I had a not-so-happy blast from the past sometime back. I was out with my other half and some friends, and we ended up playing a truth-or-dare-type drinking game where we spilled on past sexual experiences, from the banal (the nationalities of previous partners) to the brazen (whether we’d done it in an airplane).
It left my girlfriend of four years feeling upset over certain details of my past of which she had not been aware. I began to wonder: Just how much do we want to know about our other half, and how much do we need to share? I asked around and have found what’s deemed essential knowledge differs from person to person. There are those who want to know everything about the other person’s past, as well as those who can completely overlook it; and they span both sexes.
Perspectives and requirements change over time too. I should know. From my late teens to early 20s, these were the questions that had to be asked and answered: her first time, who and when, how many partners she’s had. Being young, naive and egoistical, I was concerned with being numero uno, or at least among the girl’s first few.
Once I neared my mid-20s, all that didn’t matter. Instead, I found myself needing information that would give me insight into her character. Like how long she’s been single and why, what her past relationships were like and why they ended. I felt it was time to stop being shallow, and to start looking for something more meaningful and long-lasting. Besides, it would have been absurd to hope to be her first anymore.
Should the past even matter?
We’ve all had wild days we don’t need to be reminded of. Like a hasty make-out session with that hot classmate at the back of the classroom after school. Or that drunken night when we ended up in bed with someone we’d just met at a club. Such information doesn’t help a relationship. No one carries around a list of past exploits, waiting to share it.
What I want to know are details that are relevant to me. After all, I wouldn’t want friends to surprise me one day by telling me she used to sleep with a mutual friend of ours or that she still sees her ex-boyfriend regularly.
If she admits, can I accept it? Probably not. It will strain the relationship and I doubt I can look at her the same way again.
But how much to share? We can’t possibly remember and relate every breath we have taken since the day we were born till the day we met our other half. There is no way to avoid overlooking some details, no matter how hard we try.
We all have our little secrets, and I believe it’s sometimes better that way. Once, after I’d told a girl I liked about my past relationships, she rejected me. She said she couldn’t be with a man who had had several relationships because he can’t be trusted.
On the flip side, when someone tells you their deepest, darkest secrets, he has passed the buck to you. You accept the risk of others judging you for being with him or, worse, him going back to his old ways. So, in a way, the sharing of secrets acts like a disclaimer. Example: “I told you I used to swing the other way. You accepted it, so don’t blame me.”
But is ignorance bliss? In some cases it may be, though it’s a fragile bubble. There’s always the risk of getting a rude shock someday. So perhaps we shouldn’t expect to know everything.
My take: Ask yourself what you need to know, within your own priorities and principles, in a relationship. After that, ask your other half.
And remember: Stay away from any kind of truth-or-dare game.
This story was first published in Her World magazine.