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How to Discuss Your Dating History with Your Current Partner

Updated on December 27, 2012

Relationships are not always a walk in the park.

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For some of us, the act of discussing previous dating history with our partners can be upsetting and jarring. There are various ways to do it, but as many elements to consider before spewing any gory details.

I'll help you consider yourself, your new partner, and the situation so as to share this information at the right time to benefit everyone! I hope.

Things to Consider

Before you start talking about how many partners, lengths of relationship, and the graphic details, let's pause and consider these crucial elements first!

Anxiety

Whether you struggle with actual, diagnosable anxiety or have been experiencing inexplicable stress over this situation in particular, breathe.

I understand completely.

You like this person; they actually like you back. Your may be afraid to:

  1. Reveal your past
  2. Theirs
  3. Or both.

Perhaps you've never dated and are completely inexperienced, but you know they've dated quite a few people in the past. Maybe you were married and feel the need or desire to share that knowledge.

In any serious relationship, there comes a time to do all of the necessary disclosing.

It is completely natural to feel anxious at this stage, but this is one crucial part to the formation and maintenance of healthy, adult relationships. The fear is worth it.

Relationship Seriousness

But, you might not need to delve into this topic right away. Naturally, if this is date number one, you probably don't need to share that story about the 5 guys you dated named "Matt."

As a rule of thumb, it's time to start talking about this stuff when you find yourself mentally rewriting things you say to exclude mentions to this figure or that. Really, the fact you're reading this says you're either ready to talk, or have a history you're fearful to share.


Whether you're 5 dates in or 5 weeks in, it's best to discuss this stuff as early as possible but only when you know you can speak openly and without judgment. If you can't hear about his or her past relationships yet, you need to wait a bit. Remind yourself of how important it is to be open and trusting.

If you've gone more than a few months without having this talk, that's a little surprising unless you've been very casual up to this point.


If you're reading this...

Again, if you're reading this, you're serious enough. They might not be, however, so do continue to tread carefully.

Value of Communication

I cannot reiterate enough just how valuable it is to have an open line of communication. This does not just mean you talk about everything without considering the consequences, but that you approach all interactions and discussions with very carefully laid out rules.

Here's an example of communication guidelines you might want to put into play:

  • We will listen to everything the other person says without interrupting.
  • We will think to ourselves before responding.
  • If the topic becomes an issue, we will approach it with the intent to work through it so we can continue this relationship.
  • We accept that we cannot change the past, but that we have a voice in the future.

You might even want to make specific rules per each person in the couple as you will each respond differently. Maybe they tune out and disappear when they feel uncomfortable. They might need to add an, "I will ask for a 5 minute thinking break when the conversation becomes too much."

Relationship longevity is built on trust and communication.

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It doesn't really matter.

At the same point, I think there are natural, fluid ways to insert these topics into conversation. In some relationships, they just pop up naturally.

But, you could be in a relationship for years without knowing everything or even anything about your partner's past. Why?

In the grand scheme of things, this doesn't matter. Unless there is baggage (divorce, kids, abuse, trauma, emotional connections, etc), the past is the past and it stays there. Deep relationships require honesty, but that doesn't mean that you can't be honest without having a conversation on something that doesn't really matter to either of you.

Oh yeah, and with the right person, that gunk and funk and junk can just go out the window.

Age/Timing

Unfortunately, there is not clear-cut rule on when to start talking about romantic histories.

For some people, you might start talking after a handful of dates. Others may meet online and share these stories before they even meet in person. Or, perhaps they've been kind of casual for a few months, but now see the need to open up a bit more.

The best timing method I can offer is this: talk when it feels right. If you're thinking about it, check your thoughts for a few days or weeks, then go for it!

How old are you both?

Depending on your age, the timing could vary a few different ways. Very young people, in their teens or early 20s, might not have too much to share. I still recommend sharing your relationship experiences, hopes, and dreams. Why? Because that's a crucial part of bonding! Share who you are and how you got there within the first 3-5 months.

For those on the marriage track (often mid 20s and up), I recommend sharing your pasts sooner rather than later. This should be part of the exclusivity talk ("We agree not to see any other people") so that everyone knows what's going on.

For older individuals who have maybe divorced once or twice, talk about it early on. Share the past, express what you've learned in those experiences, and tell your hopes for the future.

When to Discuss Your Dating History - My Inspiration

Openness and Honesty

If you find yourself excluding pertinent (not usually explicit) details or tempering your response to your partner to a point at which you feel you are not being completely truthful, it's time to talk.

Very few, if any, relationships (erring on the side of caution, although I presume no healthy long-term couplings last without honest communication) can survive without a promise towards openness.

Even if you exclude this fact or that one, your partner can very easily begin to feel suspicious and doubtful about your honesty. This creates major issues down the line, especially regarding jealousy. You and your partner deserve to feel secure in your connection; make that a reality with open communication.

Wait! Stop! Reader Poll

In your most recent relationship, when do you talk about your dating history?

See results

Consequences

Every action, even inaction, has a consequence. Whether you share your history or not, you need to know what price your might pay because of that decision.

What do they need to know?

Here are a few must-share details:

  • STDs
  • Children
  • Divorce(s)
  • History of abuse
  • Restraining orders
  • Marriage status (Still technically married? Better share that one ASAP.)
  • Pregnancy
  • Many more, depending on the situation

What are the consequences of not sharing a crucial detail?

  • Your partner might feel like you aren't trustworthy.
  • You might lose the relationship.
  • You might start hiding other details.

Not all of the consequences are dire, and many positive things can come from sharing your dating history! Just remember that everything you say or do is loaded.

Physical Intimacy

Honestly, this is the first element I considered when planning on this hub. The other stuff matters, but there's always that prying, need-to-know when it comes to sexual history. It's the most difficult part to consider.

What do they need to know? Do they need to know anything at all?

First of all, no one needs to be prying for specifics. If they are leveraging a "need to know" over you, run away! No one can take this information from you. Instead, it should be an open sharing of details. They might be more open to share than you are. That's okay! You can share later when you're more comfortable. No one needs to know anything right this very second.

If you're being open and honest which you should be, you should share information. How much is too much?

Well, you don't really need to share all the gory details unless there's a good reason.

When it comes to physical compatibility, I do find it useful to be a little bit more explicit. Do you like this? Do they like that? Ask and talk so you know whether or not you'll fit together well! Otherwise, it might be very unpleasant once sheets are involved.

In general, however, you don't need to share the dates and details of every sexual relationship. As long as they are STD-free and you feel safe, it's okay.

But remember: If you can't talk about the details, it's not a safe, secure relationship. Either you or they might not be mature. If you feel like they will judge you if you tell them something or worse, that's really not okay. Take this as a warning sign, or that you two might not be good together.

People open up at their own pace.

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Things They Might Feel

  • Pressured
  • Anxious
  • Unsure
  • Fearful that you'll judge them
  • Hesitant about your motives (if you're instigating this on your own)
  • Like this stuff doesn't matter anyway
  • Frustrated
  • Irritated
  • Offended (if they feel like you're prying)
  • Really scared of what will come from these revelations

Things You May Feel

In anticipation of any sort of relationship talk, you might feel:

  • Nervous
  • Scared/Terrified
  • Flighty
  • Excited
  • Unprepared
  • Unsure
  • Fearful
  • Like you're about to be rejected or judged
  • Hesitant
  • Like a bad person

Is this the right time?

I cannot reiterate enough: if you're reading this on purpose, it is time.

Really, it's never not time. I've had relationships when I talked about this stuff on date one, and I've also disclosed it ahead of time. If it doesn't come up naturally within the first few dates, it's usually because I don't have much of a connection with the person.

That's not necessarily the case for you and your partner, but I tend to find that everything falls into place naturally when the relationship is healthy and loving.

So, yes, it probably is the right time, if it's the right person.

Here are a few conversation starters.

Not sure what to say or how to get started? Try some of these:

  • "So, how long was your longest relationship?"
  • "How many people have you dated?"
  • "Were you ever close to marriage?"
  • "Who is the one person you thought you'd be with forever?"
  • "What are you like in a relationship?"
  • "Are you open to being in a long-term relationship again?"
  • "What sort of traits do you look for in a mate?"

Some of these segue into the "Where do you think this is going?" talk, as these can be discussed alongside each other. Try to get through one at a time, though!

Do we need to "talk?"

Does the conversation have to be a serious "talk?" No.

It does, however, need to be respectful, open, and caring, but there's still room for lightheartedness and joy.

I also think that this conversation can be done in parts. Share a bit here and there, let that information sit, then fill in the gaps later when they ask or when it becomes relevant. No need to chunk up the schedule for an hour or two of "Dating History Talk." Yuck!

What do YOU think?

Everyone is different, and every relationship is unique. What works for one does not work for another.

Below, please leave anecdotes and insights for all future readers! Sometimes, your story will hit the nail right on the head when mine does not. Plus, I love my readers, and want to know more about them!

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    • rmcleve profile image
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      Rachael Cleveland 4 years ago from Woodbridge, VA

      Thank you so much for your insights, mvlucas! I'll admit: this is a TOUGH topic! We're very rarely ready to hear the things out partners have to say. That moment of shock, I believe, is good! It wakes us up, tells us about ourselves, and gives us a wonderful perspective.

      And, we never know when we're ready until after. That's the most difficult part to express. No matter how much Googling someone does, you won't know if it was the right time, right relationship, or right anything else until after the fact!

      Have a wonderful New Year, mvlucas! Thanks again. :)

    • mvlucas profile image

      mvlucas 4 years ago from California

      Excellent hub! I'm two years into my first relationship and this was definitely a difficult topic for me to hear about from my partner, which was an interesting experience in itself because I wasn't as mature at that moment as I thought I was. But I also simply wasn't ready to talk about the topic at the time. So talking when you're ready is definitely an invaluable piece of advice anyone can take.

    • billybuc profile image

      Bill Holland 4 years ago from Olympia, WA

      Excellent suggestions my friend, and oh so important. It is crucial that this conversation happen, but it can be quite difficult.