked him on several occasions about his experience with relationships, love, and heartbreak but he never gave me much info. It was fine at first — I thought he needed a bit of time to get to know me before opening up — but after a few months it made me feel that he wasn’t keen on growing closer emotionally.
I feared the worst.
Of course I couldn’t help but worry that he wasn’t over his most recent ex. Why else would he have police tape around the subject of his last girlfriend? It was so frustrating to make peace with someone who was open about so many other things but wouldn’t touch the subject of exes. I also had the fear that he was hiding something really shady. Maybe he’d treated his exes terribly and was a really bad boyfriend — or worse. My imagination was running circles around me, trying to answer the questions he just wasn’t answering.
He wanted to close the door on the past.
It sometimes felt like we were strangers. I told him this during one of our arguments about how closed up he was regarding exes and he thought it was ludicrous. “I don’t want to focus on the past — I want to focus on us,” he kept saying. That sounds reasonable, but I needed to know more about him. I wanted him to have an “open door” policy on his past. Was that so much to ask?
I needed to know if we were right for each other.
He made me seem (and start to feel) a tad crazy for wanting to know about his previous relationships, but it mattered to me. This was information I needed about him in order to see where he was coming from, what mistakes he made in the past, what he learned from his experiences, and perhaps most importantly, if we were on the same page about relationships. There’s a wealth of information in our relationship history and he was hiding it from me.
I was on rocky terrain.
One of the weirdest things about dating a guy who didn’t want to be open about his exes is that it made me insecure about our relationship. Since he never shared with me what his relationship dealbreakers had been or why he bolted from previous relationships, I never knew what his boundaries were and where I stood.
I couldn’t trust him.
He didn’t do anything to make me think he was a bad boyfriend, but his mysterious past was starting to make me resent him. It was a serious red flag. How could I really trust a guy who wasn’t completely open and honest with me?
I took matters into my own hands.
I needed to know more and since he wasn’t talking to me, I decided to try to find out about his exes online. I headed for Facebook and Instagram, but there was nothing about his exes on there. He wasn’t much of a social media person. Great. The answer ended up coming from an unlikely source. One night, we were out with his friends and one of them mentioned his ex. I couldn’t believe this was happening! She said something about his ex being totally crazy, but my boyfriend shot down the conversation and looked uncomfortable.
I was sick of his “perfect” act.
When we left that dinner, I asked my boyfriend about what his friend said and he said his ex was just crazy because she was clingy. So he didn’t like clinginess? That’s all he was going to say? Yup, he said he preferred not to go down memory lane. I was starting to get the feeling that this guy wanted to seem perfect by keeping his past under wraps, but it was really annoying. I didn’t want to date a perfect guy with a flawless past, I wanted someone real.
I couldn’t be myself.
A weird thing happened: being with someone who was so secretive about their past started to influence my behavior. I started to hold back from him, thinking, “Why the hell should I be open when he’s not?” Soon, it was like we were going backward in our relationship, back to when we didn’t know each other, instead of moving forward.
He was in a dream world.
Sooner or later, tough conversations will come up in relationships. But it was like my ex wanted to pretend we were in some sort of fairytale, where we conveniently avoided anything uncomfortable and erased years from our history. It was crazy! If he couldn’t be honest about his romantic history, how would he talk about more serious things in the future like sex and STIs, jealousy, insecurities, and more? I just didn’t see it happening.
We weren’t going anywhere.
I didn’t see how I could have a future with a guy who was hiding parts of his life from me and not wanting to build trust. I want to be with someone who shares every part of his life with me, even the dark, uncomfortable places so that we become more intimate and grow as a couple. This guy and I weren’t headed for anything other than an emotional dead-end. In fact, we’d already got there.
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