If you’ve ever wondered “how much should you know about your partner’s past?” you are not alone.

Today’s reader email comes from Randy, who writes “how much should you know about your partner’s past?”

To what extent SHOULD one know about their partner’s past? Should one be blissfully ignorant, or an expert, or is there a happy medium? Is it a case-by-case basis thing? Seems like none of these answers are right. What do you think?

Transcript below

Zachary Stockill: This is quite a question. You’re actually asking something that has a lot of philosophical significance.

It’s tough to condense an answer to the question “how much should you know about your partner’s past?” into this small, short-form video format, but I’ll do my best.

I think that each one of us has to arrive at our own answers to this question.

In other words, the things about my partner’s past that I feel like I need to know, maybe you wouldn’t need those details in your relationship.

Maybe someone else would need way more details than you and I. Maybe someone else would need way less details than you and I.

I think it really comes down to deciding what is truly important to us, deciding what really matters, because we’re all different.

I mean, you’ll find some people online who feel like they need to dig into every single little detail about their partner’s past and other people, in terms of how much digging they do–it’s basically none.

They’re content with their partner right now. They’re not that interested in the past at all.

If you’re asking me personally, I think it’s somewhere in between those two extremes. In other words, there are certain details about the past that are really important to know.

Like for example, have you been married before?

Do you have children?

Do you have any addiction issues?

Are there any significant life events, significant choices this person has made in the past that can tell me something about who I’m dealing with today, and frankly, something about who I might be dealing with in the future?

So, I don’t think I’m not one of these people who thinks that the past is totally irrelevant and it doesn’t matter at all. I mean, that’s ridiculous, right?

To some extent, our past says a hell of a lot about who we are, and the choices we’ve made, the integrity or not which we have demonstrated in the past and the mistakes we’ve made, of course.

And to what extent we’ve actually learned and recovered from those mistakes.

“Should you know about your partner’s past?” It’s worth talking to our partner about their past in order to get the answers to those fundamental, life vision, deal-breaker-or-not questions.

Now, just to be absolutely clear, obviously there’s nothing wrong with being divorced or having kids or anything like that.

I’m just saying that for each of us, we need to decide for ourselves what’s really important to us, what are the fundamental issues that are important to us? And what are the answers that we don’t just want, but we really need about our partner’s past, or our potential partner’s past.

should you know about your partner's past

However, a very important caveat, if you’re a retroactive jealousy suffer, don’t use a conversation that you convince yourself it’s about getting the answers to the deal breaker questions, like the really important questions.

Don’t use that conversation as an excuse to go down the retroactive jealousy rabbit hole. If you’re watching this, you probably know what I mean.

Don’t use that conversation as an excuse to get all kinds of unnecessary details that you don’t need, that aren’t going to help you make any decisions, that aren’t going to help your partner and it’s probably just going to make them feel bad. Always be respectful.

And keep in mind that a person’s ego is often a delicate thing. You don’t want to be accusatory, you don’t want to be insulting when you talk to your partner about their past, and you really don’t want to use that conversation as a vehicle with which to enter the retroactive jealousy rabbit hole.

Click here to learn more about getting past your partner’s past, and overcoming retroactive jealousy.

Zachary Stockill
Zachary Stockill

Hi! I'm a Canadian author and educator whose work has been featured in BBC News, BBC Radio 4, The Huffington Post, and many other publications. I'm the founder of RetroactiveJealousy.com, the author of Overcoming Retroactive Jealousy and The Overcoming Jealousy Workbook, and the host of Humans in Love podcast.