In my practice, I often receive questions related to the amount and type of information that is appropriate to disclose during the course of a romantic relationship. A dilemma we all struggle with, to some degree or another, is telling a potential partner about our sexual past. We all enter relationships with a past. Women considerably more than men will question how much of their sexual past appropriate to share in intimate relationships. How much does a potential partner need to know about their prior sexual experiences and struggles? How much disclosure is enough? How much is too much?
Unfortunately, this is one of those topics that no one can answer with certainty. Needless to say, this is one of those issues that relationship therapists often disagree about. The amount and type of sexual disclosure appears to be split equally among relationship therapists, with some insisting complete and raw honesty is the best way to obtain and maintain a healthy relationship, while others insist the past should remain in the past. There is no right or wrong way to handle this question, what may be right for one couple, may not be right for the next.
Although, we live in a society that touts and often pushes for complete honesty, calling it transparency, this rarely seems like the right answer for everyone. Not surprisingly, some people will not feel comfortable sharing their sexual past with a potential or current partner. For some, sexual confusion or experimentation is one of the things we prefer to keep private. It should be noted, there is nothing wrong to question one’s sexuality or experiment sexually, but there may be some individuals that may use this information to judge us unfairly.
Often when we share raw details of our lives, we do so for our own sake, not for the best interest of the other person. Sexual disclosure can feel freeing; however, some disclosures may not come without judgment. I am certainly not suggesting that you should be deceptive, dishonest, or hide who you truly are from your partner or potential mate, but, remain mindful some people may not view this disclosure with complete acceptance. Healthy relationships should provide partners with the opportunity to communicate openly, honestly, provide support, and grow without the need or fear of censoring what can be communicated with a partner.
Past Sexual History That Partners May Need to Disclose:
• History of STD/ current STD
• Sexual Preferences
• History of pregnancy/miscarriage
• History of Sexual Abuse
• History of Physical Abuse
We all yearn for unconditional love, unconditional positive regard, and acceptance. However, total acceptance can mean different things to different people. For some, total acceptance can mean you have to share everything all the time, for others it can mean sharing only the information that is considered pertinent to your current partner. Sharing of personal information should be disclosed when both partners feel safe, free of judgement, and encouraged to be themselves.
There is no perfect time to discuss your sexual past. Finding the right time can be a delicate balancing act. If you disclose too soon, you’re likely to be judged because your partner may not want to deal with the complications that your history carries. However, if you wait too long to disclose, you risk your partner feeling that you are being dishonest, thus, withholding parts of your past that is considered important to the health of the relationship.
What to Consider Before Disclosing your Sexual Past:
• Do you feel free to be yourself in the relationship?
• Is your partner mature enough to hear your sexual past without judgement?
• Is your relationship becoming serious?
• Is this information relevant to your current relationship?
• Is this information necessary for your growth/well-being of your relationship?
• Use your intuition and consider the other person.
Disclosing sexual past is not an easy task, therefore, you do not have to disclose this information unless you want to, have to disclose everything all at once, or you feel completely safe to do so. No one is going to say that it’s easy to deal with your partner’s sexual past, especially if it’s more colorful than your own. Everyone has a past, remember this is before you met your partner or before he/she was in a relationship with you. There’s no way around it, the person you’re dating probably had sex with someone else before he or she had sex with you. Accept that some people will find promiscuous past and pasts consisting of sexual experimentation as grounds for not wanting to continue the relationship. Sexual disclosure comes with a mixed bag, it can weed out potential partners that are not long-term relationship material, or help you identify those that may have a future.
On a positive note, experience can mean better sex. It can also mean your partners previous partners contributed to the person he/she is now, hence, the person you fell in love with.