The saying ‘honesty is the best policy’ tends to be true for most things. However, there may be situations where not disclosing certain facts may be better than the whole truth being exposed, for example: your partner asking you about your last relationship. If your partner wants to know every single detail of every encounter that you and your ex had, maybe ask them why they want to know and what good would that do for the relationship? There’s no denying that being open and honest about who you are, what you like and what you dislike is essential for a healthy relationship. But just how much should you disclose about your past? Is it healthy to do so? Is it okay not to tell your partner everything?

According to Rachael Pace, a love and relationship writer, you should definitely tell your partner everything about your past, as long as it has a bearing on your current relationship. If it is irrelevant or unimportant, there is no need to share, e.g., your ex’s favourite sex position or the time you took a past fling to the restaurant your partner booked for dinner tonight. The important occurrences: cheating, lying, manipulation, deception, etc., are all worth sharing to your partner as it will help them understand the way these experiences shaped you. Before you mention something from your past to your partner, ask yourself: does this bear any weight on the person I am today or the relationship I am today? If so, it is worth sharing.

Relationship experts Carolyn Steber and Paula Jayne Isaac mention that relationships do not need to be a complete open book, as using discretion is important when it comes to things your partner may not want to know. If you want to gauge the comfortability of your partner when it comes to speaking about your past, first try to see their reaction by sprinkling in some information per your past. For example, if you mention that you have slept with over 10 or 20 people and they react poorly, it could be because according to a 2020 survey from Lelo and OnePoll, the most uncomfortable topic for couples to talk about is their number of previous partners. As mentioned above, if your partner is asking about things like this, use discernment when deciding if you want to share – will it upset your partner? Is it relevant to your relationship? Is it something you are embarrassed of?

There are certain areas of your past that are 100% worth sharing with a partner that you trust:

  • Medical Procedures – especially if they might affect your sex life or fertility.
  • Sexual Health History – if they have ever had one, the last time they were tested, etc.
  • If you have been engaged or married before or share children with an ex, even if you don’t have contact with them.
  • The reason why your previous serious relationships have ended – even if it was your fault.
  • Any past trauma that might affect the relationship – abuse, sexual trauma, and infidelity are some examples.
  • Your financial situation – your partner is entitled to know of old financial problems: tax issues, unresolved debts, bankruptcy, etc.

Everybody has a past; it is what has shaped us into who we are today. If your partner discloses something about their past that upsets you, remember that healthy relationships are built on trust and vulnerability. Always use discernment when deciding what to disclose about your past, as there are some things that may come out in the future that your partner may be upset that you didn’t tell them sooner. Intentionally sitting down together and having these hard conversations will likely build trust and cultivate empathy for each other. You can’t change the past, or your partner’s, so you might as well work towards accepting and embracing it.

Maclynn’s in-house relationship psychologist Madeleine Mason Roantree has over 15 years’ experience helping individuals overcome the barriers they put up which often prevent us from finding love. Get in touch today to book in a coaching session, and discover within yourself what changes in your mindset would work wonders for your relationship.