Congratulations! You’re in love! Or, well, maybe just in like, or almost in like.
Regardless of the depth of the connection, you’ve found yourself in the throes of a magical love affair with another person who is no doubt complex and mysterious in ways you can only begin to imagine. One of the best parts of any new relationship, whether romantic or platonic, is the discovery of another person’s interests, hobbies, and past—the “let’s get to know each other better” part. But anyone who has found themselves craving just a few more details knows that learning how to communicate with a new romantic partner can get complicated—fast.
Relationships are delicate, and when they’re still in the beginning stages chances are both parties are feeling a bit vulnerable—no one wants to make the wrong move or say the wrong thing! Yet this is also the very time when you get determine whether this person you’ve set your sights on is someone you really want to dive into the metaphorical deep end with.
If you’re anything like me, when you find yourself in this situation you can’t help but wonder about your new partner’s past relationships. And we’re not just talking about the sexy one night stands they’ve had, but the emotional connections they once had and eventually lost with past partners. And this begs the question: should you really ask about their past relationships at all? Does it even matter?
Now, it’s important to note that we’re talking about a much different set of questions than those surrounding your new partner’s sexual health. These types of questions are absolutely your business as a sexual partner, whether short or long term. And if anyone ever gives you the side eye for asking about their sexual health history, you might want to consider sending them on their way.
Let’s instead talk about those moments when an annoying little question pops into your head. When you suddenly can’t think of anything other than asking how much your partner loved their ex, how long they were even together, and—gasp!—how their sex life was. This rabbit hole can quickly reveal some hard truths if you aren’t careful, so it’s important to consider the implications of each question before you ask it—and better yet consider whether it’s information that’s really relevant to your relationship with them at all.
So, to help you avoid digging into your partner’s past unprepared, here are a few questions that you might want to ask yourself before you ask your partner about their relationship history.
1. Why do you want to know, really?
There are lots of good, and important, reasons to ask a new partner about their past. Learning about things they’ve struggled with or overcome in past relationships can add so much value to the journey you are beginning with one another in the present. Plus, it can help you determine whether the habits they’ve had in past relationships are compatible with who you are. That being said, make sure that the questions you’re thinking of asking aren’t just going to feed into insecurities you have about yourself or your own past relationships. And if the questions have even a hint of fragility to them, consider waiting to ask until you feel stronger in the relationship, if you even decide to ask at all.
2. Are you close enough for them to feel comfortable sharing intimate details with you?
Every relationship moves at a different pace—but make sure that before you go diving into the details of their past that you are comfortable enough with one another. Asking hard questions about love and pain too soon might not guarantee you the most sincere, truthful answers from your partner. And who can blame them! Make sure you both consider each other a safe space, and if you’re not there yet give it time.
3. Do you have any relationship baggage of your own that might cause you to misinterpret their stories?
Unfortunately, sometimes people only hear what they want to hear, despite how well-intentioned they may be. And if you are carrying around your own unresolved relationship traumas or worries, you might see them suddenly rearing their ugly heads as soon as your partner utters their ex’s name. Be mindful of where you are at, keep yourself safe, and and be honest about whether you are really ready to listen.
4. What are the best, and worst, possible outcomes?
When deciding if you really want to ask that one burning question, it might be helpful to imagine what kind of answer you could receive—and how you would handle it. While it’s definitely not a good idea to over-obsess about the unknown, gently preparing yourself for the potential of a less-than-ideal response can help you determine how important it is to you to ask in the first place. If it’s a tiny question with a potentially explosive outcome, the risk it could place on your new partnership might not be worth it.
5. Is this information that you need to feel emotionally safe and understood in this relationship?
This question is a bit more complex but is none the less important to touch upon. It’s true that each of us comes into a new relationship with our own unique set of experiences and needs, and with that comes the desire to talk about the things that scare us. In any relationship that has a foundation of trust and security, you should be able to ask questions that you feel you need answers to in order to move forward in the relationship. Just make sure that, in exchange, you too are honest with your partner about why you’re asking in the first place.
But wait! Here are a few tips to remember, too:
1. If they aren’t ready to talk about something, it doesn’t mean you have anything to worry about.
Everyone processes things differently and some people are naturally more guarded than others. This is why sometimes waiting to ask certain questions will leave you better off than asking right away. And if you ask, but they need some time, it doesn’t necessarily mean you have to sound the break-up alarms.
2. Don’t ask your partner questions that you wouldn’t feel comfortable answering about your own past.
Sometimes personal experiences are just that—personal. Depending upon the person, there will always be some questions that are best left unanswered, both for their own privacy and, for all you know, for their own healing and processing. And chances are, if it’s pressing enough and your connection deep enough, they’ll bring it up to you in time on their own terms.
In the end, each relationship that we, and our partners, have had in the past becomes a huge part of who we are in the present. And for many of us, the way we approach intimate relationships is based on what we’ve learned from past ones. The important thing to remember is that this partner is with you now, and for a dang good reason! The past will always be there, but the future is yours to build. And, like anything in a relationship, it’s important to take it slow, listen carefully, and be respectful of one another’s boundaries in the process.
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