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Should I Share My Past With My New Partner?

Updated on March 24, 2014

Privacy Vs. Intimacy

When beginning a new relationship, it can be difficult to know how much to share about your past, particularly if there are things in your past that you might want to hide. While it is important to have some amount of privacy in life, knowing when and how to give personal information is important when building the mutual trust necessary for a healthy relationship. At some point, your relationship will either deepen or end; your choices around disclosing your past can be part of that decision.

Starting a New Relationship

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Length of Relationship

One important thing to keep in mind when deciding to reveal your past is the length of the relationship. In a very new relationship, you might hold back more private or personal details until you know your potential partner better; it might be bewildering for both you and your new partner to "spill the beans" on your most personal details in the first couple of dates. Sharing your life requires trust, and until you have built that trust, it is fine to hold back some of the more personal or painful parts of your life.Just remember that as the relationship progresses, you should expect to feel more comfortable revealing information about yourself. If you find yourself holding back, review what aspects of the relationship might make those revelations feel "unsafe".

Mutual Disclosure

It's important to gauge your self-disclosure based on how much your partner is willing to disclose. If you find yourself discussing your past but never hearing about your partner's past, it might be useful to ask how much he or she is comfortable discussing and what he or she wants to know about you. An open and honest conversation about what you want to know, what he or she wants to know and what topics are still off-limits can help limit the confusion and uncertainty around disclosing your past. Although it can be nerve-wracking at first, openness and honesty are the best policy!

Avoid Fights: Be Open and Accepting

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Type of Information

Once you are past the early stages of a relationship, the time comes to reveal more about yourself. Although it can be difficult, this might be the time to reveal personal details that a partner could potentially find out through an online search or public records, such as a criminal record, trouble in school or anything that caused your name to appear in a newspaper. If you have a criminal history, it is better for your partner to find this out coming from you and not from another source.

Previous Relationships

Is it necessary to tell a new partner about past relationships?

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Past Relationships

Another touchy topic in relationships is whether or not to reveal past relationships. Does your girlfriend/boyfriend need to know if you dated somebody in his or her circle of friends in the past, or if your ex-girlfriend or boyfriend lives down the street and you are still friends? The answer to this question depends on how comfortable you two are in your relationship and how much your past relationships will really affect your current one. Have an open conversation with your partner about this: how much do they want to know about previous relationships, and what do they need to know to feel comfortable in the current relationship?

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Privacy Vs. Secrecy

It's important to remember that entering into a relationship doesn't mean that you no longer have privacy. Privacy is important in a relationship because individuals still need to feel they have individual hopes, fears and dreams. When a relationship does not allow for privacy, partners can feel suffocated and not fully appreciated. Secrecy, on the other hand, involves withholding information from a girlfriend that she would want or even need to know in order to have a full and honest relationship. Knowing whether or not your desire not to reveal the past is coming from a place of privacy or secrecy is important in deciding how and when to reveal more about your life. This might take some personal work, and if you've had a particularly painful past, advice from a therapist (or couple's therapy) might help you to better understand your hesitations and emotions around this topic.

Opening to Love: Let Go of the Pain of Past Relationships

Opening to Love

If your past includes painful relationships, this talk and meditation might be a helpful way to resolve some of those painful emotions.

References

Psychology Today: Relationship Secrets: When To Tell or Not to Tell [http://www.psychologytoday.com/blog/face-it/201206/relationship-secrets-when-tell-or-not-tell]

PsychCentral: Is There Privacy Or Secrecy In Your Relationship? [http://blogs.psychcentral.com/healing-together/2013/03/is-there-privacy-or-secrecy-in-your-relationship/]

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