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6 Dos and Don'ts of Knowing Your Partner's Past

It's important to know your significant other, but it's okay if you don't know everything.

Contributing Writer
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Photography by: Paige Jones Photography

Everyone has a romantic past, whether it was a mere crush that never turned into anything serious or a long-term relationship with someone who we thought might have been "the one." No matter how different or similar you and your partner's past relationships and experiences might have been, all that truly matters is how they impact the special bond the two of you now share. While Julienne Derichs, a licensed clinical professional counselor, warns not to reveal all your deepest romantic thoughts, feelings, and experiences to your current flame, some aspects are worth talking about at a level you're both comfortable with. In fact, doing so might even bring you closer. Here, relationship experts share the dos and don'ts of discussing your romantic past with your partner.

 

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Do: Check your judgment at the door.

For most people, talking about the past requires some level of openness and willingness to be vulnerable. Therefore, if you want your partner to continue to feel safe with you, Derichs recommends being especially kind even when you might feel upset or annoyed by what you're hearing. "Wounds that are felt in this delicate process of getting to know one another may close the door on subjects that feel too unsafe to revisit," she says.

 

Don't: Get into numbers or nitty-gritty details.

Some details are better kept private, and this is one of them. "Knowing this information, however illogical, is hurtful," says Derichs. "With too much information about your S.O.'s past relationships you run the risk of unjustly blaming them for hurting you with their old behavior."

 

Do: Know how your S.O. managed past breakups.

Having the knowledge of whether or not your partner handled past breakups with grace or with anger could help provide you with insight as to how he or she might handle the situation should the two of you break up in the future. "Inquire into whether or not your partner and his or her exes remain friends—or, if they haven't spoken since, ask why," says Derichs.

 

Don't: Talk badly about all the relationships you've had up to now.

We've all heard the saying, "If you don't have anything nice to say, don't say anything at all." This is true when it comes to talking about past partnerships. "When someone is talking about their dates and how they were all bad kissers, bad conversationalists, bad dressers, and had bad bodies, it's hard not to imagine that you might wind up the butt of a story that your partner will be telling some future date if this relationship you're currently in doesn't go the distance," says April Masini, a relationship and etiquette expert.

 

Do: Disclose your divorce early on.

Once you're starting to get serious with a new person, around the third or fourth date, Masini says it's good to mention any past divorces. "It's important to get to know this important part of each other's pasts and to find compatibility (or deal breakers) in the dating process," she adds. "When someone hides this information, look out for other things they're hiding."

 

Don't: Make your divorces the main thing you have in common.

"Some people are not ready to move on and they harp on their divorce(s) during the dating process," explains Masini. "Keep your ex-talk in check, and if one or both of you can't, it's a red flag that there is too much unresolved emotion with the past to be in the present."