Should you keep your past a secret from your spouse?
We all have our dirty little secrets. Skeletons in the closet. Maybe a questionable past. But how much of that do you keep from your spouse? Are Secrets allowed in your marriage? Or do you require full disclosure?
I’m sure we can all agree that there are some things that should NOT be kept a secret. Especially those things that will directly affect your marriage or the trust of your spouse.
Prior to meeting my husband Jose, I was in a relationship with a man for four years. He was the type of person that wanted full disclosure from me, but was not always willing to give the same. In fact, me not disclosing everything from my past nearly ended our relationship within its first year.
From that point forward I knew that in order for our relationship to work I would have to give full disclosure of my past. No matter how uncomfortable it made me. And believe me a lot of it did make me very uncomfortable.
There are plenty of things in each of our pasts that have molded us to become the people we are today. Things we have done and things that have been done to us. Even if there was something that you simply observed in your past that had an affect on you, it changed something in you and made you the person you are now. But how much of that are you willing to tell your partner? How much do you want to know about them?
My husband and I used to really enjoy a show called “Baby Daddy”, about a young man who unknowingly got a girl pregnant and had the baby dropped on his doorstep. In one episode one of the characters, “Danny”, is asked by his girlfriend if he had been with a particular girl in the past. At the time “Danny” doesn’t recall being with the girl although they went to school and grew up together. Later on he remembers that they had a very short lived fling years prior and comes clean to his girlfriend. The girlfriend calls him a liar and breaks up with him stating that she can’t trust him.
Granted this is a TV show and meant to be dramatic, but how many times has this happened in real life? You find out something from your boyfriend/girlfriend’s past that you don’t like and you fly off the handle. Or the opposite. They find out something about you and flip out!
A balance is necessary.
In order for there to be peace with each other’s past, you need to agree on what details should be shared and what should be kept to yourself.
In my case, I don’t mind hearing about any of the women my husband had been with before me. But in no way will I ever ask him “how many” or any personal details about that area of his life. I know it happened. I know I’m not the first woman in his life and we will leave it at that. If he chooses to share a story for anecdotal purposes then I will definitely listen but never pry. Why? He’s not comfortable sharing and he doesn’t want to hear about my past either.
That’s where the balance comes in. We agree that to share a story about an experience is one thing. But to give an abundance of detail or to reminisce about certain parts of our past is unhealthy to our marriage.
For the characters of “Baby Daddy”, full disclosure of the past was a desirable trait and necessary to the girlfriend in order to maintain a healthy relationship.
In my previous relationship full disclosure of one’s past was off balance. I was fine keeping certain things from my past, in the past, and my ex was not. In order to maintain that balance, one of us had to bend.
People can change. And our image of people can also change.
We have a tendency to change our feelings about a person when there is a character change.
Whether the change is mentioned from the past or observed in the present. Something changed in them and it’s difficult to disconnect. For example, a person I dated reveled to me that he had committed a crime in his youth. Not some petty crime either. He blew up someone’s car! There was drug and gang activity connected to this crime. While he didn’t seem like the type of person who could do something like this, and the incident occurred many years before, it still changed the way I looked at him. He was now a criminal in my eyes. Someone who was capable of so much more than I thought he was. From that moment on my trust in him decreased and my fear of him increased.
I’m not saying that my response to hearing about his past was right, but it is common.
If you found out that your significant other had cheated on someone in the past. Or that once upon a time they stole from a store, did drugs, carried an unexpected weapon, or any number of things, would it change the way you see them? Trust them? Love them? Or would be able to accept that this is part of the past that molded them into the person you now love and care for?
How much do you want/need to know about your partner’s past? If you are like my ex and the characters from “Baby Daddy”, then you absolutely need to share that with your partner. Make sure they are on board and are willing to share and to hear what you share. Consider sitting down and doing a “deep dive” into each others history. This is a healthy, as long as both of you are ready to share and hear. However, this takes a lot of maturity and acceptance.
If you are like me and my husband and choose not to share details, make sure your partner knows why. Most people will hear you say you want to keep your past in the past and assume you’re hiding something. While for some that may be very true, for others it’s just a matter of privacy. Not every detail needs to be shared. Only the details that will directly effect you as a person and your relationship as a whole. Many of the stories we choose to keep to ourselves are for both of our benefit. He doesn’t want to share and I don’t want to know. But there is a mutual understanding as to what and why we don’t share.
To be clear, I do not condone lying or keeping important information from your spouse.
Once married, you should be completely honest and up front about everything to maintain a healthy marriage. What you and your spouse choose to share is up to you. But be sure you are both on the same page.