by K. Alisha Fetters
Regrets do have one upside: They motivate her to be a better mate. “When she says, ‘I wish I’d treated my ex better,’ she likely means, ‘I want to treat you better than I treated him
WHAT’S HER EX FACTOR?
It’s a cardinal rule of dating: don’t talk about each other’s exes. The pain, the unwelcome memories—some of them still fresh, perhaps. But you can thank her exes for at least one thing: leading her to you. In fact, according to research from Indiana University, the average woman may need to date nearly a dozen men before she figures out who and what she wants. And each of those men leaves an impression, says lead study author Peter Todd, Ph.D. “The success or failure of relationships shapes our future search for mates and the attributes we value, which could include factors like health, wealth, and physical attractiveness,” he says.
That’s just one reason why you shouldn’t be afraid to bring up the topic of her former squeeze, says John Gottman, Ph.D., cofounder of the Gottman Institute, a relationship counseling center in Seattle. “Stories of past relationships will help you better understand her wants and needs.” Ask her these five essential questions (though not all at once) and you’ll learn everything you need to know about her past—including how to keep yourself from becoming a part of it.
1. How did you lose your virginity?
Bad experiences in bed can run the gamut from tame to traumatic, and a common theme is that she felt dehumanized, says Brandy Engler, Ph.D., author of The Men on My Couch. She’ll want a stronger connection—but be aware that guys often think that means a tender, emotional experience, Engler says. “Women want you to express your full desire. So combine intimacy—eye contact, whispers in her ear—with carnal elements, like hair pulling.”
2. What did you fight about with your ex?
Set a few rules for when you have it out, says Paul Hokemeyer, Ph.D., a Manhattan marriage therapist. “Agree not to argue late at night,” he says. “You’ll be more irritable and prone to saying regretful things.” When things get heated, take short breaks or go for a walk—it’ll help lower the emotional intensity of the fight, he says. In the end, aim for a compromise, says Malkin. “Ask her what solution would feel best for her. Even if she’s not sure, the fact that you asked will be deeply reassuring.”
3. What’s your biggest regret?
Regrets do have one upside: They motivate her to be a better mate. “When she says, ‘I wish I’d treated my ex better,’ she likely means, ‘I want to treat you better than I treated him,'” Morrison says. So return the favor; Orbuch’s survey of 110 divorced women revealed that they craved more affection and communication and less strife about money. And for good reason: A 2012 study in the journal Family Relations found frequent arguments about money to be more predictive of divorce than other types of spats.
4. Did you ever cheat on a boyfriend?
Sexual differences are often about a clash of expectations, Engler says. “She might feel threatened by what you’re proposing, but you can deflect her anxiety if you explain what a certain sexual act means to you.” Even that’s not enough sometimes, says Debby Herbenick, Ph.D., Men’s Health’srelationships advisor. “She might just hate blow jobs, for example, and you’ll either need to move on or accept the idea of spending your life with somebody who has that off the table.”5. How did your relationships end?
Maybe she’s always being dumped. Maybe she’s always cutting men loose. Either extreme could indicate trust issues, says Rachel A. Sussman, M.A., L.C.S.W., a New York City relationships counselor and author of The Breakup Bible. And a recent, painful split, says Sussman, may make her worry that you’ll break her heart too. “These types of women are always waiting for the other shoe to drop,” Sussman says. “And that paranoia makes them think it’s best to end the relationship the minute they sense any discomfort.”
STEP UP YOUR GAME
Lavish her with attention, says Hokemeyer. That means keeping your smartphone on lockdown and your eyes off other women. Chivalrous gestures, like opening doors and pulling out chairs, go a long way. “They make her feel valued in public, and you’re conveying to the world that she’s a treasure,” Hokemeyer says. “If she’s insecure, she’ll have a heightened sensitivity to your level of attention and connection to her. In other words, it’s not what you say—it’s what you do.”
Read more in Men’s Health
Op-ed pieces and contributions are the opinions of the writers only and do not represent the opinions of Y!/YNaija.