Who can forget the infamous "break" between Ross and Rachel on Friends? ICYMI, Ross and Rachel broke up, Ross hooked up with someone else, Rachel did not take it well, and they broke up (again) because of it. Ross' defense? "We were on a break!" Of course, depending on the rules of the break, it's not unrealistic to presume that both partners would try to see other people during their time apart. But sex, unsurprisingly, has the potential to complicate things. If you hooked up with other people during a break and ended up getting back together with your partner, figuring out if you should open up about your sexual experiences during said break can be tricky.
Even if the break was defined as a full-on breakup, it's normal to struggle with the idea of the person you love being physically intimate with someone else. However, if you were no longer together and agreed that you were both free to do whatever you wanted, then, is it fair to be upset at your partner for hooking up with someone else? And if they ask you whether or not you hooked up with anyone else, do you have to tell them? It's important to be prepared for these types of questions, so to better understand how to go about this uncomfortable situation, I spoke with sexpert Jess O’Reilly, Ph.D. and host of the @SexWithDrJess podcast.
The first step is introspection. Are you harboring any negative feelings about them potentially hooking up with other people while you were apart? If so, why? "Ask yourself why it bothers you," O’Reilly tells Elite Daily. "Do you worry that they enjoyed sex more with another partner? If so, you can talk about your concerns — but more importantly, focus on making sex more enjoyable for both you and your partner without the need to compare experiences."
Unfortunately, not comparing sexual experiences can be really tough, and it's so easy to feel jealous following a period of dating or hooking up with other people. "It’s okay to be jealous," says O’Reilly. "Jealousy can be functional and normative if you’re willing to acknowledge it and use it constructively. Many of us, however, ignore jealousy, and this can result in lashing out, withdrawing or engaging in other unhealthy behaviors."
Once you've confronted your own feelings about your partner having been with other people, next up is deciding how honest you want to be about your own actions during the break. "You are not required to share everything about your past — including the details of what you did while you were on a break," explains O’Reilly. "If it’s not relevant, you don’t need to open up. But, if you feel a need to hide the fact that you’re a sexual being outside of the relationship, you might want to consider whether or not you can really be honest with one another."
Honestly is beyond important when it comes to relationships. So if you think telling your partner something that would hurt them is too honest, O’Reilly disagrees. "Sexual honesty and emotional honesty overlap, so if you’re afraid to open up about sex, you may find that you’re afraid to be open about other important topics," warns O’Reilly. Either way, she recommends being honest above all else.
"You will both inevitably experience jealousy, discord, insecurity and other negative emotions over the course of your relationship; if you try to avoid these negative feelings or sweep them under the rug, you’ll have greater difficulty processing them," explains O’Reilly. If you feel like you can't be honest with your partner, then this could be a red flag. "If you’re committed to one another, you should be able to discuss uncomfortable topics knowing that tough conversations have the potential to deepen understanding and connection," says O’Reilly.
In the end, only you can decide if opening up about your sex lives during the break is the best decision. If you decide not to tell your partner purely out of fear that they will no longer accept you, then this could signal a bigger issue when it comes to communication and trust. However, if they don't ask, and you don't feel the need to discuss it, then that's OK too. Just know that practicing open and honest communication on every topic, even painful ones, is almost always a healthy choice for your relationship in the long run.