Should You Tell Your Partner About Your Sexual Past?

Navigating honesty and authenticity in your relationship

Women often ask me about how much of your past is healthy to share in intimate relationships. How much does a potential husband need to know about your sexual experiences and struggles? How much should he tell you?

This is one of those issues that relationship coaches and counselors often disagree about. Some give counsel that complete honesty is always the best policy—meaning that you should share everything with someone in an intimate relationship. After all, intimacy is about being truthful, right?

We live in a society that values raw honesty, calling it authenticity. A woman may feel that she is being dishonest to not share the most vulnerable details of her life by the third date. He needs to know who I am, right? The good, the bad, and the ugly?

Often when we share raw details of our lives, we do so for our own sake, not for the best interest of the other person. Sometimes, it just feels good to confess our past transgressions to others, just to relieve our guilt. I’ve also met women who quickly air their dirty laundry because they fear rejection. “I’d rather him know and reject me now before I get attached.”

I’m certainly not suggesting that you should be deceptive or dishonest in any relationship. Any form of deceit or manipulation is a violation of trust. The person you are with wants to know you—not some sanitized version of you. A dating relationship or courtship provides the opportunity to always present your best—to project the person you think he wants to see. After marriage, the masks inevitably come off sometimes with grave consequences.

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Juli Slattery

Juli Slattery is a TCW regular contributor and blogger. A widely known clinical psychologist, author, speaker, and broadcast media professional, she co-founded Authentic Intimacy and is the co-author of Passion Pursuit: What Kind of Love Are You Making?

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May 25

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