Should Your Partner's Past Affect Your Trust In Them? An Expert Weighs In
Whether you've dated a lot of people or not, everyone has some sort of dating past, and that includes your partner. But, can your partner's past affect your trust in them? And if it does, is that fair? Finding someone you love and trust and feel a connection with is hard enough without worrying about how their past relationships went, too, right? But, there are some things you might want to know — and whether they're good or bad, that information can hopefully help you either way.
Of course, there are some things that are always deal-breakers (things like serial cheating and any sort of abuse), and those are things that, while upsetting, you'd definitely want to know so you can make an informed decision about the future of your relationship. But what about things like how many sexual partners they've had (spoiler alert: this really doesn't matter!) or other smaller aspects of their life before they were with you?
I talked to Diana Dorell, intuitive dating coach and author of The Dating Mirror: Trust Again, Love Again, to find out when your partner's past should — and definitely shouldn't — be cause for concern in your relationship. In any case, here's what you need to know.
In some instances, your partner's past might be of concern
Again, as Dorell points out, everyone has a past. What you really want to make a note of is how your partner talks about theirs, and if it seems like they've changed after making mistakes or bad decisions in their past.
"Your biggest concern is in seeing: Have they learned from their past or are they repeating the same patterns?" Dorell tells Elite Daily. "That's hard to tell in the beginning, but you can pay attention to how they speak about their past partners and respond when asked about their past."
One major thing to look out for is how they talk about their exes.
"If they flinch or just say, 'I don't want to talk about that b*tch,' or use any kind of emotionally charged language around it, chances are high that they have not yet dealt with the issue, and that would be a red flag," Dorell says.
In many cases, Dorell points out that it's often less about the contents of their past and more so about their energy in the way they discuss it. Of course, there are also exceptions for careless or violent red flag behaviors.
"If instead they say something like...'I'm not proud of it, but I cheated on her because I was unhappy and was too immature to tell her,' etc., the conversation can actually bring you closer together and increase intimacy," Dorell explains. "But in terms of topics that could be red flags: physical abuse, cheating without any ownership or responsibility or reflection, not disclosing about any STDs — this is something they should bring up because it affects you."
But some things in their past have no bearing on your relationship at all.
Some things Dorell says should never impact your trust in your partner? How many people they've dated or slept with before you.
"How many sexual partners they have had," Dorell says. "Don't ask if you don't want to know. And they are with you now, so focus on that. [Also,] how many people they've dated casually. You just want to know about their major relationships — if they haven't had any, that could also be a red flag that they have intimacy issues."
Another thing that shouldn't matter to you in a relationship?
"What they did for a living before — especially if was something they were embarrassed about," Dorell says.
The thing about information like this is that it doesn't really tell you anything about how trustworthy your partner is. If you and your partner both want to share information like this, fine — but how many people they've been with or what their career was like before they met you shouldn't have any bearing on an otherwise healthy, fulfilling relationship.
So, how should you handle concerns or jealousy issues?
Wondering or having concerns about your partner's past is pretty normal, so what should you do if you're feeling that way? Dorell says that "honesty with a touch of diplomacy" is the way to go.
"Why do you want to know?" Dorell says you should ask yourself. "Why are you concerned? Is it a gut feeling or are you feeling insecure? It's important to check in with yourself before you have the conversation."
When you feel up for having a conversation, Dorell says you can start the discussion with a simple "I'm curious about X — what do you feel comfortable sharing?"
"Or better yet, you can lead with sharing something personal about your past and then invite them to share back," Dorell says. "The key is to never make them feel like they have to be on the defensive."
If you've been with your partner for a long time and learn something about their past that feels concerning, Dorell says it's important not to jump to conclusions.
"Consider the source of where you found out the information and how important it really is to you now," Dorell advises. "If it's a deal-breaker issue, then bring it up. Otherwise, let it go."
And what if learning about your partner's past has left you feeling a little jealous? Dorell says it's important to "recognize that it's your own insecurities."
"Your partner is not responsible for your emotions — only you are," Dorell says. "So instead of seeking validation [or] approval from them, focus on yourself and all the wonderful qualities you bring to the relationship. Ask a friend about your best qualities. Focus on you. It's okay to feel whatever you feel, but remember — they are with you now."
At the end of the day, Dorell says that your trust in your partner and how it relates to their past goes back to knowing yourself and your needs.
"It all goes back to knowing what you can and cannot deal with when it comes to someone's past," Dorell says. "No one is perfect. You have a past too. And there are always going to be things that we aren't proud of, but what matters is how you've let those past choices shape who you are today and how you show up for your partner today."
As Dorell explains, making mistakes and going through bad things in our past can ultimately have a positive effect in the end.
"Sometimes we have to go through really tough times in the past to appreciate the present and be the best partner," Dorell says. "There are no accidents!"
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