Should You Tell Your Partner Everything About Your Past?

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A lot of people seem to be under the impression that they deserve to know absolutely everything about their partner.

Others feel a need to tell the person they’re dating every detail about their past lovers, traumas, and so on.

But should you tell your partner everything about your past?

Is it a good idea?

No, it isn’t.

And by the time you finish reading this article, you’ll understand why.

Determine Your Motivation For Telling Them Everything

If you feel you need to tell your partner everything about your past, ask yourself why that may be.

Is it because they’re pressuring you for details about everything you’ve experienced, including how many people you’ve dated and what you’ve done with them?

Or do you feel obligated to give this person a rundown of every single thing you’ve done or gone through so that they know you “completely”?

One of the greatest aspects of dating is the opportunity to get to know and understand another person. This takes time and patience, similar to a flower that slowly unfurls, rather than one that’s been forced apart with its petals torn and ragged.

Be very wary of people who demand to know all the details of your life early on in a relationship. This can sometimes be an early sign of controlling or manipulative behavior, especially if they don’t offer any valid reasons as to why they want to know.

If someone is seriously interrogative and “wants to know what they’re getting into”, that’s a whole field of red flags warning you not to proceed further.

In contrast, if you’re super eager to share everything that makes you YOU, remember that people process information in different ways, and may also have very differing perspectives.

You may think that the time you did a ton of acid and hitched a ride to Alaska with complete strangers for a week of drunken group debauchery is a fun story to tell your new lover, but that doesn’t mean they’ll feel the same way.

Knowing details like this may cause them to lose respect for you, or even lose interest in you.

Some people blurt out everything there is to say about their life experiences, and then get upset and angry when their confessions aren’t met with complete understanding and acceptance.

Then they make it everyone else’s fault for being judgemental, rather than theirs for airing their autobiography.

You don’t owe anyone a full rundown of all the things you’ve ever gone through.

Additionally, it’s good to be guarded and have boundaries with those who seem to pry too much (and too quickly) into your private life.

There’s nothing wrong with saying “I’d rather not discuss this” to let others know that this topic is off the table. Furthermore, it’s just as acceptable to make it clear to them that they aren’t entitled to that information. They may be at some point in the future, but not now.

Some people may try to imply that not telling them everything means you’re being insincere and secretive, but that isn’t the case at all.

Keeping info to yourself doesn’t mean you aren’t an honest or decent person. It simply means that you’re reserved, and selective about when and who you choose to share your past with.

Stick To Relevant Information That Benefits (Or Is Vital To) You Both

The only reason it may be important to divulge details about your past is if it affects your relationship and future life together.

For example, if you’re trying to start a family and are experiencing infertility due to complications from an abortion in your youth, that’s something that should be discussed.

The same goes for if you’re not legally allowed to go to a particular place because you were arrested there at some point.

In cases like this, it’s actually better to air these things fairly early in the relationship, but only when the topic comes up. And even then, you don’t need to go into minute detail about what transpired.

Let’s use the examples mentioned above.

If you’re dating someone dead set on having kids, you can let them know immediately that you may have trouble conceiving because of past medical issues.

Then it’s up to you whether (or not) to divulge the how and why of what happened.

Similarly, if your new partner talks about how they want to travel with you, you can say that you’re willing to go everywhere except X location because you had a negative experience there once. Unless sharing the details is necessary, it’s fine to err on the side of vagueness.

It’s impossible to have a fresh start with a new person if your past is spread out on the table in front of them. Unless you’re both teenage virgins who were raised in sheltered communities, it’s pretty much a given that both of you have been through “stuff”.

That stuff has given you immense perspective (and likely some helpful coping mechanisms), but you don’t need to tell them everything any more than you need to tell them about every single meal you’ve eaten in your life.

Both have provided you with the building blocks you needed to develop, but they’re in the past now.

*Note: one exception to this is if you’ve been through certain traumas that may affect your relationship, and by discussing them, your partner can be sensitive to things that trigger bad memories.

For example, if they know that you’ve experienced sexual violence in the past and that certain behaviors are off-limits in the bedroom, they’re likely to be very compassionate and understanding.

Pace Yourself For Your Own Protection

When it comes to telling your partner details about yourself, it’s best to dole out easily digestible snippets in small portions over time, rather than serving them a massive dish of “everything about me” all at once.

There are few things as overwhelming and off-putting to a new partner as you monologuing your life story to them, especially if it’s full of hardship and trauma.

If you feel like you want this person to know every single detail about you, all in one go, then you’ll need to brace yourself for the possibility that it may be too much for them.

You want them to get to know you in your entirety over time, rather than shoving a file at them that’s basically a dripping hot mess dumpster fire.

Most people react quite badly to that sort of thing, and either don’t want to take it on as a potential burden, or decide to keep their distance for the sake of their own well-being.

In addition, remember that if you’re just starting to get to know someone, there’s no guarantee that the two of you are going to end up in a committed, long-term relationship.

This person is still a relative stranger to you, so do you really want to share seriously personal details with someone who could be out of your life in the foreseeable future?

Furthermore, how could sharing this information turn around and bite you on the backside?

It’s not a great idea to share potentially damaging info with someone whom you don’t trust inside and out, and that kind of trust can only be cultivated over time.

Even if the two of you end up dating for years, only share seriously personal aspects of your past a bit at a time.

Remember that nothing in life can ever be unsaid, so be very discerning about what you divulge, when you divulge it, and to whom you divulge it.

What You’ve Been Through Doesn’t Define You

It’s possible—in fact likely—that by your age, you’ve experienced several different challenging or even traumatic events, but that doesn’t mean they define you.

They’ve contributed to aspects of your personality, but they aren’t who you are. As such, sharing details about your past isn’t necessary for your partner to love you for who you are right now.

You aren’t the person you were two, five, 10, or 30 years in the past.

Can you imagine if none of us evolved or grew up emotionally or mentally? We’d still behave the same way we did in our mid-teens, which would be appalling.

Similarly, the challenging circumstances you went through are in the past, so why continue to inhabit them?

A lot of people use their traumas in place of a real identity, and end up revolving their entire lives around them.

You are more than the sum of the difficulties you’ve experienced, and you can decide to transcend them rather than use them as a foundation on which to build your personality.

Learn from them, of course, and then move forward with grace, rather than feeling a need to turn your past into your future by perpetually discussing it with everyone you come across.

Telling Them About Your Past May Change Their Perception Of You

Have you ever read PostSecret?

It’s a site where many people send in postcards with secrets about themselves that they might not want to share with others, but still feel the need to get out. Or they share things that happened to them that they feel they can’t freely discuss with those closest to them.

One writer, a successful partner at a law firm, couldn’t bear the thought of her husband or children finding out that she had been an “intimate escort” to pay her way through law school.

Another person was dating someone in law enforcement and was worried whether they should divulge that they had a criminal record from an awful thing they did in their teens, even though those records are now sealed.

As mentioned earlier, unless the info you’re thinking of sharing is necessary for your mutual long-term health and happiness, it’s best to keep it to yourself.

Otherwise, you may unnecessarily taint the rest of your relationship to a degree where your partner will never be able to look at you the same way.

They might even be tempted to end the relationship because they can’t deal with how their perception of you has changed.

There’s a Depeche Mode song entitled “Policy of Truth” that’s well worth listening to regarding this situation. One of the stanzas goes:

Hide what you have to hide
And tell what you have to tell
You’ll see your problems multiplied
If you continually decide
To faithfully pursue
The policy of truth

If things are going well, and you don’t want to poison the well with something that could be potentially very volatile, then remain silent.

Think of it this way: how would your appreciation of a rose be dimmed if you knew that it was growing over the grave of someone’s buried pet? Or would you be able to appreciate your favorite piece of classical music if you knew that the composer did something atrocious?

This is something to keep in mind when you’re debating whether to tell your partner something about your past, or not. If it isn’t pertinent, and if they would never find out about it for the rest of eternity, then why bring it up?

They May Not Be Able To Handle Details About What You’ve Been Through

This is important to note, as most people don’t consider it often: your partner may not have the capacity to handle what you’ve gone through.

If you’re with someone who’s quite emotionally sensitive or hasn’t had exposure to many difficulties in their life so far, you may end up damaging them by talking about things you’ve experienced.

Consider how your partner handles challenging or upsetting information.

Do they pause for a minute, express their empathy or anger, and then move on? Or are they easily rattled and will be upset for hours or days if they see or hear about troubling facts or images?

Are they easily influenced by social media, and often cry at music or movies? Or are they pragmatic and solid with a strong sense of self?

If the person you’re with is both highly emotional and judgemental, you may end up doing more harm than good if you talk about difficult things you’ve experienced in the past.

Some partners may end up so haunted or damaged by the information you’ve shared that they won’t want to be with you anymore for the sake of self-preservation.

Should you determine that sharing details about your past would be detrimental, then keeping your past experiences to yourself isn’t a sin by omission.

In fact, not telling them these details may be one of the greatest gifts you could ever offer them.

Similarly:

They May Not Want To Hear About It

Every person has their own insecurities and hangups.

Even if people have worked through most of their difficulties, there will still be sore spots that may hurt a bit if prodded.

Although you may want to share aspects of your past with the best of intentions, that doesn’t necessarily mean that your partner wants to hear about it all.

For example, if your partner is insecure about their performance in the bedroom, they may feel quite uncomfortable finding out that not only have you had far more lovers than they have, but how amazing said lovers were in bed.

Another possibility is that they’ve been through a ton of their own crap in the past, and don’t want to be burdened with yours too.

Many of those who have been through the worst kinds of traumas don’t ever talk about them.

That doesn’t mean they can’t deal with difficulty, but hearing you talk about yours may open up old wounds of theirs that they’d rather keep closed.

If things are weighing on you heavily and you feel you need to discuss them, consider booking time with a therapist.

You’ll be able to talk about anything you need to with them, and won’t have to worry about potentially damaging your relationship.

Your Partner Knows And Loves You For Who You Are Now

Every situation you’ve experienced in the past has helped to form the person you are now—the person your partner met, got to know, and fell in love with.

They know you and know you well.

They simply don’t know about every facet of your formative experience, and they don’t need to.

The more you focus on your past, the less you’re living in the present.

This is where the two of you are, right now, so choose to leave the past behind instead of ruminating on it endlessly.

Focus on having fun and creating wonderful, happy memories with the one you love—both now, and as your future unfolds together.

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About The Author

Catherine Winter is an herbalist, INTJ empath, narcissistic abuse survivor, and PTSD warrior currently based in Quebec's Laurentian mountains. In an informal role as confidant and guide, Catherine has helped countless people work through difficult times in their lives and relationships, including divorce, ageing and death journeys, grief, abuse, and trauma recovery, as they navigate their individual paths towards healing and personal peace.