Food for Thought

Should You Warn Your Ex's Significant Other About Them? A Psychiatrist Weighs In

Travis Kelce’s ex Maya Benberry recently called out his alleged infidelity, but an expert says relationship whistle-blowing isn’t necessarily healthy.

Written by Allison Kenien
Warning your ex's new partner about their past behavior isn't always healthy, says a psychiatrist.
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Soon after the romance between Travis Kelce and Taylor Swift went public, Kelce's ex-girlfriend Maya Benberry issued a warning. Her message to Swift? "Once a cheater, always a cheater."

In 2016, Benberry dated Kelce for a few months, and she publicly accused him of cheating after their breakup. Now that the Kelce-Swift relationship is making headlines, Benberry is back in the spotlight for calling out Kelce's alleged infidelity.

Since her warning, Benberry has received aggressive messages and even death threats from Swifties, but Benberry says she's being a "girls' girl" by advising other women to be cautious while dating Kelce.

After a bad breakup, most people certainly need time to move on, and the recovery timeline can be long and painful. It takes more than a carton of ice cream and a marathon of Hallmark movies to get back to normal. But is it healthy to call out your ex for cheating, abuse, narcissism, or other bad behaviors?

To sort through this tricky question, Scary Mommy enlisted the help of Gail Saltz, MD, Clinical Associate Professor of Psychiatry at New York Presbyterian Hospital and host of the "How Can I Help?" podcast.

So, should you warn your ex’s new partner about them?

According to Saltz, the answer depends on your motivation and the seriousness of your warning.

Generally, it's unhealthy to warn your ex's new significant other about past infidelity. "Sabotaging your ex's future relationships keeps you involved in the War of the Roses," Saltz says. "Revenge maintains the anger-guilt cycle which will suck up a lot of your mental energy, emotional wherewithal, and make you less able to be free to truly move on."

What if you share kids with the ex in question?

If you share children with your ex, yelling "cheater" from the mountaintop can come back to bite you in the butt. Kids can be harmed by the negative image of a parent. In fact, kids who have a philandering parent are twice as likely to commit infidelity in adulthood.

When you're headed down the path to Splitsville, both parents need to be sure kids stay safe and healthy. This might mean keeping quiet about your ex's skirt-chasing habits and resisting the urge to broadcast their other flaws.

Trying to publicly embarrass your ex is another unhealthy behavior, according to Saltz.

Public shaming brought Wiz Khalifa into the spotlight when he tweeted that his ex Amber Rose was using their son as a pawn. "A woman who would do something to a kid to spite that kid's father is a foul creature," Khalifa tweeted. Allegedly, Khalifa's anger was sparked by a haircut that Rose got for their son.

"It's vengeful and keeps you locked into an anger and revenge cycle, so [your ex] lives endlessly rent-free in your head," Saltz says. "It also makes the relationship between you volatile and potentially dangerous. It's terrible for children. But it's also terrible for you."

What if your ex’s behavior is destructive or potentially harmful?

Even in situations when your ex is narcissistic or manipulative, it's usually best to avoid calling them out on social media or interfering with their new relationship. Although these seem like important issues, they are not particularly dangerous, so you risk coming across as jealous or bitter.

In some cases, your ex's significant other may ask to talk with you. In this case, honesty is best as long as it's safe for you to tell the truth. In the case of physical abuse, it is reasonable and ethical to warn your ex's new partner, but first, you must consider your own safety. It would be better to notify law enforcement of the abuse than to tackle a dangerous situation on your own.

During her breakup with Jonah Hill, Sarah Brady accused Hill of emotional abuse, sharing that he allegedly wrote in a text, "If you need: surfing with men, boundaryless inappropriate friendships with men, to model, to post pictures of yourself in a bathing suit… I am not the right partner for you."

Brady posted on social media, "This is a warning to all girls. If your partner is talking to you like this, make an exit plan."

Going public did raise awareness of the realities of emotional abuse. Still, Saltz says emotional abuse can be tricky because the dynamic between you and your ex may not occur with the new person, and what you see as emotional abuse may not truly meet the criteria.

"So the dilemma is, 'Was this very clear cut and quite significant emotional abuse?' If it really was, ethically it would be good to let the partner know, but other than this most clear cut and extreme of cases, I would say no," Saltz says.

Translation: When in doubt, stay out!