I married my husband almost a year ago. Prior to our engagement, when our relationship was first becoming serious, we got a lot of advice from friends, books, and well-meaning strangers regarding how much we should tell each other about our past relationships.
The less they know the better, it’ll just hurt them.
It’s in the past — why drag it back up?
They should know everything. Get it all out in the open.
Talking about your exes will make the other person feel insecure.
Don’t talk about your exes EVER.
Some of that advice is definitely valid — but the reality is that every couple, even every individual, is different.
My husband and I had a bit of a whirlwind relationship. We were engaged after six months of dating, and we got married exactly one year after we first met.
And we had the confidence to do that because of the past relationships we’d each had.
My husband’s most significant relationship, prior to me, was partially long distance, and they struggled with communication. They didn’t want to have hard talks over the phone, but they also didn’t want to have those difficult discussions when they were together in person. When we started dating and he realized I wasn’t afraid to talk things out, he immediately knew that’s what had been missing in his past.
Our strong communication helped him to understand that I was the right partner for him — and when he talked to me about the struggles of his previous relationship, I was able to trust the depth of his feelings for me.
But that’s also all I really wanted or needed to know about his ex. Understanding what he learned from his past relationships enriched our current relationship, but the details weren’t necessary.
Sometimes it can be good to talk about past relationships, or at least about certain aspects of your past relationships.
Sometimes you or your partner may need to understand certain details. Other times, it’s healthier just to remain in the dark. The key is to strive for conversation around things that will make your relationship deeper, stronger, and more loving — and avoid things that will distract you or make you feel uncomfortable (and aren’t really important).
Some tips to help you walk that fine line:
Don’t ask a question you don’t want the answer to.
If knowing about each other’s sexual history is going to make you feel uncomfortable or insecure, don’t talk about it. What happens between you two matters the most, so place value in your current intimacy.
Don’t compare yourself to the exes.
In the world of social media, all you need is a person’s name to discover what they look like, how they dress, where they went to school, etc. But none of that matters. Your partner is with you now because it didn’t work out with their ex. You’re obviously more amazing than the ex is.
Preface your questions.
Sometimes, the question doesn’t matter as much as why you’re asking the question. Do you want to know about the past in order to get to know your significant other on another level, or are you looking for drama?
Be willing to have a safe space.
Not all relationships get the closure they need, and sometimes feelings from your past relationship can stay with you. I don’t necessarily mean that you still have feelings for the person (that’s another issue entirely), but maybe you’re watching a movie that reminds you of something tough from your past relationship. You want to be able to safely and openly talk about it with your SO without making them feel insecure.
Be careful not to over-share.
While it’s good to let your current partner know what you experienced and learned in past relationships, it’s also very important to keep your focus on the present relationship. That’s your priority. Don’t let yourself get caught up in the past wondering what could have been. Be present with your partner and intend to build what you have together.
There are definitely benefits to your current partner knowing some of your relationship history.
We have all learned lessons from our past relationships, and by talking about those lessons with your current SO, you can form a better, healthier foundation for your love.