In my last CALWM article, I shared my views about how important it is to be inspired by the successful couples in your life. Feeling the pressure of dating is real; no matter how badly you want to remain positive, witnessing healthy outcomes can be uplifting on the dating journey. However, if you’re like me, inspiration is just one piece of the puzzle.
Gaining insight about my potential partner’s character helps me to learn what drives them and what gives them joy or pain. Hearing relationship issues from the past also helps me better understand if a new relationship with the potential Mr. Right is likely. While there isn’t any perfect way to address the subject of past loves, it still is a good idea for me to ask questions during the search. My approach — encourage the discussion only when I’m willing to reciprocate the same.
Timing is everything
Revealing intimate details of the past is always a personal and sensitive step for me. I don’t blurt out the great or not-so-great past loves of my life, so it makes sense for me not to expect the same of others. Wouldn’t the weight of this situation be so much easier if our legislatures passed a come clean law requiring a person to openly admit the reasons why their previous relationships weren’t successful? Imagine — every messy fact available for me to scrutinize at my leisure.
While this is an attractive idea, it’s hardly a reasonable one. There is an undeniable benefit to sharing experiences when you both are well-intentioned, so I initiate the talk when the time is right.
In the spirit of determining the right time, I try to evaluate the purpose of my interest before I start moving down this path. I’m always reluctant to probe into the past if my motives are insincere. For instance, it’s good for wanting to satisfy my secret desire to be a detective, a dysfunctional skeptic or just plain nosey. I realize that we all have a bit of Sherlock Holmes in us, but showing compassion when engaging in these types of discussions goes a long way. Keep in mind, some men aren’t ready to discuss the past in great detail; it just may not be the right phase of your relationship to start that conversation. Trust me, there’s nothing worse than being grilled during your first few dates. Accepting cumulative details should be worth the wait. Consequently, you may trigger bogus information from a person who may have otherwise been truthful if the timing was right.
I try to initiate this type of discussion in a sensitive manner. Explaining the past with elegance, care and the right level of details is vital. If a person is not over a previous relationship, then they shouldn’t be under any obligation to discuss the nitty-gritty moments of the past. When the conversation of past exes takes place, I make sure it’s done with balance in mind. Too little information can be a signal of deliberately hiding details. On the other hand, going on endlessly, whether positive or negative, can be a serious turn off. Encouraging honest, open communication is a knack. When I allow a person to choose what aspects of their past they want to share, the odds of them opening up and divulging worthwhile details are great!
It’s definitely fair to handle the situation with sensitivity, however, I usually have to remind myself why each person should disclose their truth. Understanding if you’re both right and/or ready for the other person is a must. Here are some warning signs during the “Tell all” session:
- Beware of the comparisons — Listen for comparisons of behaviors and/or actions. While it may seem like a great way for someone to demonstrate a point by comparing past loves, it can also be a sign that the past is still a troubling memory.
- Beware of the blame game — While it’s logical to assign responsibility for unfavorable circumstances, it shows tremendous strength and good character to hear someone accept responsibility for their part (no matter how small) of the failure. After all, love isn’t just about landing a good partner; it’s also about being a
- Forgiveness is the greatest gift to give yourself — We’ve all heard the sayings “life goes on” and “tomorrow is a new day.” If you encounter a person who can’t forgive prior bad acts, then it may be a sign of emotional baggage that requires serious attention before you move forward.
- Keep Growing
- Understanding the past helps me to develop my intuition. Even though I may hear some hidden gems about a person’s history, I try to be responsible enough to use that information wisely. Refraining from resurfacing negative points against a person later on is a sign of emotional maturity. Don’t introduce unwarranted feelings that are unfair to the individual that revealed
Although easier said than done, the subject of understanding previous loves is another stop that I have to take while I’m on my dating journey. My truth is simply the belief that the responsibility of identifying a love connection does not solely rely on me. Again, this works well when the laws of reciprocity are in motion. I’ll share a random quote that I once read: “A real woman can do it all by herself, but a real man won’t let her.”
Maybe there’s no magic elixir for predicting the future, but there is something to be said about the old adage, “it takes two.” Hopefully the lessons of my past will be my half of the two. Many thanks to those who continue to follow my