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We all have a past. Some people’s pasts are more colorful than others, and some are darker.
We may want to forget about our past, but that’s not always possible, nor is it always healthy, and it’s certainly not honest. Even if your past is something that’s difficult for your current partner to get over.
Most of us usually have a couple of things in our past that might make our current partner a little uncomfortable. And for some, accepting their partner’s past can be challenging. But in most cases it doesn’t need to be a deal-breaker for the relationship.
However, that doesn’t mean it’s always easy to get over.
In fact, for some, feeling they just can’t get over their partner’s past can cause significant problems within the relationship.
At Guy Stuff we counsel couples facing many different types of challenges. One of the most difficult, however, can be dealing with the romantic details of a partner’s past.
Below you’ll see a question from Lauren whose boyfriend is struggling with her sexual history.
My response to her follows.
Getting Over The Past Can Be Difficult
I made a big mistake and had sex before I was married. I have now met the man I want to marry. . . .but he can't get over my past. We have been together for a year and a half and are still struggling with it. Is there anything we can do?" -Lauren G.
Lauren’s situation isn’t unique. Although it goes both ways, it’s usually men who struggle with their girlfriend or wife’s sexual past more than the reverse. The idea of the person they love being intimate with someone else can be very uncomfortable and even threatening for some men. It can be overcome, however.
My Answer:A lot of times things aren't what they seem and this may be such a case. It's hard for me to say precisely, but I suspect that there's more to this and that it may not really be about your having had sex before him or marriage.
It's not that uncommon for men to have a tough time getting over things from the past. A guy wrote me a couple of weeks ago and said,
I love my girlfriend. I want to find a way to stop thinking about her past boyfriends."
I hear something like this pretty regularly from guys.Here are some of the things that could be driving his inability to let this go:
- He struggles with trust
- His thoughts get obsessive at times
- He feels insecure in the relationship
or it could be a way for him to have power and control in the relationship.
Sometimes these things are subconscious and he may not even be intending to do them. There also may be a dynamic in the way your relationship functions that brings this out as well.
If the reason this is a problem for the both of you isn't fixed before you get married it will most likely only get worse and expand into real troubles in your marriage.
You should ask him to speak with a professional counselor who works with men. An expert in men and their relationships can help him drill down to what's really going on and give you both the tools to fix it.
He's probably a great guy, so don't lose what could be a great future for both of you because you guys didn't fix this.
How To Handle The Past
A partner’s romantic past can be uncomfortable to hear about for sure.
Neither partner really needs to know all the specific details of what went on within past relationships unless it’s somehow pertinent to the current one.
By that I mean if one partner was in an abusive relationship or suffered in other ways that can impact the current romance. Be careful here though – it’s easy to allow curiosity to turn into learning too much information. And if it’s a painful past it's easy to push too hard and force your partner to relive difficult circumstances unnecessarily.
There are good reasons to be thankful that your partner has a romantic past. If you and your mate have a good relationship, then these past experiences are part of the reason.
Past relationships help us learn,
- Through experiences
- From our mistakes
- What we like and don’t like
- What we want from a partner
And we learn about ourselves as we age through these relationships. Romantic relationships play a big part in our learning and growing as partners.
Although there can be complications that come from past romantic relationships, they still help people grow and mature in ways that make them a better partner when it comes to marriage or a long-term relationship.
These relationships can provide insight for what works and doesn’t when it comes to,
- Resolving conflict
- Learning how to appreciate your partner
- Loving another person
All of which are extremely useful lessons when it comes to keeping a long-term relationship strong and healthy.
Of course, there are some of us who don’t learn and repeat the same mistakes time and again. That, however, is a different problem.
What To Take Away
It’s not always comfortable knowing your partner has a past. So, if you’re someone who’s having a difficult time dealing with your partner’s past you’re not alone.Keeping the following things in mind can help, however.
- You have a past too and the concerns can go both ways.
- You don’t really need to know all the details of your partner’s past unless it has, or could have, an impact on their relationship with you.
- Past relationships help prepare us for the future.
- Sometimes there are other causes for a partner’s worries about the past. Understanding these can help you both move forward.
- Ultimately, the past should stay in the past so you can focus on your present and building a future together.
The bottom line is that your partner’s past doesn’t have to be a stumbling block and is actually part of what has made them the person you love now.
So, if you’re stuck worrying about your partner’s past, stop and think about what it is that’s really bothering you and why. Or, if your partner is telling you he, “Can’t get over your past,” ask him to do the same.
If you can't figure it out, or don't know what to do next, then get the help of an experienced counselor to give you more insight.
Do you have a question you'd like to Ask a Marriage Counselor ? Click here to submit it and I'll answer it in an upcoming post. Be sure to subscribe on the bottom of the page so you'll get my answer.
Editor’s note: This post was originally published January 14, 2010, updated on June 23, 2020 and has been updated with new information for accuracy and comprehensiveness.
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