W hen is it okay to talk about exes with a new guy? Every time my friend brought it up with her boyfriend, he got this look on his face, like he had just eaten bad seafood. They’re great together otherwise, but this topic alone is like walking on eggshells.

In the past, I once spent the first few dates with this one guy, performing my one-woman show titled ‘Why a Great Girl Like Me Is Still Single’. I thought this was a necessary part of the ritual. Turns out it can be skipped, like dessert!

In “Jerry Maguire”, Renée Zellweger's character starts to talk about her past marriage, then stops herself and says, “Let's not tell our sad stories.” That's what I was going to suggest to my friend, that maybe we shouldn't tell our sad stories, because you often get more than you bargained for. I used to think I was open to hearing about a boyfriend's ex as long as the point was that I was better/nicer/smarter/saner than her. Then again, my entire relationship history is not a super-pretty Gautham Menon kind of picture (and then came “Nadunisi...”), so what do I know about discretion? Before giving advice, I thought, maybe I should seek advice from someone better/nicer/smarter/saner than me. Thus I called a Bangalore-based marriage and family therapist, and she thought the idea of bottling up our sad stories was the saddest story of all.

Although she admits that therapists have a different perspective — they believe your past makes you who you are — she also believes the intimacy of the disclosure should reflect the intimacy of the relationship. For example, if a guy helps you download a new app on your phone, you don't need to thank him by telling him about the jerk who broke your heart. But you're certainly allowed to discuss the jerk once you get closer. Openness, honesty, and the freedom to reveal yourself is what love is all about.

The bigger question in my mind now is, why doesn’t my friend’s boyfriend want to hear about her past? What scares him (or any of us) about knowing everything about a partner? Thereby lies the truth. If you're contorting yourself into being someone to get someone…you should stop to wonder why you're auditioning.

SUCHITRA KARTHIK KUMAR

(singersuchi@gmail.com)

(This is a fortnightly column on relationships)

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