Should You Date Someone with a String of Exes?

GoodTherapy | Should You Date Someone with a String of Exes?Unless you are relatively young, it is highly unlikely that you will never date someone with an ex-spouse or ex-live-in-lover. The reality is that a large percentage of people have some history of broken relationships, whether they were long-term commitments or actual marriages. Regardless, should you be concerned about the number of exes a new love interest has? That was the question posed to several relationship experts in a recent article. Holly Parker, a psychology professor at Harvard teaches a class entitled “The Psychology of Close Relationships,” and she believes that when people date casually, the number of notches on someone’s relationship belt should not be a significant issue. However, if the dating progresses to something more serious, perhaps those notches should be examined a little more closely.

She advises looking at the level of responsibility that the person took for the unsuccessful relationships. For instance, did they acknowledge that they played a part in the demise and if so, what did they do about it? Also, she believes that multiple failed relationships may indicate difficulty to commit, emotional problems, or other unresolved issues. These are all things that should be carefully weighed before someone decides to pursue a deeper level of commitment. Some of the red flags Parker advises people to watch for are emotional distance and/or narcissistic behavior. If they are focused more on their own needs than yours, it could be an indication that they will not be attentive to you, emotionally or physically. Parker also says to watch out for people who continually put the blame for previous relationships on their exes.

But don’t rule everyone out based on the number of exes in their past. New York psychiatrist Gail Saltz says, “There is no one-size-fits-all answer, because people get married and divorced for many different reasons.” Saltz thinks that it is unwise to generalize people by the number of relationships they had before they met you. But she does think it’s important to find out how those relationships ended, what changes the person may have made, and most importantly, how the person gets along with their exes now. Immaturity, infidelity, addiction, and abuse are just some of the weeds that can kill a growing relationship. Saltz believes it is better to find out what personality traits your new love may have or may have been subjected to before you venture down an unfamiliar road with an unfamiliar person.

Asa, Richard. Dating in an age of multiple divorces: Navigating the dating scene when your date already has two or three marriages behind him.(n.d.): n. pag. Chicago Tribune. 2013. Web. 16 Jan. 2013.,0,1797022.story

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  • Cathleen

    January 22nd, 2013 at 12:10 PM

    I cannot trust someone who has been in and out of a million relationships. Yes it is next to impossible to find someone who has never been in a moderately serious relationship but that does not mean you should tag along with someone who hires and fires partners at the drop of a hat!

  • adele s

    January 23rd, 2013 at 4:02 AM

    i know i won’t find some man with only a few women in the past, but a string of broken romances is generally going to indicate that there is some reason why he hasn’t been able to commit and maybe he needs to work on that before i dive in and get involved and just become a part of that chain

  • anne

    January 24th, 2013 at 12:04 AM

    “Should You Date Someone with a String of Exes?”

    Well for me,it depends on the kind of relationship I am looking to have.If it is nothing serious and is not going to be long term then there is no harm.but if I am looking for a long term relationship or something serious then if the guy had a string of exes it would send alarms ringing in my head and I would run straight away!

    Its not for nothing that some people have so many exes.yes a failed relationship does not mean the person is wrong.But many of those?That should be a point of caution.Also,the reasons for so many failed relationship may give a fair idea of how to deal with it.but seeing that the information can only be had from that same person,there is not much one can do and it is better to be safe than for me if someone has many former relationships then I am not going to get along with that person in the first place.

  • Tamar

    January 26th, 2013 at 8:46 AM

    It is virtually impossible to find someone who has not had other relationships if you are over 30, forget about over 50. And I don’t think you can always be sure when a relationship is “no strings”: what is no strings or you might be serious to the other person. The thing I worry about are men with control/power/violence issues.

  • Jason H.

    August 2nd, 2015 at 5:45 AM

    I will never accept a girl who even had have a single ex-boyfriend in her life… This problem has been revolving in my head for quite some time and I’m quite relieved now that I posted something about it.

  • Cam

    August 17th, 2018 at 3:14 AM

    Thank you for posting that. It makes no sense to be with someone who already had what you have with someone. Naked, partying, doing everything. It is gross. Ill be single for life. I dont even care. There is a guy i care for. I told him I’d rather die than be sloppy seconds.

  • Pjagdev

    December 24th, 2016 at 11:24 AM

    everyone has ex relationships. But if their past is full of several ex relationships that haven’t been long enough ie 1/2 year relationships, this could signal issues. They will suddenly get bored or change. The minute things get slightly awry they jump ship. This doesn’t mean you avoid them like a plague. but be warned as there is a higher chance of heartache

  • TP

    July 18th, 2017 at 5:56 PM

    Failed relationships are a symptom of something greater. If you can’t make it work with someone “you love”, then your success at other levels of your life also are under the microscope. In today’s society I would rather deal with a single/never married person than divorced. At least they understand what it takes to be self reliant. With it they take on the responsibility of see things thru simply because they have had to do it alone.

  • TN

    September 24th, 2017 at 6:30 PM

    Just because he has a ‘string of relationships’ does not mean he is incapable of loving you more than anyone else. You are special and bring a special part of him to the surface. Never forget that. It means he has learned from his past and is more dedicated to the future .. with YOU in it. Be excited and happy at the opportunity of love. Put your past sh#t behind you. This man is in front of you and ready for a present and a future. The other relationships were short term for a reason. Yours is succeeding. Be proud of that. Be your best self and there is absolutely nothing to be scared of.

  • Cam

    August 17th, 2018 at 3:16 AM

    Id rather kill myself than be with a guy who’s gotten off before he met me.

  • the other twin

    April 11th, 2019 at 8:09 PM

    I seriously think there is a major problem…it seems one of the partners is probably narcisstic and they drew there victims in. People are attracted to narcissitic personalities. My sibling is one and had over 5 marriages multiple relationships and points the finger at the other person for making the relationship fail. Most of them are seriously hurt and injured in how they trust again. They even extend the narcisstic behavoir into relationships in families. So I would think anyone who ever dated narcisstic people should be listened too. It is hard to find a true, real non self centered person today. One that doesn’t sleep around for casual sex and believes in building up a relatinship then tearing an individual down.

  • Donald

    June 21st, 2019 at 12:34 PM

    I am 60 years old dating a 54 year old. She is constantly bringing up new exes in our dating. Literally every time we go out she brings up another guy, two and even once 3 in a single night that she has dated. I hate it. she has always dated younger men than her and talks about what good shape they were in. Tells me details of their sex life’s. I like her for many reasons but this is ruining the relationship. Do I just give up? I have mentioned in a caring way that it bothers me a bit and she tells me I’m just being insecure and that if I keep it up I will ruin things…this sucks. Two months in do I work at it or bail out. Yes, you do still feel the same way about romance when your 60 as you did when you were 20. Help?

  • M

    December 17th, 2020 at 9:06 AM

    I have been married 4 times.
    The first time I was 17 and came up pregnant. i told him I didn’t want to marry him, but he begged me and I caved. We were married 3 years. He was verbally abusive and figured out that what he really wanted was to be partying with the guys.
    The second marriage was to his best friend. He stepped in when my first husband left and took on all the responsibility, including my son. He was great and I loved him immensely-except that he was still in love with his x wife and (I found out later) only asked me to marry him when he found out that she was getting married-as a way to ‘show her’! Regardless we were married 7 years. I adored him through it all, though he was emotionally unavailable to me and kept me walled off from his heart. He wound up cheating on me, giving me some strange ‘rash’ from his girlfriend, abusing me-physically-and my son and then finally my mom got sick and asked for my help- I was able to be away from him long enough to realize how miserable I had actually been and I filed for divorce.
    Husband #3 showed up fresh out of the penitentiary. I was lonely and he had a silver tongue. He was SUPER abusive, got me messed up on drugs, isolated me from my family, and basically destroyed every shred of self esteem I had left. I was with him over 5 years-and every time I tried to leave he would stalk me and wiggle his way back in my life. When people would try to check on me he would tell them I was dead. I finally woke up one day and saw the stretch marks from the weight he had gained, the beer in his hand and him in his under ware watching tv-drunk first think in the morning and the stench of drugs hanging in the air and realized how low I had fallen. I left-with much fear and many threats and harassments- even with fear for several years later.
    Husband # 4 came right on his heels. He was fresh out of the military. Dad warned me about PTSD-I shrugged it off.
    #4 and I talked for hours-we had a TON in common-except for his self admitted addiction to pornography. (which he professed he was over) I still love him. 11 years of marriage and he now lives with his girlfriend who is 20 years his junior. it has wrecked me beyond imagination. I cried and begged him to get help so many times, but the damage of what he had been through was so deep that he was suicidal most of the time. He self medicates with drugs and alcohol and is narcissistic beyond belief. But I love him still. There is no hope of restoration. He moved in with her in January and its now December. I still wear the ring and mourn the loss. My self perception is beyond bleak. I have only wanted someone to love me and in my desperation to be held I have destroyed myself.
    My son is 25 and my daughter (from husband #4) is 11.
    I honestly can say I still hope for the day that I can be whole again and I pray it’s with someone…but at this point who would want me?
    The condemnation is immediate and rightfully so- I know what I would think if the shoe was on the other foot.
    I honestly feel like I just need to be here long enough for my daughter to be grown and then I will wait to die.
    Be careful how you judge people-the whole story might more tragic then you realize.

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