Your partner has slept with other people. Hopefully he isn’t currently sleeping with other people, but we know he has slept with people in the past. He’s also probably fallen in love, and he might even be carrying others in his heart.
This is not something we like to think about, but this is the hard truth.
What many of us do is run from this truth because it is painful. We don’t like the idea that our partner has a romantic past. We want to be special. We want to feel safe and like the only person in his life.
This makes sense, but our response is backwards. Instead of running from our partner’s romantic history, we should embrace it.
What we want is safety. Hearing about other women or men doesn’t bring this safety because they are a threat. Our partner’s ex and his past sexual exploits typically make us feel uncomfortable because on some level we worry that we won’t measure up, or we’ll find we aren’t actually that special.
The truth is that knowing our partner’s history does the opposite: It makes us special. It brings us closer and it makes us invaluable. That ultimately leads to safety in the relationship, which is what we want. The surest way we can help our relationship is by hearing about our partner’s old relationships and knowing them deeply!
That’s because when we hear about those nitty-gritty details, we are bridging the gap between us and them, which is the secret sauce for a strong relationship. Instead of us and them, each with our own private history and past experience, we’re learning and adopting our partner’s history as our own. We’re coming together and becoming a part of our partner, which is much closer than two people who stay separate by not deeply knowing each other’s stories and past experience.
When we can hear all the stories and take ownership of our partner’s narrative, we become special because we become part of our partner. Others draw a line and stay emotionally separate from our partner, but we get close and hear the whole story. That makes us safe and important, the person who knows our partner the most and is on the inside with them, not on the outside.
At first our partner might think it is weird or worry where this is going. He or she might start defensive, fearful it is a trap fueled by jealousy. But if we’re sincere and show our partner that we’re truly playing on the same team, this defensiveness will subside over time and he’ll come to love you all the more. There will be a connection and acceptance that will rock his world.
Of course, hearing about other women or men is tough. I see this all the time with my clients, and I know it from firsthand experience! We’re trained for jealousy.
The trick is practice and how we position it in our mind.
We don’t start by asking for the sex scenes and the scary stuff like how he really still loves his ex, because that will freak us out and engage our biological defense mechanisms. Instead, we start with the easy stuff: names, pedestrian details like where they went on dates, timelines. We then slowly, cautiously, move into scarier territory as we build momentum from connecting over the easy stuff.
Even more importantly, connecting with our partner on the deepest level requires a shift in perspective. We can’t truly feel comfortable hearing the details until we own the narrative. So we have to put ourselves in our partner’s shoes and hear their past as if it were our own.
We don’t mind our own past romantic history because we lived it. Similarly, we get comfortable with our partner’s past by treating our partner as an extension of ourselves, and by making the story a part of our own history as if we’re remembering it again for the first time.
Make him your own, not someone separate from you! Hear his stories with you as the protagonist, not as the threatened other woman or man.
Many people settle for weak relationships because they are too scared to actually know and connect with their partner’s past. But we know better. His ex is our secret weapon for a strong relationship.
Knowing this powerful relationship trick is not enough. You have to put it into practice or everything you’ve just read is pretty much meaningless. Knowing is not enough. What makes this relationship concept powerful and life-changing is when you start experimenting with it and putting it into practice.
Learning how to hear about an ex and really taking ownership is not easy, though. Just approaching this topic often closes people down emotionally. That’s normal. But it isn’t healthy for your relationship.
That’s where relationship coaching comes in. Coaching isn’t about the knowledge, it is about the doing. You probably already know 80 percent of what you need for a meaningful, lasting relationship. You just aren’t quite fully following what you know, because it is tough. And that’s where a coach comes in.
So if you start learning your partner’s his ex after reading this article, you’re going to have a better, more secure relationship. I can guarantee it. And if you find yourself closing down or unable to fully know your partner, give me a call. There’s some crazy awesome relationship power in fully knowing your partner and his or her romantic history.
A version of this article originally appeared in Digital Romance. Photo by Freepik.
Peter is founder of Kowalke Coaching. He also is founding director of the Philia Mission, a small charitable organization. Contact Peter.