The other night I received one of those Facebook  “someone you don’t know is trying to send you a message, do you want to accept it?” alerts. My heart always sinks when I see those. What if it’s someone from a million years ago? There’d be a reason we didn’t stay in touch, right? Then they’ll be able to see I’ve read their message, so then I’ll have to reply because I don’t want to appear harsh, and before you know it you’re having to come up with reasons not to meet up in a Starbucks somewhere near Salford three weeks next Wednesday. My curiosity was stronger than my reservations though, so  I clicked accept. I’m so glad I did.

This was a long (lonnnng) message from a woman I had never met. Her profile picture showed a kind, smiling face and her occupation told me she was a caring and intelligent person. She was, however, a woman in a state of complete heartbreak. She’d caught her boyfriend of just over a year cheating on her and she was, by her own admission, lost. Her reason for contacting me? I’d gone out with him a couple of years before. Should she have seen this coming? Was this typical behaviour? She shared other aspects of her personal life with me that made me understand the pain she was feeling. All I wanted to do was to put my arms around her and help fix her up.

Is it really that mad to suggest that if someone has hurt a previous partner either physically, emotionally, or perhaps financially, that the information could be passed on?

Throughout the message she repeatedly apologised and said she understood how “ridiculous” and “stupid”I must have thought her for contacting me – a complete stranger – about something so personal. It was obvious that every syllable of that message had been pored over (possibly with the help of friends) to ensure she’d done all she could to convey her devastation and desperation whilst at the same time trying not to come across as someone trying to be vindictive or to find a kindred spirit with whom to spout off about “bloody men”. She simply wanted to try and make sense of something hurting her very badly – to see if I could help her feel better.

The following morning I asked my brother if he’d enjoyed his birthday dinner out at a fancy city centre restaurant. He replied that it had been dreadful. Everyone had sent their food back and once home, they’d looked at reviews. They’d not looked beforehand, presuming it would be fabulous given its well-known name. They were surprised to read that many other diners were sharing the same experiences, their reviews screaming, “Avoid!” Similarly, I’ve just booked this summer’s holiday for me and the kids. No way would I have booked it without reading Trip Advisor reviews. No way! And yet we all take that leap of faith into a new relationship, hoping against hope that this will be The One.

I know that suggesting a Trip Advisor type service for potential boyfriends/girlfriends could never work, us not living in an ideal world and all that. Can you imagine how quickly it would descend into nasty comments about all manner of trivia? But imagine if there was a way of doing it. There’s an episode of Sex and the City in which Charlotte throws a “bring your ex” party – the premise of which is that they may not have been the guy/girl for you, but could be perfect for someone else. For those who’ve stayed on good terms with their exes, it’s an idea with potential, isn’t it? Of course, this doesn’t address the issue that got me thinking about a review site in the first place. So how do we do that without plumbing the depths of vitriolic bitterness?

Perhaps we could follow the same rules that employers have to follow. So, whilst you couldn’t leave a deliberately bad review, you could be selective about the information you shared, and how you shared it. For example, translate the following:

“He made certain to shower at least once a week. Sometimes twice.”

“Her appearance is always immaculate; I learned so much about being fashionably late.”

“Could be of huge financial benefit to someone with shares in Breathe Right  Nasal Strips.”

OK so perhaps they’re not great examples, but you get the gist.

Why are we so hesitant about speaking with partners’ exes? If someone wants a job working with children, they have to pass a rigorous DBS check to ensure they’ve never done anything known to the police that could put children in danger. Is it really that mad to suggest that if someone has hurt a previous partner either physically, emotionally, or perhaps financially, that the information could be passed on?

So back to the story I began with. I replied by telling her how sorry I was that she was going through this, that she was absolutely not stupid, that I did not think her ridiculous, and that she had no need to apologise. We exchanged a few more messages, ending with me telling her that she seemed rather awesome and that I hoped, should she want to work things out with him, that they could. I also said that if she had any doubts whatsoever, that she should absolutely not settle. I really liked her and I hope she’s OK.

Be a real bonus if she did have shares in Breathe Right.


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