Why Your Date Talking Negatively About Their Ex Is A Bad Sign

Talking about your ex is an inevitable part of dating. Eventually, you and your new flame have to stop beating around the bush and start talking honestly about your past relationships. In fact, it's an important part of getting to know each other. "There is no harm in swapping stories [about exes], and if the relationships have been significant; the experiences from there can be valuable in getting to know someone," dating psychologist Madeleine Mason explained to the Independent.


Still, there's a palpable ick many of us experience when a date starts divulging details about their exes. A survey conducted by OnePoll for adult toy brand Lelo (via Talker) confirms this, with 33% of American adults saying that talking about an ex is a turn-off.

A date gushing over their ex isn't the only time you might feel uncomfortable — hearing them bad-mouth a former partner may trigger a bad gut feeling too. And it should: A new significant other talking negatively about an ex is a dating red flag that could signal problems ahead.

Your date hasn't learned from their previous relationships

Relationships — especially those that end in heartbreak — aren't always easy, and sometimes people walk away wounded. Even so, it's rare that one person is totally innocent while the other instigated all the drama. If your date only points out everything their ex did wrong, it might mean they still haven't taken responsibility for their share. "When people describe all of their exes as terrible people and put all the blame on them for the relationship's failure, this is a red flag for me," psychologist Elinor Greenberg told Insider. "It practically shouts: 'I cannot take any responsibility for whatever went wrong. I have not learned anything from these relationships. It is totally up to you to make our relationship work.'"


Even if your new love interest experienced something traumatic in their relationship, their negativity now could be a warning sign. "When people talk badly about their exes to an unhealthy point, it means that they haven't worked through a lot of that relationship," Lena Aburdene Derhally, an Imago relationship therapist, explained to Refinery29. In other words, they may have some healing to do before they can start a successful relationship with you.

They're not really over their ex

While there isn't one "right" time to start dating again after ending a relationship, one thing's certain: You need to get over your ex before you can move on to someone else. You might assume that a dating partner hasn't moved on only if they rave about their former flame, but the opposite can be true too. Read: A date who bashes their ex could still be hung up. As sex and intimacy coach Irene Fehr told Elite Daily, "They still complain about their ex and what they did or didn't do, and that carries charge: bitterness, resentment, anger or sadness. [...] They are stuck wishing that things were different, and they can't let it go."


If your new boo is still emotionally attached to a relationship that ended, you may become the rebound that helps them move on — but don't expect things to go smoothly. According to a 2019 study published in Social Psychological and Personality Science, relationship quality tends to suffer when one person still longs for their ex (and, for what it's worth, researchers found that this is particularly true if the man in a heterosexual couple is the one still fixated on a former partner). Plus, if their ex happens to come around, there's a good chance your new love will leave you in the dust to be with them.

They might treat you how they treated their ex

You've probably heard that it's best to avoid dating prospects who call all their exes "crazy" because they might gaslight you in similar ways in the future. According to experts, there's truth to this advice. "If you listen carefully to how your new lover describes his or her important previous relationships and how he or she speaks about their exes, you can learn a lot about how this person is likely to treat you," Elinor Greenberg revealed to Insider. This is because people tend to follow the same patterns — and make the same mistakes — in relationships.


Psychologically, most of us are predisposed to choose what's familiar. It's normal to repeatedly date the same type of people, and it's also normal to follow the same behavioral patterns chosen in the past. There's a variety of research to back this up, including a 2008 study published in the Quarterly Journal of Experimental Psychology. The study's researchers discovered something called a "mistake pathway," where past slip-ups are ingrained in the brain, essentially becoming repeated habits.

So what does this mean for you and your ex-obsessed date? It means that your crush is likely to repeat old relationship problems, and they might even subconsciously seek out a partner who reminds them of their ex. As a result, the way they describe their ex now might be how they describe you one day.


How to respond when a new partner bad-mouths their ex

Your new love interest just dropped a harsh critical remark about their ex. Should you label it a deal-breaker and fake an emergency to leave the date ASAP? You could — but you could also use their comment as a conversation starter. "I would question around [the comment] and observe the feelings and actions it evokes in the other person," Cherlyn Chong, a dating and breakup recovery coach for professional women, suggested to Elite Daily. "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."


If you're already beyond the getting-to-know-each-other phase and you're worried that the past still has a grip on your partner, encourage them to work through their negative feelings. "Depending on how comfortable you are, you might suggest that your partner sees a therapist on their own," Lena Aburdene Derhally told Refinery29.

Consider the timing of your S.O.'s comments, too, when choosing how to respond. Generally, it's acceptable to talk about your ex when the topic comes up naturally, though not as soon as the first date. If you've had time to grow close, it's only natural that your partner might not hold back when describing their past relationships. However, if the way your partner goes about it doesn't sit well with you, it's okay to set some boundaries or end things — before you become the next ex they trash-talk.