couple talking

We’ve all got a past. Some of us are mostly proud of what we’ve done before and and some of us are mostly embarrassed about it. Perhaps the majority of us feel a mixture of pride and shame.

What happened in the past has helped us get to where we are today and it’s an undeniable part of who we are, even if we’ve changed and overcome challenges. The big question when you’re dating or in a relationship is whether or not to talk about your past and, if you do, how to talk about it.

To pretend that you didn’t have certain experiences could be a huge mistake. When you’re evasive or avoid talking about a topic, it sends up a glaring red flag to the one you’re with. He or she might wonder and worry about what you’re hiding. Your date or partner might make up stories to fill in the gaps you’ve left and those stories could be far worse than the truth.

It’s probable that your partner will eventually discover the very same aspects of your past that you’ve been trying to hide. When this happens, trust will be damaged. He or she will begin to question other things you’re saying too.

It’s almost impossible to get intimate when suspicion and mistrust are rampant.

But it’s also possible to make the mistake of overwhelming your date or partner with too much information. Whether it’s a happy or miserable memory, when you talk incessantly or in a needlessly detailed way about what happened in your past, it can send the message that you’re more into nostalgia than being present with your current partner.

Here are some important reminders so you can be wise about when and how you talk about your past…

It’s DUMB to frequently bring up the past.
There’s nothing wrong with appreciating your ex or an experience you had. It’s healthy to acknowledge how that past relationship allowed you to grow, but notice it when you frequently bring up the past.

If just about every conversation you have with your date or partner seems to remind you of your ex and you feel compelled to share that memory or mention his or her name, this probably means you have unfinished business with that old relationship. Take the time to heal and let go of the past. When you do, it will be easy to avoid this mistake.

It’s DUMB to compare.
If we’re honest with ourselves, perhaps we all make comparisons all of the time. We notice when we’re having more fun now than we did before or when an experience is more boring than another one was. This may be a natural way our minds sort information, but it doesn’t mean you have to inflate this tendency. It also doesn’t mean you have to talk about it!

Stated comparisons often feel like judgments and even if they’re “good,” they’re not a productive way to talk about your past. Stop the comparisons in your mind first. When you notice you’re thinking, “He’s much more romantic than my ex was” or “She’s not as attractive as my other girlfriends have been,” interrupt those thoughts.

Bring yourself back to what you like and appreciate about the one you’re with now and if you can’t find anything positive, this might mean it’s time to end the date or relationship.

It’s SMART to talk about what directly affects your partner.
Don’t omit sensitive issues from your past that could directly affect your date or partner. These might not be things that you choose to share on the first, second or even third date, but do bring them up when the time feels right.

For example, if you have a child (whether or not the child lives with you), this is probably a good idea to tell your partner. Another important piece of information to talk about is if your past has had a lasting effect, like an STD (sexually transmitted disease). Get accurate medical advice so that you know what precautions need to be taken to protect your partner’s health.

And when things start to get serious between you and your partner, it’s wise to talk about any financial mishaps from your past that could impact you both in the future. If you have credit problems or debt, this is something your partner needs to know.

It’s SMART to share what is relevant or helpful.
Think about what you might find useful to know if you were your date or partner. If you had a traumatic experience or lost someone you love in the past, it’s possible that, at some point, you’ll be triggered and will have a strong reaction. If your partner understands this about you, he or she can offer support instead of feeling confused.

If you were engaged or married before, this is probably helpful for your partner to know. Again, you don’t have to share this immediately, but do talk about it when it seems appropriate to do so.

You can also talk about important personal growth milestones or changes. If you overcame an alcohol or drug addiction or used to sleep around a lot but don’t anymore, this can be valuable information for your partner to know.

When talking about a sensitive subject that you worry might turn your partner off, simply state what happened without excuses; talk about how you’ve changed and also how you feel now. Give your partner a chance to process what he or she has heard and to ask questions.

There’s really no need to spend a lot of time on the past. Be honest and acknowledge it and then come back to what’s going on right here and right now.
“Magic Words” can help you talk about your past and say whatever you need to say with clarity and honesty while keeping your connection close. Relationship coaches and authors Susie and Otto Collins put together this collection or words and phrases based on what they’ve learned through research, working with coaching clients and through personal experience. Visit today and discover for yourself how powerful saying it the right way can be!