Imagine you are on a date with someone you’ve been dating for awhile. The two of you run into someone your date knows. As your date makes introductions they stammer, “Oh…um…this is __________…we used to date. Well…actually…we were engaged.”
Before you marry we believe it is important to know your potential mate’s dating history. The depth to which you explore this has to be something the two of you agree on, but having some degree of insight will be important especially in the early years of your marriage.
Before you dive into this conversation, be confident of how you will react should you choose to know everything. Your emotional readiness is important here. If you tend toward jealousy, then don’t go for details. This has to be a safe conversation for the one who is sharing, so guard yourself from ever using their past against them in future conversations.
In addition, give extra grace and consideration for those things that happened before their walk with Christ. The values and activities a person had before trusting Christ should naturally be different than those of a person who is being transformed by Jesus.
Also, wait until your relationship is moving toward more exclusivity. These aren’t the conversations you have early in a relationship! And be ready for the same disclosure to be expected from you as well.
Here are five reasons why you should have this conversation:
1. It prevents embarrassment of not knowing.
Like the example above, you could find yourself in conversations with family members or friends of your spouse where an event or name is mentioned that was connected with a former dating partner. Being informed in advance will protect you from being surprised or feeling left out of the conversation. It creates the impression that the two of you aren’t that intimate in your relationship because you don’t know their past.
2. It provides connection of shared experiences.
Learning about dates or relationships from the past may reveal some things that the two of you enjoy that have yet to be discovered.
3. It gives insight into relational patterns or values.
Learning about someone’s dating history can be a window into the types of relationships they had when they dated. You might discover a predictability in the length of their relationships. None of this is necessarily bad or wrong, but it’s a data point to keep in mind.
4. It builds trust because they are open about their past.
If there is a hesitancy to talk about a certain person they used to date, that may create a check in your spirit about your current relationship. Their willingness to be open is an indicator of their trustworthiness.
5. It provides accountability should an old flame reach out in the future.
Although your spouse can be completely over someone they used to date, that doesn’t mean a former boyfriend or girlfriend won’t look them up in the future. Your awareness of their past will provide an alertness to any names that may show up unexpected and uninvited in the future.
Finally, here are five questions you may want to ask about their dating history:
1. What did they learn from those relationships?
There are values, insights, and mistakes almost everyone experiences in relationships. The lessons learned will be lessons transferred into the relationship the two of you now share.
2. Did they have sex?
While we teach (and practiced) abstinence before marriage, it is increasingly rare. Each of you is bringing the cumulation of sexual experiences and partners into your new relationship. You should know about those so there are no surprises in the future. In addition, you should know if there are any STD’s being addressed as natural consequences of previous sexual activity.
3. Is there anyone still holding out hope that that relationship will be restored?
While the person you love may have moved on from the past, there could be someone they dated who is holding onto the hope of their return. It’s good to know who may be lurking or hoping “out there” so the two of you can be a united front.
4. Which relationships were the most serious and why?
Some dates and relationships were probably casual and consisted of one or two dates. Others were more friendships. But the significant relationships, especially those that came close to or included engagement, need to be talked about.
5. How did the relationship end?
If the person you’re dating consistently describes the end of their dating relationships as being the other person’s fault, be careful. This probably reveals a lack of self-awareness, humility, and ownership. You can probably expect the same transferral of blame to you in conflict situations down the road.
These can be hard conversations and even painful at times. But as you talk you will clear the air, and come to a better understanding of one another. Thenshould you marry you will build your marriage.