For better or for worse, everyone’s got a past, and let’s be real — not everyone’s past is rainbows and butterflies. Our pasts make us who we are and shape our lives, and when we’re in a relationship, we take on our partner’s baggage and interpret it in our own way.
Unless you’re the very first person someone’s dated (unlikely), you’re going to have to also deal with their past relationships, too — the good, the bad, and the ugly ones. What your partner has dealt with in their life has shaped who they are now, and it’s certainly possible that your partner’s past could impact your future together.
Ways Your Partner’s Past Can Impact Your Relationship
To build a healthy future with your partner, you have to move past “the past” and learn to accept those not-so-great things, or at least work towards acceptance and understanding. Here are a few possible aspects of your partner’s past that might impact your future with them — and how to handle those situations.
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If they’ve cheated on another partner
If they’ve cheated on a past partner, it’s only natural for you to wonder if they’ll do the same to you. Ultimately, this’ll come down to the trust you build over time. Living in fear of your partner cheating on you won’t make for a fun or healthy relationship. It’ll lead to paranoia and arguments.
If you’re going down the road of a traditional monogamous relationship, you’ll want to have a serious discussion about whether your partner is ready to commit to you — and only you. If they’ve cheated multiple times with multiple people, they’re more likely to cheat again. If you’re a paranoid person, this can be extremely difficult to cope with, as it’s something that will likely bug you for the duration of the relationship, because the thought of them cheating might always be in the back of your mind. You and your partner will have to work extra hard on building trust.
If they’ve been cheated on
You’ll have to work extra hard on trust building in this situation, too. It’s likely that if someone’s been cheated on before, they have trust issues…and, rightfully so. You will have to be super caring and loving to your partner to make sure you build up the trust to have a healthy relationship.
Your partner might be paranoid or scared that you will cheat on them. They might ask for constant reassurance or be insecure in the relationship. Even if you have nothing to hide and have every intention of being faithful, you’ll still need to comfort and appease them. They might feel worried or anxious when you go out with friends or are spending extra time on your phone. You will have to calm them and assure them that you love them and aren’t cheating.
What their sex life has been like
Talking about past sexual encounters with a partner can be awkward, to say the least. It can be nerve-racking to disclose your number of past partners, and people often worry that their partner will think their number is too high or too low in comparison to their own.
For example, if you find out your partner has had a lot more sex — or simply more adventurous sex — than you’ve had, it might leave you feeling inexperienced and comparing yourself to those past partners. On the flip side, if you’ve had a lot more previous partners than your current partner, your partner might feel inadequate and inexperienced, or even threatened. Either of these scenarios could possibly put a strain on your sex life and your relationship if insecurities get the best of you. Be straightforward and candid when you speak about how your partner’s sex life makes you feel — but remember, the past is the past and it can’t be changed.
Who they’ve dated before you
It’s normal to compare yourself to others — it’s in our nature. When it comes to comparing ourselves to our partners’ exes, things can get messy. You might become obsessed with checking out their ex’s social media, sizing them up, wondering who’s better looking, more successful, you name it. This phenomenon is called retroactive jealousy.
Even if your partner has zero contact with their ex, you can still be jealous of them and obsess over the past relationship in a way that is unhealthy for your current relationship — and for your own good. As adults, we have to remember that it’s pretty likely that whoever we’re dating has dated at least one person before. The chances of being the one and only person someone has ever dated are slim. Ultimately, who someone has dated in the past shouldn’t affect your future — unless you let it, which can be all too easy.
If they’ve been sexually assaulted
Dealing with trauma is something that’s often a lengthy, often lifelong, process. If your partner has been sexually abused, it will likely impact your relationship in one way or another. You will have to be extra sensitive and caring towards your partner, and remember that they may suffer from the effects of the trauma long after it has happened.
In this case, you’ll have to be patient and understanding, as well as understand that it could affect your mutual sex life. It’s extremely important to communicate openly and be non judgemental when your partner feels ready to discuss the topic. Discuss sexual boundaries before the relationship gets to that point, and always remember to make sure your partner consents to any sexual activity.
If they’ve never learned to communicate in a healthy way
A lot of us, especially men, are told by society to hide their feelings and not show weakness. The problem with this is that emotions are stifled, and people end up not being able to fully communicate in a healthy way. Rather, when things get tough or they get angry, they might take it out in an unhealthy way, like yelling or punching a wall instead of having an open and honest conversation. This will take patience on your end to be able to get to a point where you can both talk about your feelings and argue in a healthy way (because yes, every couple is going to argue at some point!)
Protect Yourself by Being Open and Seeking Help
When dealing with any of these scenarios, your relationship will be tested. It will come down to you and your partner facing your insecurities head on, being vulnerable and open about your feelings, and communicating as honestly and compassionately as possible. If you need more help, don’t hesitate to get a mental health professional involved. There’s no shame in going to speak with a couple’s counselor. A therapist can help you both move past the past, be in the present, and look forward to a brighter future — together.