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.
Talkspace articles are written by experienced mental health-wellness contributors; they are grounded in scientific research and evidence-based practices. Articles are extensively reviewed by our team of clinical experts (therapists and psychiatrists of various specialties) to ensure content is accurate and on par with current industry standards. Our goal at Talkspace is to provide the most up-to-date, valuable, and objective information on mental health-related topics in order to help readers make informed decisions. Articles contain trusted third-party sources that are either directly linked to in the text or listed at the bottom to take readers directly to the source.
Talkspace articles are written by experienced mental health-wellness contributors; they are grounded in scientific research and evidence-based practices. Articles are extensively reviewed by our team of clinical experts (therapists and psychiatrists of various specialties) to ensure content is accurate and on par with current industry standards.
Our goal at Talkspace is to provide the most up-to-date, valuable, and objective information on mental health-related topics in order to help readers make informed decisions.
Articles contain trusted third-party sources that are either directly linked to in the text or listed at the bottom to take readers directly to the source.
If you experienced a bad breakup, then you might be reluctant to trust someone new completely. If your former partner cheated on you in the past, this could cause significant trust issues that can affect future relationships.Why does my partners past affect me? ›
We all get jealous sometimes—but worrying obsessively over your significant other's sexual and romantic history is known as retroactive jealousy, an unhealthy relationship habit. Retroactive jealousy can be triggered if you have an anxious attachment style, bad experiences with past partners, or even childhood trauma.Why is it important to know your partner's past? ›
Many relationships experts believe communicating about your past love experiences are beneficial for both parties to learn more about each other, grow together, and even strengthen the current relationship.How do I stop being affected by my partner's past? ›
- Accept and validate your feelings. ...
- Put yourself in their place. ...
- Resist the urge to dig. ...
- Talk to your partner. ...
- Accept what they tell you. ...
- Ask yourself what you're really concerned about. ...
- Remind yourself of your own value. ...
- Reframe the situation.
Our past experiences can affect our current mindset and our choices in how we interpret our lives. If pain or trauma has been experienced in our past, it can impact how we view our current circumstances or even prevent us from living in the present.How does past trauma affect future relationships? ›
Memories and feelings of betrayal, loss, shame, secrecy, violation, and threats to bodily integrity may surface or become part of later relationships. For some people, after childhood abuse or neglect, their relationships may express the struggle to develop basic trust and create safe attachments.How important is history in a relationship? ›
Your Shared History with your spouse—these mutual life events and personal experiences—are what glue you together. The unique bond formed makes your spouse the one and only person who has seen it all, been with you through thick and thin, and was there even before the water even started going under the bridge.Do you need to share your past with your partner? ›
Any relationship is built on trust, thus if you want to bond with your partner, it is better to reveal the past. This may enhance your relationship even more because being open and honest about these issues builds trust in your relationship. And an understanding partner will appreciate your thoughtfulness.Is it important to know a persons past? ›
To plan a future with someone you love, you need to know the sum of his or her parts. You need to know the mistakes her or she made and love that those mistakes have helped shape the person he or she is today. Your significant other had a life before you. You can't ignore that.How do I accept my partner's past? ›
- Accept them the way they are. The best way is to accept what they have gone through. ...
- Communicate. Communication is the key. ...
- Put yourself in their position.
- Retrospective jealousy — or jealousy about your partner's past — is a common issue for couples. ...
- Normalize your feelings. ...
- Validate the pain. ...
- Don't turn your relationship into a trial. ...
- Realize that there is a reason the past is in the past.
Being rejected in some way, shape, or form. Someone trying to leave you or even threatening to leave. Feeling discounted or ignored or just feeling that someone is being unavailable to you. Someone giving you a disapproving look or blaming or shaming you.How do you not let past relationships affect future ones? ›
- Acknowledge your contribution to failed relationships. Be curious about the past. ...
- Recognize triggers. Become an observer. ...
- Get to your core issues. ...
- Learn what a healthy relationship can look like. ...
- Communicate with your partner.
Once two people enter into a relationship, the number of decisions they should make on their own decreases significantly because their respective decision circles overlap.How relationships affect decision-making? ›
The position of your partner
When you have to make a decision as a couple, one key aspect is the role that your partner plays in your future plans. In fact, your decision-making process as a couple is based more on the future than on the present. The potential you see in your partner plays a really important role.
Proven links include lower rates of anxiety and depression, higher self-esteem, greater empathy, and more trusting and cooperative relationships. Strong, healthy relationships can also help to strengthen your immune system, help you recover from disease, and may even lengthen your life.