Sordid Histories on a Need-To-Know Basis

The dance between revealing too much or too little about your relational history can be a delicate one. As per my recent M.O. (because my own personal experiences have fallen off a cliff into turbulent waters like a spurned lover in a maritime romance novel) I came upon this topic after watching Chasing Amy. It, naturally, led to an argument with a friend about Joey Lauren’s honesty or lack thereof. I thought she had willfully deceived poor, misdirected Ben Affleck (though his solution was abhorrent and a tad insane). My friend thought she had skillfully avoided being dishonest on a technicality.

My dusty relationship boundary wheels began turning and I started to wonder about the honesty requirements within a new relationship when it comes to unveiling details of a past relationship. What does your new peachykins need to know? What do they have a right to know? What do they not want to know?

This could pertain to everything but more often than not refers to physical intimacy. (Unless newbie loverlette insists that he/she know everything from where you went on all of your previous first dates to the exact amount of times you made your former flame banana pancakes—then you’ve got bigger crazies to fry.) In my younger (read: stupid) years I wanted to know everything. I ended up in situations where I learned names of people I wish I had never known existed, picturing things I never needed to imagine. I wish I had never asked. The details were irrelevant to our current relationship and detrimental to my sanity. All that really mattered was that he respected my boundaries.

Of course going blind into a relationship without knowing anything about someone’s past isn’t healthy either. Naturally there are things I would like to know about my diddly bear’s past as they become relevant. Is he riddled with incurable STDs? Did he sleep with that girl who wants to stay with him for a few weeks while she gets over her cheating ex? Are you still hung up on an intimate relationship you’ve had in the past? Do you have a litter of children with each woman from the Cowboys’ cheer squad? From my perspective, it’s common sense that someone you love has a right to know this information. And you should give it to them on your own free will. Without prying inquiries. If you leave out this information and I discover it later, you’ll have some ‘splainin’ to do. The rest. The details. If I want to know I will ask. And I probably won’t.

Still relationships are as different as we are special lil snowflakes of humanness. If your lovey has some deep desire to know more (along with a relationship death wish), be honest. But be cognizant of his/her feelings in the process. Also, if you ask, be prepared to accept the answer. I’ve been on both ends of the worst kind of outcome for these interrogations. A couple guys I dated asked too much (I didn’t even think I had that much to reveal) and they went off the deep end when I answered honestly. (To be fair these guys also went off the deep end when I didn’t stir the pot roast properly, so it might not be a fair comparison.) Their reactions hurt me far more than anything I divulged could have possibly hurt them.

As with most great mysteries of the relationship universe, respect is the magical little key that can help navigate these murky waters without too many tears. If you respect your bunny boo, you will tell him/her what they need to know in loving way so they understand that they are the only one who matters now. On the flipside, responding to the big reveal with respect will make your darling feel safe and comfortable being honest with you. Everyone has a past. Everyone. In some form or another. And while it should be addressed, it should never be used against someone you love (or like to smooch because then they won’t let you smooch them anymore.)