Should You and Your Partner Share Your Sexual Histories?
Deciding whether you and your partner should share your sexual histories is a really personal decision. It depends on the dynamics and feelings of trust in your relationship. There’s no single or universally applicable option, as different couples have different values, beliefs, and levels of openness regarding their previous intimate experiences.
Some people find benefits in sharing their experiences openly since they believe that it builds trust, promotes honest communication, and fosters greater mutual understanding. They might find it helpful in addressing concerns, discussing preferences, setting boundaries, and building strong foundations in both intimacy and emotional connection.
On the other hand, some maintain that talking about their sexual histories could be a way of triggering insecurities or conflict. Indeed, far from promoting union, they see it as an issue that often triggers a distance.
Therefore, before making the decision to touch on this subject, you need to carefully weigh up the characteristics, both of your relationship and your partner.
“Everything in the world is about sex except sex. Sex is about power.”
Talking about your sexual histories
Before you and your partner decide to share details about your sexual histories, there are certain factors you must take into account. Firstly, the degree of comfort of both of you when it comes to this type of conversation. If either of you doesn’t feel ready or has reservations, it’s important to respect those boundaries and wait until you both feel more secure.
Another element is intention. Does your or your partner’s sexual past matter? Is your intent to build a greater understanding and closeness or to judge or compare your sexual histories? Answering these questions offers valuable clues as to how appropriate it is to address the issue. The fundamental thing is to consider the context in which the conversation will take place and the intention behind it.
You should also consider whether you can both talk about this topic respectfully. After all, we all have our own sexual past and these events shouldn’t ever be used against us in a belittling or judgmental manner or to generate insecurities. While open communication is important, it’s also okay to keep things from the past private. Everyone has the right to choose.
The benefits and drawbacks of sharing your sexual histories
As is often the case in the human world, there are pros and cons to sharing details about each other’s sexual histories. Let’s take a look at the benefits and drawbacks.
- Better understanding and connection. Sharing your past sexual experiences can help you both understand each other better, build greater emotional intimacy, and strengthen your relationship.
- Health information. Knowing your partner’s sexual past provides you with information related to their health. According to an article published in the Journal of Sex Research, this increases both the intimacy between you and the knowledge you have of them.
- Alignment of expectations. Knowing about each other’s previous sexual experiences is useful for aligning your sexual expectations in the relationship. This might include your preferences, fantasies, boundaries, and other aspects that contribute to a satisfactory sexual life for you both.
- Increases satisfaction. Your partner may make disclosures that can be beneficial to your relationship. In fact studies on sexual self-disclosure point to an increase in sexual and relational satisfaction (Byers & Demmons, 1999).
- Increases cohesion in the relationship. You might experience benefits at the levels of satisfaction, adjustment, cohesion, affective expression, and dyadic consensus, according to a study published in the Journal of Social and Personal Relationships concerning satisfaction with sexual communication.
- Improves communication. It encourages open and honest communication. This maximizes trust and transparency between you and creates a safe space to express your sexual desires, needs, and concerns. Research published in Canadian Psychology states that effective sexual communication has a positive effect on long-term sexual well-being.
- Increases knowledge concerning sexual preferences. Sharing details about your sexual histories can help you both get to know each other better and identify your tastes. One study found that disclosing sexual preferences increases the understanding of the partner’s tastes. This makes the couple’s sexual life more rewarding (MacNeil & Byers, 2009).
- Emotional overload. Discussing these topics can be emotionally challenging. This may trigger shame, guilt, or sadness.
- Disenchantment or disappointment. Knowing specific details about your partner’s sexual past may leave you feeling disappointed if your expectations don’t match reality.
- Negative reviews. If your partner has had many sexual encounters, you might start to evaluate them negatively and they may become less desirable to you. This is suggested in research published in the journal, Sex Roles.
- Comparisons and jealousy. Talking about your partner’s sexual past could lead to comparisons that generate feelings of insecurity or jealousy. It’s important to approach these feelings with understanding and empathy.
- Loss of interest or attraction. If you find out your partner has had an extensive sexual past it could affect your interest in the relationship (Stewart-Williams et al., 2017).
- Judgments and stereotypes. These issues could lead to you creating prejudices or stereotypes about your partner. According to an analysis published in The Journal of Sex Research, a partner who doesn’t have a sexual past may feel stigmatized due to their lack of experience and even become less desirable to their partner.
- Suspicions or doubts about fidelity increase. Based on other studies, the authors of the aforementioned article published in The Journal of Sex Research, state that a partner with a greater sexual history may be perceived as less faithful with less capacity for a long-term commitment. These ideas affect the relationship and the interpretation of the partner’s behavior.
What happens if you and your partner decide not to share your sexual histories?
We must make it clear that if you decide not to have this conversation, nothing bad will happen. You can gain the same benefits by other means. However, skipping this conversation isn’t a guarantee that you’ll be free of the aforementioned drawbacks. So, try not to worry about those pros and cons if you choose not to broach the subject.
Bear in mind that every relationship is unique and that the positives and negatives of talking about each other’s sexual past will vary. To deal with these issues in a healthy and constructive way, you need open communication, respect, and mutual empathy, If you feel that these conversations are creating difficulties or stress, consider counseling with a couples therapist for additional support.
Choosing whether to talk to your partner about each other’s sexual past is a really personal decision. It depends on the dynamics of your relationship and the confidence you have in it. Although some couples find it beneficial to do so, for others it can cause insecurities and conflicts.
Accessing each other’s sexual life history isn’t essential for having a satisfying relationship. If you prefer to talk about it, it’s important that you know both the benefits and the drawbacks. Moreover, you must take into account factors such as the degree of comfort, intention, respect, and assertiveness.
Ultimately, what matters most is that you and your partner focus on the current situation. Concentrate on working together to build a healthy relationship and greater emotional well-being, regardless of whatever happened before you got together.
All cited sources were thoroughly reviewed by our team to ensure their quality, reliability, currency, and validity. The bibliography of this article was considered reliable and of academic or scientific accuracy.
- Anderson, M., Kunkel, A., & Dennis, M. R. (2011). “Let’s (not) talk about that”: Bridging the past sexual experiences taboo to build healthy romantic relationships. Journal of sex research, 48(4), 381-391. https://www.tandfonline.com/doi/abs/10.1080/00224499.2010.482215
- Byers, E. S., & Demmons, S. (1999). Sexual satisfaction and sexual self‐disclosure within dating relationships. Journal of Sex Research, 36(2), 180-189. https://www.tandfonline.com/doi/abs/10.1080/00224499909551983
- Byers, E. S. (2011). Beyond the birds and the bees and was it good for you?: Thirty years of research on sexual communication. Canadian Psychology/Psychologie Canadienne, 52(1), 20-28. https://psycnet.apa.org/record/2011-04299-003
- Cupach, W. R., & Comstock, J. (1990). Satisfaction with sexual communication in marriage: Links to sexual satisfaction and dyadic adjustment. Journal of Social and Personal Relationships, 7(2), 179-186. https://journals.sagepub.com/doi/abs/10.1177/0265407590072002?journalCode=spra
- Gesselman, A. N., Webster, G. D., & Garcia, J. R. (2017). Has virginity lost its virtue? Relationship stigma associated with being a sexually inexperienced adult. The Journal of Sex Research, 54(2), 202-213. https://www.tandfonline.com/doi/abs/10.1080/00224499.2016.1144042
- MacNeil, S., & Byers, E. S. (2009). Role of sexual self-disclosure in the sexual satisfaction of long-term heterosexual couples. Journal of Sex Research, 46(1), 3-14. https://www.tandfonline.com/doi/abs/10.1080/00224490802398399
- O’Sullivan, L. F. (1995). Less is more: The effects of sexual experience on judgments of men’s and women’s personality characteristics and relationship desirability. Sex Roles, 33, 159-181. https://link.springer.com/article/10.1007/BF01544609
- Stewart-Williams, S., Butler, C. A., & Thomas, A. G. (2017). Sexual history and present attractiveness: People want a mate with a bit of a past, but not too much. The Journal of Sex Research, 54(9), 1097-1105. https://pubmed.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/27805420/