I got this text from a client last week saying, “I really want to solve this issue of men mentioning their exes! Or maybe that’s just normal? Does that happen to other clients on every first date?”

And then this week, after a different client went on a first date, she told me her date said some things in passing that gave her pause.

One of these things, of course, was, “He just mentioned his exes A LOT.”

This is a first date. A first date has two people on it — you and the other person. You know who shouldn’t make an appearance? The ex.

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You might be thinking, “But how will I assess how someone will be in a relationship?” Or “I want to know what happened so I can prepare myself.” Or even, “I wonder if anyone cheated.” Or “Will I have to deal with a crazy former partner if we’re together?”

I get it. You’re trying to size someone up. But I contend that this is all too premature. A first date is simply to figure out whether you and the other person have a connection. Nothing more, nothing less.

I shared my advice about this on Instagram, and another (this time male) client chimed in:

“I saw your post about talking about exes on a first date and it got me thinking. I’m definitely on team ‘don’t talk about exes.’ So I have an admittedly small sample size, but here’s what I have found. Women who have kids ask me about my kid and custody arrangement, and then almost always immediately ask me if I’m on good terms with my ex. So unless I’m not going to answer, it’s being brought up. I take it as a screener question, like if I date you, am I going to have to deal with drama from an ex? I’m never quite comfortable that I respond the right way, because my split was very amicable (and purposefully so on both our parts) and it’s something I’m proud of, but it’s not like either of us want to be together anymore. Anyway, wanted to throw in my two cents. Obviously feedback is welcome if I could handle it more artfully!”

I appreciated his thoughts immensely. Here’s how I replied:

“I really appreciate your thoughts. And I think you hit the nail on the head — there's no ‘right way’ to answer these questions. Too amicable — still in love. Too bitter — a red flag. I think people too often put the cart before the horse, asking future questions rather than present ones, like what you're watching on Netflix. The other stuff will come out in time. But people are trying not to ‘waste their time.’ In doing so, they may be ruining something potentially great by getting mired in the past.”

In the end, my advice stands: Do not bring up past relationships on first dates. No one wants to compete with anyone else on their own date with you.

This advice is for both sides: Don’t ask about the other person’s ex, and try to refrain from sharing about yours — at least on the first date. Rather, get to know people in the present instead of sizing them up based on past experiences.

Presumably we all improve with each experience and learn along the way, so what’s more important is who that person is today.

Erika Ettin is the founder of A Little Nudge, where she helps others navigate the often intimidating world of online dating. ©2020 Erika Ettin Distributed by Tribune Content Agency, LLC.