Life on Marsden: The inexplicably threatening charisma of your partner's ex

They can't possibly have experienced enjoyment before me, could they?

Related Topics

It's never a good idea to talk about former partners with your current partner. But sometimes you'll find yourself doing so, despite alert tones pinging in your head and "abort" error messages whizzing through your nervous system. 

As you hurriedly insert some disparaging adjectives into your tale, the person on the receiving end will have adopted the classic "ex-chat" expression: a raised eyebrow coupled with feigned nonchalance. But our digestive and nervous systems aren't nonchalant – they swing into fight-or-flight mode as we mentally wrestle with the inexplicable emotional threat from someone who we've never met and who proved themselves to be incompatible with your partner years ago. They've long gone! You're together now.

But we still find ourselves regarding the moment we met our partner as their sexual and emotional year zero. They can't possibly have experienced enjoyment before then – or, if they have, it's a pitiful enjoyment that compares very badly with the enjoyment you're currently having, ie, sitting together on the sofa watching Peter Kay on DVD and eating a lukewarm takeaway.

The inexplicable charisma of the ex-boyfriend or ex-girlfriend can feel bizarrely threatening. (Actually, if you've just been dumped by someone, you can console yourself with that thought. In six months' time your ghostly presence will loom horribly over that person's next relationship like an upset poltergeist with rejection issues.)

Hilariously, the name of my partner's ex-boyfriend is currently plastered on billboards around the UK, and that's proved to be a useful emotional exercise. It's a reminder that no matter how wildly successful, witty, wealthy or well-endowed your partner's exes may be, you will never have to physically stand alongside them in a ludicrous identity parade where your inadequacies are laid bare and your assets compared. It doesn't work that way. It's not about who's best; it's about who's last. And as the final person standing in that parade, you've won. Whey-hey!

But, of course, as the current custodian of that person's love, you're also the most vulnerable. And that's why ex-chat can hurt; it's not even about jealousy – it's just a grim reminder that you're just like all the others. You just happen to have the best timing.

React Now

Latest stories from i100
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
iJobs Job Widget
iJobs General

KS1 Teacher

£21500 - £31500 per day: Randstad Education Chelmsford: Would you like to work...

Java Developer - web services, XML and API

£330 - £350 Per Day: Clearwater People Solutions Ltd: Our client based in Lond...

Maths Teacher

Negotiable: Randstad Education Reading: Maths Teacher required to teach Furthe...

Primary teachers required for schools in Norwich

£21000 - £35000 per annum: Randstad Education Cambridge: Primary teachers requ...

Day In a Page

Read Next
Brooks Newmark  

If Brooks Newmark is ‘sick’ what does that say about the rest of us?

Simon Kelner
Adiala Jail in Rawalpindi where Mohammad Asghar is being held  

Mohammed Ashgar: A Briton on death row in Pakistan who the Government must act to save

David Morrisey
Isis is an hour from Baghdad, the Iraq army has little chance against it, and air strikes won't help

Isis an hour away from Baghdad -

and with no sign of Iraq army being able to make a successful counter-attack
Turner Prize 2014 is frustratingly timid

Turner Prize 2014 is frustratingly timid

The exhibition nods to rich and potentially brilliant ideas, but steps back
Last chance to see: Half the world’s animals have disappeared over the last 40 years

Last chance to see...

The Earth’s animal wildlife population has halved in 40 years
So here's why teenagers are always grumpy - and it's not what you think

Truth behind teens' grumpiness

Early school hours mess with their biological clocks
Why can no one stop hackers putting celebrities' private photos online?

Hacked photos: the third wave

Why can no one stop hackers putting celebrities' private photos online?
Royal Ballet star dubbed 'Charlize Theron in pointe shoes' takes on Manon

Homegrown ballerina is on the rise

Royal Ballet star Melissa Hamilton is about to tackle the role of Manon
Education, eduction, education? Our growing fascination with what really goes on in school

Education, education, education

TV documentaries filmed in classrooms are now a genre in their own right
It’s reasonable to negotiate with the likes of Isis, so why don’t we do it and save lives?

It’s perfectly reasonable to negotiate with villains like Isis

So why don’t we do it and save some lives?
This man just ran a marathon in under 2 hours 3 minutes. Is a 2-hour race in sight?

Is a sub-2-hour race now within sight?

Dennis Kimetto breaks marathon record
We shall not be moved, say Stratford's single parents fighting eviction

Inside the E15 'occupation'

We shall not be moved, say Stratford single parents
Air strikes alone will fail to stop Isis

Air strikes alone will fail to stop Isis

Talks between all touched by the crisis in Syria and Iraq can achieve as much as the Tornadoes, says Patrick Cockburn
Nadhim Zahawi: From a refugee on welfare to the heart of No 10

Nadhim Zahawi: From a refugee on welfare to the heart of No 10

The Tory MP speaks for the first time about the devastating effect of his father's bankruptcy
Witches: A history of misogyny

Witches: A history of misogyny

The sexist abuse that haunts modern life is nothing new: women have been 'trolled' in art for 500 years
Shona Rhimes interview: Meet the most powerful woman in US television

Meet the most powerful woman in US television

Writer and producer of shows like Grey's Anatomy, Shonda Rhimes now has her own evening of primetime TV – but she’s taking it in her stride
'Before They Pass Away': Endangered communities photographed 'like Kate Moss'

Endangered communities photographed 'like Kate Moss'

Jimmy Nelson travelled the world to photograph 35 threatened tribes in an unashamedly glamorous style