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How to Talk about a Past Relationship & Not Piss Your Partner Off

It can be uncomfortable to talk about your exes with your current partner. Should it be avoided or not? Here’s how to talk about a past relationship.

talk about past relationship

Talking about a past relationship is a tricky affair. What starts off as a fun round of twenty questions can turn into an icy chill in no time if you aren’t careful.

Finding out more about past relationships is never a good thing, and yet, like all inquisitive fools, we go looking for dirt in our lover’s past.

And when we do find the dirt, we dirty our hands and are left with a stench that lingers for a long time after the discovery.

Talking about exes and past lovers may feel like a bag of bricks lifted off your back, but it may come back to haunt you again through your present lover.

If your new lover has popped the past relationship question to you, and you find no way of avoiding it with a smile or a wink, perhaps you should learn how to talk about a past relationship and make sure you don’t find yourself in sticky ground by giving the wrong answers.

[Read: 14 subtle signs your partner isn’t over their ex and still misses them]

How to talk about past relationships

The next time you come face to face with a question about your past relationships and the number of notches on your bed, keep these tips and suggestions in mind.

It’ll help you answer well and your partner will hear exactly what they want to hear, rather, what they should hear.

The do’s and don’ts of confessing about a past relationship

First of all, you have to understand that all of us have a past. At times you may find yourself in a relationship with someone who’s not dated many people.

When you go out with someone who really doesn’t have a sexual past as exciting or brag-worthy as yours, you really have to think twice about telling all your secrets. [Read: How to get over your first love with happy memories]

You’re with this special person today because of the coincidences and relationships you’ve experienced before. And you really don’t have to feel bad about your extensive list of past lovers once you’ve settled down with someone else, but you do have to be careful about what you say to your new lover.

Remember, you can still tell the truth to your new lover without going into explicit details. [Read: How to stop comparing your new guy to your ex for no reason]

Past relationship confessions

When you start going out with someone seriously, one of the first questions you may face after reaching a certain level of closure may be about your old flames.

Everyone wants to know how frisky their mate has been in the past, and they want to know as much of their partner’s past as they possibly can. But what you reveal can change your relationship, always remember that. [Read: How to let go of the past and be excited about the future]

You may have had previous partners, one night stands, or even sex buddies and a series of casual relationships. Or you may even have participated in activities that are way past your lover’s moral barrier, so watch what you say.

Try to avoid talking about your sexual partners as far as possible, but if the push comes to shove, then go for a very low figure, based on your partner’s personality. Never ever make your partner feel second-best, or third or even fifteenth-best.

Your present lover is special, and this is the person you want to be in love with, for the rest of time. Let them know that. [Read: Should you ever confess to cheating on your partner if you can hide it instead?]

Talking about the details

Even if your sweet love asks you to talk about your feelings and wants explicit graphic details of bedtime activities with your ex, don’t do that. Things could only go from bad to worse.

If your ex-lover used to call you “tongue twister,” “mind blower,” “Mr. Yummy,” or “Ms. Perky,” just avoid mentioning that tiny detail. It’s not necessary, and it is definitely not going to help. [Read: How to pick a pet name for your lover depending on the relationship you have]

And if you’ve had several one-night stands or even made out with a total stranger just for kicks, you’re on dangerous grounds.

If you don’t say anything, there’s always the odd chance that your partner may find out anyways. On the other hand, even if you’re a great lover, the fact that you had a few one night stands, threesomes, or experienced a sex-with-a-stranger fantasy, will inadvertently change the way your new partner looks at this new relationship.

Really, unless someone’s had their own share of wild fun themselves, can they ever understand the real circumstances that led to the sex in the backseat, or would they just think you’re a horny perv who just can’t wait to stuff or get stuffed?

When it comes to talking about the intimate details, skip the parts where you went sowing your wild oats or let anything that walks enter your doorway. It’ll change your partner’s perspective about the relationship. [Read: Why you should never let your ex’s wild past drive a wedge between you both]

But do bring the topic up someday, when you’re in a seasoned relationship and have built enough trust for your partner to overlook your wild earlier days.

Making the comparisons with past relationships

When there’s talk about past relationships, there’s always bound to be comparisons. If your lover wants to know who’s bigger or who’s better, answer without thinking. Of course, it’s your current mate who’s the best in every way, right?

Biggest you’ve ever had, the best you’ve ever had, the naughtiest, wildest, sexiest, and the most beautiful too. Everything!

A little white lie can help your relationship go a long way. You would only reassure your mate, and would help them feel better about themselves if you keep them happy in love, even if one of your exes was so good there were burn marks on the bedsheets after a scorching session in bed.

This is corny, but your past is history, and your future is a mystery. But work on your present, and make your partner feel like they’re the best. Eventually, they may well be the best part of your life! [Read: How to be a very good partner in the relationship and wow your partner every day]

Talking about sexual pleasure and exes

So have you had sex in the back seat of the same car you’re driving now? Or have you made out on a rocky cliff you haven’t been to with your new lover? Or have you kissed one of your exes for over an hour and have never kissed your present amore for anything more than five minutes?

Worry not. And tell not.

Things like these don’t really have to be spoken. And for crying out loud, it’s your lover we’re talking about, not your priest. You can tell a bit, but never go the whole nine yards like it’s going to improve your relationship or something!

Trust your instincts and the moment your relationship feels threatened, quit talking more about it or going into explanations.

And if you ever see your partner’s lips quivering, their eyes getting wider or their nails digging into your upholstery in the middle of your confession, ahem, you’ve gone too far already! [Read: Your dating history and which partners your present lover should know about]

Save your secrets from past relationships

As much as you want to reveal all and hold no secrets in your romance, you should understand that some things are better left untold. A conversation about past relationships can be compared to walking into a haunted house.

We all want to hear about it, we all want to experience the story, and we want to walk in and explore every little detail.

But once you’re too far in, you’d only regret it or pay a huge price. So before understanding how to talk about past relationships and going into your next revelation about your past relationship, think hard and ask yourself, can both of you walk out of it unscathed?

If you can, then go right ahead and get into the details. If you can’t see a satisfying ending by exploring your past with your new partner, seal the doors of your past and throw the keys.

[Confession: A past confession gone totally wrong after a girlfriend wants to know about a guy’s past!]

Things you should talk about regarding past relationships

Now that you know some basic do’s and don’ts of talking about past relationships, there are some things that you actually should talk about with your current partner. Let’s take a look at them.

1. Conflict styles

Every relationship has conflicts. It’s just inevitable that people will fight when they are in a romantic relationship. That doesn’t mean it’s bad, it just means that you need to learn to work through conflict productively, and not destructively.

So, it’s important to talk about what kinds of conflict patterns your partner had in their past relationships, and you should share yours too.

It’s not healthy to yell, scream, and name-call when you have a disagreement. You should act as a team and try to solve every problem together. [Read: How to stop fighting in a relationship and 16 steps to really talk]

Most couples act as if they are enemies and they try to fight to “win,” which does not work. Instead, you should sit down calmly and rationally and work out everything together.

Talking about your past conflict patterns will help both of you come up with a plan for making your fights and disagreements much more productive than you did in past relationships.

2. Reasons for breakups

There is always a reason that romantic relationships end. Sometimes one person wanted it and the other didn’t.

And other times, the breakup was mutual. But it’s important to talk about why your past relationships didn’t work out.

Why should you do this? Well, you can’t improve on anything if you don’t know what went wrong, right? If you don’t do some reflection on how and why you didn’t make it work with your ex(s), then you don’t know how to choose to act differently. [Read: Are relationship fights normal? 15 signs you’re fighting too often]

Maybe there was cheating, emotional neglect, or it was a toxic relationship in another way. Examining the endings of past relationships helps with figuring out how not to do it again.

For example, if there was cheating involved, who cheated and why? What led that person(s) to cheat? Could it have been avoided? If there was emotional neglect, who was the one who did the most neglecting? If you find that your partner is always blaming everything on their exes, then that is a bad sign.

You want to really take responsibility for your actions in past relationships. As they say, “it takes two to tango.” The ending of a relationship is usually not one-sided. Both people probably contributed to it at least to some degree. [Read: 50 Questions for a new relationship to predict your romantic future]

3. What you would do differently

Once you talk about why your past relationships ended, then you need to talk about what you would do differently if you could. This is key to having a healthy relationship with your current partner.

You can’t change what you don’t recognize. If both of you bring your same actions and behavior patterns into this relationship, then your partnership might go the way of all of your past relationships – headed toward a breakup.

So, what are some of the things you would have changed? Would you have been more loving and affectionate? Or maybe you should have called and kept in touch more? Would you have paid more attention to your partner? What do you wish your exes would have done differently? [Read: 16 lessons to recover from a breakup and move on one day at a time]

4. What worked and what didn’t work

Sometimes we think a personality characteristic someone has will be great, but then it turns out that it was the demise of a past relationship.

For example, maybe you are an extrovert, and all of your exes were introverts. You might have thought this was cute in the beginning, but maybe it led to problems later.

It could be that you wanted to go out and socialize all the time, but your introvert partner was more of a homebody. That’s okay, but it just doesn’t make you very compatible. [Read: Sexually incompatible? The unlucky signs that signal bad sex]

Or maybe your past partner was an outdoorsy person or liked to run marathons. If you’re the kind of person who hates to hit the gym or go hiking in the wilderness, then that probably didn’t work for you.

You see, healthy, successful relationships are a lot about compatibility. Not that you can’t make a relationship work if you’re a bit opposite, but usually it’s easier if you are more similar. [Read: 50 Relationship questions to test your compatibility instantly]

So, when you talk to your current partner about your past relationships, try to assess your similarities and differences too. How can you bridge the gap between the differences so you understand each other better?

Bottom line

It’s okay to talk about your past relationships with your current partner. In fact, it’s really important to talk about certain topics and what you learned from each “failed” relationship.

Ideally, you will take all the mistakes and turn those into a win with your current relationship. After all, if we don’t assess our past, we can’t have a better future.

[Read: What does being compatible in a relationship really mean? And are you two compatible?]

Talking about past relationships that had no happy ending can be difficult. But it can help save the one you have now. Follow these steps on how to talk about past relationships and at least hope for a satisfying and simple ending, and a happier present relationship.

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