How to Accept Your Partner's Past Relationships

Tamsen Butler
Young man looking to the side, young couple in background

It's natural to wonder about your partner's past relationships and to perhaps even feel a little jealous of the time your partner spent with other people. But if your curiosity has evolved into something that is causing issues between you and your partner, there needs to be a shift in your thinking in order to not cause a rift with your partner.

A Change in Thinking

Yes, your partner had relationships before you. There is nothing you can do to change that. It can be tough, though, if your partner looks back on those relationships fondly, causing you to worry that you don't meet up to the expectations set by those previous relationships. When you find yourself consumed by thoughts of your partner's exes, use techniques from Cognitive Behavioral Therapy (CBT) to replace those thoughts with something positive.

"And Then There Was Me."

The relationships your partner had before you may have been good ones, and your partner may have fond memories of those people, but focus on who your partner chose to be with in present day. Every time you find yourself caught up in thoughts about your partner's past, think this: "And then there was me." This means that even though your partner has a past, they choose to be with you now. You're the crescendo - and that's an important role.

"They Chose Me."

If your partner has a varied history of exes, choose to not dwell on the vast number of people they were once with. Any time thoughts of the number of people your partner was once with interrupt your brain, replace those thoughts with this one: "They chose me." This means that the people your partner was once with didn't keep your partner - you did.

"The Road Led to Me."

Would you partner have met you had they not lived the life they lived before you came along? Everything they did (and everyone they dated) led them to you. If you need a reminder that your partner's past was necessary to get to the present, think this thought: "The road led to me."

Honest Conversation

Before you start insisting on hearing all the torrid details about your partner's past relationships, ask yourself a few questions:

  • Is ignorance perhaps better since details will be too much for me to hear?
  • Will it be painful to hear about my partner caring deeply about someone else?
  • Are you willing to exchange details about your past relationships as well?
Young couple talking in the living room

Talk Through Worries

If your partner has recently started bringing up fond memories of past partners or talking more about one ex in particular, then it's no wonder you're having a hard time accepting your partner's past relationships. Having an honest conversation with your partner about your concerns may lead to the reassurance you need and might help you set boundaries regarding contact with exes.

Justified Concern

If your partner is reluctant to discuss their sexual history or the possibility of STDs, this can be a sign that your partner is hiding something. On the other hand, it might be a sign that your partner finds the past painful and doesn't want to discuss it. Either way, if you are intimate, you have every right to want to know about your partner's sexual history. If you think your partner and his ex may be in contact in secret or maybe even having an affair, there are much bigger issues within your relationship than your curiosity about their past relationships. If you partner makes you feel silly for wanting them to answer questions, it may be that you're with someone who is manipulating you in an attempt to avoid specific topics.

Get Relationship Help

If you've tried changing your thinking about your partner's past relationships, and you've tried talking everything out with your partner, yet you still find yourself consumed with their past and it's having a detrimental effect on your relationship, it may be time to seek outside help from a licensed therapist. The therapist will mediate some conversations with your partner and will work with you on not focusing so intently on a past in which you weren't a participant.

How to Accept Your Partner's Past Relationships