No matter how strong a bond you share with your partner, it’s not always fun to think about their romantic life before they met you. But the truth is, everyone has a past — whether they’ve never dated anyone seriously or have had multiple long-term relationships. If you’re struggling with how to accept the past of your partner, thinking through the reasons you’re feeling insecure can help.
Emotions aren't always perfectly logical, especially when it comes to dating and relationships. If this particular problem keeps you up at night, know that you’re not alone."It is not at all unusual to wonder about your partner's previous romantic and sexual history," licensed clinical psychotherapist Dr. LeslieBeth Wish tells Elite Daily. "We all need reassurance that we are The One. But wonder is different from worry and anxiety."
According to Dr. Wish, there are a variety of reasons you might be feeling conflicted over your significant other's past. "You might be picking up subtle but important clues from your new partner that his or her heart is elsewhere," she says. If your partner gets emotional or upset when talking about their ex, or is still in regular contact with their ex, you might feel particularly triggered over this issue. Not every partner who maintains a friendship with their ex is cause for concern, of course — sometimes, a friendship really is just a harmless friendship — but if your partner seems very defensive or protective of their connection with an old flame, that might spark worry or doubt in your head.
It's also possible that "your hurt, disappointment, and fears from your previous relationships can intensify your worry," Dr. Wish points out. Maybe you've been burned before by an ex who was still hung up on their ex, so now you’re struggling with how to get over your boyfriend’s past. (Or girlfriend, or partner, or whomever you are with now!) In this case, it’s less about your partner’s past and more about what you’ve been through and the betrayal you’ve endured. Be gentle with yourself, and acknowledge how far you have come to get here today.
To figure out what’s triggering these stressful feelings, Dr. Wish advises keeping a journal. This can help you better understand how you behave and think in romantic relationships. She suggests exploring your mindset by writing out answers to the following questions:
- What was going on in my life at the time I met my current partner?
- What attracted me to this person?
- Do I get trapped in this same pattern often (of obsessing over how to get over someone’s past)? How would I describe this pattern?
- How would I rate my urgency to find a partner?
- What can I do to "read" people better? How can I communicate more effectively with my partner?
In addition to journaling, Dr. Wish suggests seeking the help of a therapist who can help you untangle these emotions and move forward.
It's also worth considering your own romantic and sexual past. Remember that everyone brings their own history and baggage into a new relationship, but that doesn’t mean they aren’t totally invested in their relationship with you. If you've dated or slept with other people, and you're now fully excited about and focused on your new partner, isn't it possible that your new significant other feels the same way about you?
Rather than keeping your worries to yourself, try initiating a conversation with your partner. "I think the ex talk is something that should happen sooner rather than later in a new relationship," relationship expert Emily Holmes Hahn previously told Elite Daily. "It's a totally false stereotype to say that bringing up your ex means you’re not over them. It shows vulnerability, honesty, and the fact that you weren't afraid to commit in the past. Plus, your new man or lady is less likely to feel jealous or emotional about your romantic history if you address it early on.” Just be sure to approach your partner in a kind, nonjudgmental way, and avoid being overly critical of their choices in the past. (Remember, those choices ultimately brought them to this relationship with you!)
How your partner reacts to this conversation will tell you a lot about their current headspace. "Someone who's able to maintain open body language, a positive tone of voice, and objective opinions during this conversation is usually someone no longer looking in the rearview mirror,” Holmes Hahn said. “It's also someone who wants to show you that they were ready to commit in the past and are not suppressing any dark secrets about their romantic history." This lays the groundwork for openness and honesty in your relationship moving forward.
As uncomfortable as it is to feel jealous or insecure about your partner’s past, there's so much joy, connection, and intimacy to look forward to if you're able to focus on what you have in front of you. With some effort, you can get there. Keep going!
Dr. LeslieBeth Wish, licensed clinical psychologist
Emily Holmes Hahn, relationship expert
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