>>> About Last Night…
By staff writer Ali Wisch
January 18, 2006

It's pretty much guaranteed that any person you date in college has probably dated someone before you and will probably date someone after you. The all-so-unmistakable baggage factor is not one that can be escaped until someone actually puts those “erase bad memory” pills on the market. The problem is, at our age it can still be hard to figure out how to handle your ex-boyfriends and girlfriends. What is acceptable and what is a sure-fire way to piss off the person you are currently with? What's inbounds and what is a foul ball? For those of you who don't really know where to draw the line, or didn't even know there was a line to be drawn, this one's for you.

Let's start off with pictures. Pictures have always been a soft spot for me, if it wasn't obvious enough in my How to Lady Proof Your Room spiel. Holding on to some pictures hidden somewhere, like a dictionary with a hole cut in it, is only natural. Pictures up on the wall? No go. I once dated a guy where if you walked into his room, his ex-girlfriend could have easily been mistaken for his fiancé, and I easily could have been mistaken for his sister. If you haven't experienced this already, girls are not cool with the ex being visible in pictures or in person. We would rather imagine her as some shrew with leprosy. No really, we would.

The way you interact with your ex varies depending on the status of your previous relationship. If you broke up over a year ago, communication is fine. An occasional phone call can be expected or an email with some life updates can be expected, maybe even an IM if your feeling especially friendly. Text messages are by no means acceptable though. Texting is not something you do to “catch up.” Texting is something you do when you are bored, flirting, or nervous. If your current fling finds a text to or from your ex, prepare to find yourself treading on thin ice. Girls would like finding an ex-text about as much as they would like to find out that Paris Hilton is transferring to their school.

If you broke up recently, I would recommend putting any kind of communication on hold. This is obviously not an option if you are in the same group of friends or go to a small school but if at all possible, try to do the impossible: remove them from your buddy list, take their number out of your phone, and put the pics in a drawer. Getting over someone is a lot easier if they're not in your face anyway. And it's a lot harder to drunk dial someone if they're not in your phone book. If you break up and are on great terms right away, chances are you are probably still having great sex with that person too. Good sex can get in the way of making a clean cut. It is usually a good idea to chill and spend some time with your friends and without a new woman or man in your life right after the split, because a rebound relationship usually just makes things more complicated and uncomfortable.

Once you do get into a rebound relationship—which we all do even though we shouldn't—either be completely honest with the new person you're seeing (i.e. you're still vulnerable from a recent breakup and you're not sure what you want right at the moment) or, conversely, try to keep it on the DL. If you can't be honest but are going to do it anyways, don't put it in this new person's face. Save the drunk dials and Facebook pokes for your alone time. If you are not over someone, try to come to terms with it. The best way to judge this is by estimating how much time you spend talking to your friends about them. A few times a week: okay, understandable. Daily: you may need some more time. Throughout the day: you definitely need some more time. Sometimes it would be nice to date someone who doesn't have anyone in their past for you to fret over, however, a person without experience is just as much of a bummer as someone who seems slightly too experienced.

If you are confident in your new relationship, and by this I mean you're pretty sure your new boyfriend isn't still hooking up with his ex and is legitimately interested in you, try to let go of his past. Sure it's easy to stress over, but frantically searching for someone who goes to his ex-girlfriend's school so you can check out her Facebook profile is borderline psycho. The more relaxed you are about his past, the more relaxed he will be. While some people may carry baggage, not everyone's bags need to be searched.