There comes a point in many relationships when it's time to share. Not just your favorite spot on the couch, but your past. Your sexual past, that is.
There are many reasons to share your sexual past, not the least of which is being able to assess your risk of acquiring a sexually transmitted infection from your partner. Remember: when you sleep with someone you're also sleeping with everyone he or she slept with! That's why safe sex is so important.
Disclosing such intimacies may also help increase the intimacy in your own relationship. Having said that, understand that such private sharing is more likely to occur in more established relationships than in relationships of short duration. While there are few studies on the topic, one study did find that of 231 dating college students found that 57 percent of males and females had provided full information about their previous sexual experiences.
When you do decide to have the discussion, make sure you choose the right place and time. It should be a place where you can be alone with no interruptions (turn the cell phones off!); a place where you can speak openly and honestly; and a place where you can show emotion (tears might even present themselves).
Then consider following suggestions:
Think about what you want to say. What is your goal in starting this conversation? Is it a prurient desire to know who your partner was with before you, or an honest desire to move closer as a couple?
Focus on the important parts. You don't need to provide names or numbers. Instead, talk about your past sex life in a holistic sense. Did you use protection? Did you have sex out of love or simply for physical pleasure? How long did you tend to see the person before having sex? Did you ever have a one-night stand? How many times have you been tested for sexually transmitted infections and for which ones? When was the last time?
Talk about what you learned. One major reason to share your past is to share what it taught you about your own likes and dislikes. So you can say to your partner, "I once slept with someone who did ____ (fill in the blank), and I found I really liked it! Maybe we can try that." Conversely, don't be afraid to share the things you learned you didn't like!
Keep your anger in check. No matter where you are in your relationship, it won't be easy to hear about your partner's previous sexual experiences. Remember that this person is with you now, and try to tamp down the green-eyed monster.
Listen. Make sure you provide plenty of opportunities for your partner to share not only his or her sexual past, but also to express feelings about what you're saying. Don't attack your partner or defend yourself; just listen. You can show your partner that you're listening by making eye contact, leaning forward, nodding or asking the occasional question.
Also remember one thing: This is not a one-time conversation, but one that can continue over the next few weeks and even months.