Is honesty really the best policy? It is when it comes to discussing your past with a new partner.
We all know that feeling — you meet someone new and the thought of them having been with anyone else makes you physically ill. You joke that you were in a nunnery before you met him and he was a monk. As time goes on, the skeletons begin to emerge from your respective closets and while you want to hold them at bay, there are very important, relationship-saving reasons you should let them out.
The likelihood is, if you're the kind of person who doesn't want to know about your partner's past, you are insecure in some way, much like the majority of human beings. You fear hearing details of your partner being with another because you don't want the mental image of it, or you're scared to know that perhaps in some ways you don't "measure up." It's the beginning of your relationship and you feel vulnerable — perhaps you're even falling in love. No one wants to know about the person they love being with another. This is perfectly normal. But over time, it could cost you the relationship. Here's why:
What You Don't Know For Sure, Your Imagination Will Surely Make Worse
When there is no actual picture, the brain will create one and very often it's worse than the reality — especially if you're feeling insecure, as we've already established. When there is secrecy around an event or piece of information that could be hurtful, your brain will likely create the worst possible scenario. You will blow it up and it can become all-consuming. On the flip side, if you have all the information, wonder and questioning immediately cease and are replaced by concrete eveidence which can be processed then moved on from.
Culture of Suspicion
If your skeletons are all neatly locked away and never discussed, almost everyone and everything becomes fair game for suspicion. Every "friend" you or your partner mentions automatically gives rise to questions about whether or not you or your partner had a past relationship with that person. If the topic is taboo, the questions aren't asked, and assumptions are made. Suddenly, in your partner's mind, you've slept with every friend you've ever had, or so he thinks... This can be destructive at worst, exhausting at best. Toxic always.
While I don't advocate spending significant time on your past relationships when you enter a new one, these past relationships had a part in forming who you are now. Having that information off-limits (out of fear, insecurity, denial) will only serve to damage your relationship in the long-run. Trust must be built, sometimes slowly and over time. But it can be degraded just as slowly and systemically. If, over time, a Culture of Suspicion is fostered and imaginations allowed to run rampant that trust will erode as surely as it was built. Here are some tips about how to manage this from the start so that you can build trust and intimacy:
- Have the conversation, keep it light, and add in some reassurance. "Yeah, we dated briefly a few years ago. It wasn't anything big and honestly we work so much better as friends. He's so happy for me that I've found someone real and is really looking forward to meeting you."
- Tell your partner if you feel scared. Share your feelings, but don't make your feelings your partner's responsibility — remember, they're your feelings.
- Get curious about your partner's past, and set the stage for safety. Remember, it only takes one of you to create a Culture of Trust.
If you are a single woman in your 30s or 40s, a single mom, or are in a troubled relationship and are frustrated by the plethora of conflicting information out there about how to date or find love, I can help! Check out my website for more information about how I work. We all need someone to coach us through the hard stuff. Let me be that one for you.
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