Expert Speak

Do you really need to know everything about your partner’s previous relationships?

You don't have to reveal everything about your past relationships to new partners. Do they trust you? Is it necessary to tell all?
couple fighting

Everything I did before I met you

Most couples do share stories of their past promiscuous relationships with each other when they have just started dating. However, it is a tricky issue, since any information shared early in the relationship can be used against one another at a later stage.

In the initial stage, most couples wear rose tinged glasses, so they are very happy to discount and talk about their past relationships openly, even their sexual histories and risky behaviours, to impress or “Wow” their sexual partners. Men may love an experienced woman, but deep down it can intimidate men or even make a partner feel insecure about their “importance” in the relationship. In addition, partners fear critical behaviour or put-downs about their performance in the bedroom.

One client shared that her spouse would call her “frigid” as she was not OK to “open” relationships among couples, even though it was the norm with her spouse and his circle of friends. Needless to say, the relationship ended in divorce and a bit of a scandal in both the families.

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Related reading: Are accusations about your past wrecking your marriage?

How much honesty is necessary for a relationship?

Honesty is the bedrock of most relationships; however, too much “tattle” about past sexual relationships is avoidable. In one couple session, the husband would often accuse the wife of being “too easy”, as he was not her first partner and she had more sexual partners than him before marriage. This made the wife an easy target to bait during couple fights. Considering the Indian patriarchal society and traditional view of an Indian “nari”, the preferable approach is to avoid sharing detailed sexual CVs with partners, irrespective of how long or short the relationship was.

However, it is imperative to share with partners if they have contracted Herpes or HIV/AIDS, as there is no cure for such STDs and it is criminal not to inform sexual partners and practice safe sex. Also, if in the past, there has been a live-in relationship or broken engagement or divorce, it is best to come clean and clarify, so that in future they don’t become obstacles or thorns in the relationship.

In short, there is a fine line between what you can share and cannot share about your exes in a relationship.

In short, there is a fine line between what you can share and cannot share about your exes in a relationship.

I ask my clients to draw circles of trust in their relationships. When one starts a relationship, you start with the outer circle and share only superficial relationship details. One assumes that when the person chooses to marry, he/she has advanced towards the inner circles of trust and chosen to share relevant information in their relationship.

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Related reading: 7 ways to rebuild trust in your relationship with your wife after her affair

They regretted telling each other everything

In one particular case, a client was undergoing divorce and related in his divorce petition all about his ex-wife’s past history before marriage, though it had no bearing in their current divorce. At the same time, the ex-wife would try to put her spouse down by flaunting stories of her exes during their marriage. This was a not a good situation for both and created immense animosity leading to a messy divorce. Hence, it is better not to bring the past relationships into your existing relationship, unless they are your ex-spouses and you have children together and share co-parenting roles.

Sometimes, young women ask whether they should inform their prospective partners whether they are “virgins” or not. My answer to them is simple: Do you wish to share and be open about it? If yes, please do. If no, please don’t open the Pandora’s box. It is not important whether you are a virgin or not, as these are archaic views. What is most important is to be a supportive spouse and good life partner.

It is not important whether you are a virgin or not, as these are archaic views. What is most important is to be a supportive spouse and good life partner.

However, it is very crucial to know whether one is getting into a physical, sexual, verbal or emotionally abusive relationship. One out of every five relationships tends to be abusive. It is tough to identify over a few dates a person’s personality, but as a counsellor, I feel it is very important to know how the person has behaved and treated his/her past partners: with abuse or with respect? Needless to say, one should choose someone who treats his/her partners with utmost respect.

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2 Comments

  1. I agree with Deb. In our society where premarital relationships are still a taboo, newly wed should fully disclose their past.

  2. I have a question for Ms. Gopa Khan: why is virginity considered archaic? If sexual chastity is considered a outdated value from the dinosaur age, which is what you suggest, then why get into a monogamous marriage? Why not opt clearly for an open marriage instead? Why put down the partner if he/she insists to know whether his/her prospective bride/groom is a virgin or not? If a person is a virgin, why would it be rude to ask the partner about his/her virginity and past sexual escapades?

    Can Ms. Khan answer these questions to educate me of “modern” social norms?

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