Talk About Your Dating History
While there isn't any perfect way to address the subject of the previous loves of your life with your current lover, it's a good idea to at least be sincere and not play the "Oh I was always a hermit" card. Past loves are part of who you are now and the sooner both of you clear the decks on this issue, the easier it is to move forward together, unblemished by the ghosts of the past.
- Wait for the right moment. Blurting out that you've had great lovers in the past when you've only just met someone is hardly diplomatic. Moreover, it's likely to scare off your current date who may just feel compared, analyzed and found wanting! Keep discussion of exes for later in your relationship.
- Should you feel pressured earlier by your date to "tell all", be polite and simply suggest that it's all a bit early yet to be rummaging through one another's past. However, let them know that you're happy to be an open book should the two of you continue to progress as happily as now.
- Seek a balance. When you do begin to talk about your exes, do it with a balance in mind. Too little information can lead to a sense that you're hiding something or that you're still smitten with someone you once dated and have yet to get over them. That sort of emotional baggage can scare off even the most intrepid! On the other hand, going on endlessly about "my ex this, my ex that", whether negative or positive, is just as off-putting as knowing nothing and will soon have your date's interest in you flagging. It's a good idea to show simply that you appreciated your exes in their own right but that you're not hung up on them still. For example:
- "Sheila was a good woman. I really enjoyed her company but we had different ideas about work and life balance. She's the CEO of Heartbreakers Inc now and I, well I prefer fishing and weaving nets, just like you dear."
- "Bob was just the ant's pants of funny. But my sense of humor was stretched a little too far when he thought living on an island with a fur seal colony and penguins for company was the ideal of the glam life. No, my sweet, I prefer our champagne tastes and fast cars much more thanks."
- Do not compare. Comparisons invite a sense of inferiority and despair. A person who feels that they are being compared and found lacking will either give up quickly or will spend a lot of time acting needy and seeking validation from you that they match up. Neither outcome is a good one. Demonstrate that you're not going to resurrect them as paragons of virtue to which no current date can ever hope to aspire by not making comparisons.
- Take care with specifics. For some people, there is a need to know about your previous sex life with your exes. Whether or not you wish to discuss this aspect of your prior relationships is entirely up to you but there is a polite way to clarify this. If you don't wish to discuss it, don't raise it. If the other person raises it, be discreet. If you don't mind talking about this aspect of past relationships, avoid intimate details. To do this sets up the potential for more unrealistic comparisons and competitiveness and it can also sully the memory of previous relationships in ways you weren't intending. Some possible approaches might include:
- Reassurance you're not a tell-tale about past or present intimacy: "Yes, I was in a sexual relationship with Bev but it's not something I wish to talk about in detail. I am reticent to discuss the personal information of intimacy with anyone and you can be reassured my lips are sealed about our intimacy too."
- Avoiding comparison potential: "We had a very healthy sexual relationship but I believe all intimate relationships are tailored to the individuals involved and can't be repeated or compared.
- A little tongue-in-cheek: "Yes, I did enjoy a sexual relationship with Gary. I love sex and I am looking forward to sharing my enjoyment of sex with you now, finding our own special pathway to intimacy. I don't really think we need to involve Gary in it though!"
- Find your own ways to associate meaning to objects, places and experiences with your current date. We're human, so there will be times when certain places, events, objects and the like remind us of an ex and recall things we did or enjoyed with that particular person. To deny that would be to deny personal history and the good that was gained from the experience. However, there is no need to emphasize your memories and reactions so that your current date feels left out and dispossessed. Avoid going on about how anything was special for your ex. If it's too painful, avoid even taking your current date near the emotional trigger until you're better able to cope. Or, even more strongly, have a personal Have a Best Friend Ceremony to let go and perhaps even finalize the letting go with re-associating the object, place or event with your new date. For example:
- Perhaps you loved going to a particular spot on the coast with your ex. You still love it because it has great surfing and is an excellent place to sit and think about life. But it reminds you of your ex. Take along some floating lanterns, light them, say a poem of goodbye to your ex and let these float away on the sea. As you do say, say "I reclaim this space for me", or some other meaningful phrase. Then, perhaps a week or a month later, return with your current date and reclaim the space for both of you, just by being there together.
- Get over your ex before discussing your ex. There is nothing more tedious, more undermining and more demoralizing than sitting with a date whose attention is firmly rooted in the past, and in particular, focused on the heartbreak. Being with someone who remains in love or attached to another person can go either of two ways - one, it can lose your current date very fast or two, it can cause your current date's own insecurities to surface and rebound on you, to the point where your date constantly seeks your reassurance. And sadly, for lesser minds, this can soon turn into manipulation, through which a current date can be made to "pay" for hurt from an ex by constantly being reminded of how they don't measure up and how you're still getting over the hurt. Don't be that chump. Get over the ex and allow your current love to truly blossom, free of Stop Suffering in Silence and free of any unrealistic feelings you lost the love of your life.
- Move forward together with a positive sense of being both strong individuals and a couple united by understanding. Once you've explained the past with sensitivity, care and appropriate levels of detail, make a pact to leave the past in its appropriate place, as a pleasant memory where possible, or at least as a resolved memory where it wasn't so pleasant. It's over and the two of you now represent both the present and the future, and as the days pass, you're both creating a past together too. Cherish that and be conscious that you are who you are because of your own choices, not because of the people you once dated.
- A healthy relationship is about sharing of emotional and psychological background. Knowing about one another's past is vital to understanding one another well. Not being able to share or accept this can show that you aren't supposed to be a part of this relationship either yet or maybe never.
- If your ex is in a healthy relationship with someone more compatible, mentioning this without resentment or jealousy, as something positive, will show rather than tell that you will treat this new love with respect and honestly let go if it ends. How you treat your exes is something that your new love will judge to see if getting together with you will mean being bad-mouthed for every little thing - or if you can discuss your differences and the reasons for the breakup without blame, just accepting that "We had less in common than we thought we did and grew in different directions. S/he's happy now, found someone a lot more compatible. I think I did too." Smile at your new one.
- Approach this matter with care, wisdom, patience and understanding.
- Never insist that an ex visit to meet your current date unless it's absolutely clear that there is nothing, absolutely nothing, romantic between the two of you anymore.
Things You'll Need
- New rituals or special places to celebrate with your current lover
- Avoid the Most Common Mistakes Men Make with Online Dating
- Respond When Asked About Dating a Friend
- Enjoy Dating
- Tell Your Sister You're Dating a Guy She Hates
- Smell Seductive on Dates
- Date a Teacher
- Listen to Your Ex Talk About Their Relationship
Sources and Citations
- Adapted with permission from Howcast, http://www.howcast.com/videos/317543-How-To-Discuss-Your-Dating-History.