Ask anyone, and they’d probably tell you that you need to be completely honest to build a strong relationship. Well, there’s no denying that being open and honest about who you are, what you like and dislike is essential for a healthy relationship.
But, how honest should you be in a relationship? Should you tell your partner everything about your past? Is it healthy to talk about past relationships? Or is it OK not to tell your partner everything?
Since your experience is part of your life(like it or not), and it has shaped you into who you are today, you can’t just leave it all behind. So the topic of the past can come up at any stage of the relationship, and when it does, how you deal with it can make or break your relationship.
Worry not. In this article, we’re going to explore the questions you have on your mind and tell you how to discuss your past in a way that doesn’t harm your relationship. Let’s get right to it.
Should couples talk about past relationships?
Not everyone likes to share the nitty-gritty of their past. Some want to take things to the grave, while others are OK with divulging every detail about their history. No matter how much you’re willing to share, remember that every relationship is unique.
Some people want full disclosure of their partner’s past. Others are OK with just getting an outline. But there are certain things from your past that made you who you are today. Telling your partner about those is important to build a strong connection.
There might not be any similarities between your last partner. Therefore you may feel like your new partner doesn’t need to know about your past toxic relationship. But, telling them about it is what gives them an idea of who you are, what was missing in your past relationship, and what baggage you’re carrying from it.
Then again, what if you share everything and your partner doesn’t know how to deal with their spouse’s past relationships? Some people get obsessed with their partner’s past relationships and start to suffer from retroactive jealousy.
Retroactive jealousy is quite common, and it occurs when someone gets jealous about their partner’s past relationships. People suffering from it can’t stop thinking about how their partner’s relationship with their ex was and start spiraling at one point.
If you don’t share intimate details about your past relationship, it’s possible to avoid this from happening. You might be asking yourself, ‘should couples talk about past relationships at all?’ and if yes, how to talk about past relationships without doing any damage to the relationship?
Well, read on. We’re going to talk about that soon enough.
Is it important to tell your partner everything about your past?
The short answer is yes, it is important to talk to your partner about your past. But that doesn’t mean sharing everything, though. There are things from your past that have no bearing on your current relationship. You can keep them to yourself.
When you start asking yourself questions like ‘does the past matter in a relationship?’ or ‘what to say when someone brings up your past?’, know that past does matter. It tells you a lot about your partner.
For example, the way your partner talks about their ex speaks volumes about themselves.
Suppose they tend to present all of their exes as crazy, manipulative people responsible for all the breakups. In that case, it shows that they don’t know how to take responsibility. (or they were unlucky to end up with only bad people!)
The same goes for you. On top of that, If you don’t tell them something important, that will impact your relationship if they find it out from someone else later on. This will be devastating for your partner and will affect the level of trust in the relationship.
So, should you tell your partner everything about your past? Yes, you should.
How much should you tell your partner about your past
How do you find the balance? How to decide what can be shared and what can’t?
Let’s see what you should and shouldn’t tell your partner about your past.
5 Things From The Past You Should Tell Your Partner
You should tell your partner about any medical procedures you’ve gone through which might affect your sex life and/or fertility. If you don’t disclose it early on and they find out later, they might feel betrayed.
While neither of you should be digging too deep to find out every last detail about the other one’s sexual history, you should have an idea about any STDs they might’ve had, when was the last time they’ve been tested, etc.
If you don’t mention the exact number of people you’ve been with and your partner gets to know later, it might not be that big a deal. But if you’ve been engaged or married before, have children with one(or more) of your ex(s), you need to tell your partner about it.
Any past trauma might affect the relationship negatively. If you have sexual trauma that makes you sensitive to certain things and you’ve got some triggers, sharing that with your partner is important.
5 Things From The Past You Shouldn’t Tell Your Partner
There’s no point sharing things from the past with your present partner if they don’t have any bearing on the future. So, when you’re about to talk, make sure you avoid the following things.
Don’t talk about everything that went wrong in the past relationship. It’s great that you don’t want to repeat the same mistakes and would like to do things differently now. Talk about them without getting into too many details.
Your sexual past doesn’t define you in any way. So, no matter how many times the conversation comes up, don’t talk about exactly how many people you’ve slept with. Give them a ballpark figure if they’re persistent and keep asking about it. But that’s all.
Do you miss your ex? It’s normal to get nostalgic about your past relationship and miss your ex sometimes. You might compare your past relationship to the current one or miss something that your current relationship lacks. While you could suggest they start doing that particular thing for you, don’t tell them it’s because you used to do it with your ex and miss it.
If you’ve cheated once in any of your past relationships and felt guilty enough to swear off cheating for the rest of your life, your current partner doesn’t need to know about it. This is a sensitive issue and could be a lot for your partner to handle.
It’s never a good idea to talk about how things were between the sheets with your ex, especially if you’re going to talk about how good they were! Your new partner might feel insecure, and that might hurt the relationship.
So not only is it OK to not tell your partner everything, but it’s also healthy to keep some secrets of your own. Some things from your past may be too personal that you don’t want anyone to know, and disclosing them won’t benefit your relationship in any way.
Those details are better left unsaid. If you can’t stop talking and share a little too much about your ex, your partner might get the idea that you’re still hung up on them. Also, comparing past relationships is a big no-no.
So, don’t tell your partner irrelevant and intimate details of your past relationships. Just give them an idea of who you were in the past, what you learned from your mistakes, and who you’re trying to be.
Give them enough information so that they can get to know you on a deeper level without feeling like they’ve got to fill someone’s shoes or have to cast a healing spell on you to mend your broken heart.
Your current partner might see you differently if you do it and feel like you still haven’t gotten over the relationship. On the flip side, if you keep talking about how amazing things were and how much you miss your ex, it might throw your partner off and hurt your relationship.
So, if you must talk about the things from the past, keep them as factual as possible.
4. Keep expectations in check
Maybe you’ve just gotten out of a bad relationship, and you want your new partner to understand where you’re coming from.
That’s why you’re telling them about your past. You’re vulnerable and expect them to know what you’ve been through.
While your new partner might feel bad for you, there’s a possibility that they might see things differently than you. Instead of being more gentle with you, they might end up misunderstanding you and judge you for something they don’t understand.
So before you share any sensitive information with them, take your time and get to know them. Figure out if they’re ready to handle what you’re about to tell them.
5. Set boundaries
There may be certain things you might never feel comfortable talking about. But, what to say when someone brings up your past repeatedly?
If the things you don’t want to talk about have nothing to do with your current relationship, tell them they should let sleeping dogs lie.
Don’t be rude but tell them, ‘Hey, talking about that certain issue makes me uncomfortable, but if I feel like sharing this somewhere down the road, I’ll tell you.’ Also, if your partner is possessive, they might not take your past affairs or sexual encounters well.
They might get insecure and jealous for something that has nothing to do with your relationship with your partner. So to protect both of you and the relationship, draw the line when you’re sharing things from your past.
So, should you tell your partner about past relationships? As long as you know when and how much to share with your present partner, you’re good to go.
Sharing your past with your partner is a way of showing vulnerability and honesty, which is essential for a healthy relationship.
But, you know your partner more than I do. Make sure you take their emotional maturity and the strength and depth of your relationship into consideration before telling them everything about your past.
Take as much time as you need and figure out what works best for your relationship.
If you feel disconnected or frustrated about the state of your marriage but want to avoid separation and/or divorce, the marriage.com course meant for married couples is an excellent resource to help you overcome the most challenging aspects of being married.
Rachael Pace is a noted relationship writer associated with Marriage.com. She provides inspiration, support, and empowerment in the form of motivational articles and essays. Rachael enjoys studying the evolution of loving partnerships and is passionate about writing on them. She believes that everyone should make room for love in their lives and encourages couples to work on overcoming their challenges together.