10 Things From Your Partner’s Past That Are NBD

Time to forget about their exes.

by Kristine Fellizar
Originally Published: 
Dating someone who has had many partners doesn't have to be a big deal.
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One of the keys to living a happy and healthy life is to leave the past where it belongs. It's a piece of advice you probably hear a lot, yet have a hard time actually following. But moving on from the past is especially important when you’re starting a new relationship. While it's so common to fixate on what your partner was like before you, experts say, there are some things you really shouldn't worry about when it comes to a significant other’s history.

"It is very important to remember, that each new relationship should be given a new start," Dr. Ronica Arnold Branson, licensed therapist and relationship coach, tells Bustle. "When individuals initially connect, the relationship begins with much anticipation and excitement. After time, thoughts of the past may begin to set in and problems can start to arise if these unhealthy thoughts continue to run rampant."

There are some things you should obviously be careful of, like patterns of abusive or toxic behavior. But if you're fixated on your partner's ex or their past money mistakes, it's important to ask yourself how much of it matters today.

"Everyone has skeletons in their closet, and no one is perfect," Branson says. "Even though you may have had bad experiences in the past, use these experiences as opportunities for growth and improvement, not as opportunities to judge your new partner."

So here are some things from your partner's past that you shouldn't worry about, according to experts.


One-Time Cheating

Infidelity is a major dealbreaker for many people. If you find out that your partner cheated in a past relationship, it can raise a big red flag. But every situation is different, so experts say you shouldn't jump to conclusions too soon. "If the person demonstrated genuine remorse, regret, empathy, and apologized to their partner, and never cheated again, they just might be a one-time cheater," Dr. Fran Walfish, Beverly Hills family and relationship psychotherapist and author, tells Bustle.

If they had a full-blown affair or have a history of cheating on all their past partners and haven't gone to therapy to work out any underlying issues, then that’s more of a cause for concern.


Their Education Level

Just because you have your Master’s and your partner didn’t finish college, it doesn’t necessarily mean that you’re intellectually incompatible. If this is something that makes you feel insecure, licensed psychologist Rachel Needle, Psy.D., suggests figuring out what aspects of their past bother you, and try to understand why. Is your partner’s education level really something that impacts you personally, or are you just worried about what others might think? If you can communicate with each other well and are mentally stimulated by the same conversations, it doesn’t have to be an issue.


Immature Behavior In Past Relationships

How to accept the past of your partner? Remember that people grow.Shutterstock

It's so easy to start obsessing over your partner's past relationships, especially if you’ve heard some not so pleasant things about them from other people. How can you not feel insecure when you find out that your partner had a habit of ghosting? If you hear negative things about how your partner was before they met you, it's fine to keep that information in the back of your mind. In fact, Dr. Carla Marie Manly, a clinical psychologist, speaker, and author of upcoming book Date Smart, tells Bustle, “If your partner’s history was chaotic and filled with unhealthy behavior such as infidelity, there’s generally very good cause to be concerned.”

But it’s completely OK to give someone the benefit of the doubt. “If you are spending too much time concerned about your partner’s past, you’re going to miss the opportunity to create a healthy meaningful relationship in the present, and you might also push them away and/or drive yourself bonkers,” Needle says. Past relationships can be excellent learning opportunities, and your partner may have grown a lot from their last relationship.


Their Sexual History

Dating someone who has had many partners may be making you insecure, especially if your history is fairly limited. But if there's one thing that you don't really need to worry about from your partner's past, it's their sexual history. Things like how many people they slept with or the things they did with other partners shouldn't trouble you.

"If anything, one ought to be thrilled that their partner has had an elaborate, exciting, experimental sex life prior to meeting you," Dr. Mark Borg Jr., Ph.D., licensed clinical psychologist/psychoanalyst and author who specializes in relationships, tells Bustle. "Having a partner with an interesting sex life in their history can result in you two joining each other in an ongoing sexual adventure now."

If you really want to know details about their past and end up asking them, don't use it as something to compare yourself to.


A Ex-Spouse Or Former Long-Term Partner

Obsessing over a specific ex won't do any good for you. Your partner may have been in a relationship with that person for many years, but there is a reason why they're not together now. Sometimes people just grow apart or want other things out of life. Because of that, there’s no reason for you to worry about your partner’s previous long-term relationship.

"Life can’t be lived comparing yourself to someone else," Branson says. "You can’t be successful based on what someone else has done. Know that you are uniquely you and that your partner likes you for who you are, not for what they had."

The only time this can be concerning is if your partner isn’t fully emotionally available to start another relationship. If that’s the case, you might have to be patient with them. If anything, you can work on creating a strong foundation of friendship while they work on healing.


Money Mistakes They Made

Money can be a major source of problems for couples. But the reality is, not everyone is responsible with their spending right off the bat. When you're younger and not really thinking about buying a house, starting a family, and so on, it's easy to put a bunch of charges on a credit card and not think anything of it. It's an obvious problem if they're still spending like there's no tomorrow. But if they've learned from their mistakes, and are making choices that reflect that, you don't need to worry.

"If they are now successful, moving ahead toward success in measurable ways, and feeling confident about their future, then the mistakes made served a purpose," dating and relationship coach Rosalind Sedacca, CLC, tells Bustle.

If, on the other hand, your partner is caught in a "victim mindset" and isn't doing anything about it, that can be a problem long-term.


An Attractive Ex

Even if you know your partner is all about you right now, you may not be able to help but compare yourself to their exes. In fact, psychotherapist Cherrelle N. “Juice” Shorter, LCSW-S says comparing yourself to your partner’s exes is more common than people would care to admit. “Quite naturally, we want to assess our partner's dating history to get a feel of their ‘type’ to compare and contrast how we measure according to that standard,” Shorter says. “ Other times it may be out of curiosity, either way, it can be a breeding ground for our own insecurities to run amuck and potentially wreak havoc on our relationship.”

So what if your partner’s ex is attractive? Remember that they broke up for a reason. Unless your partner is currently leaving their ex flirty compliments on social media, there’s no reason for you to worry about them.


An Ex Who’s More Successful Than You

Comparing yourself to others is so common because it highlights an area in our lives that make us feel insecure, Shorter says. If you’re not getting the recognition you feel you deserve at work, of course you’re going to be insecure when you find out that your partner’s ex is rich and successfully owns their own business. It can even make you question your worth. While it’s human nature to compare yourself to others, don’t beat yourself up over it.

“Don’t over analyze or internalize your comparisons and attach it to your own worthiness as a partner,” Shorter says. “People date different people for different reasons. Reminding yourself of this will be helpful. Also engaging your partner in a conversation about what you both admire about one another, what attracted you to each other and what makes you unique can be affirming.”


Your Partner’s Friends & Family Being Really Close To Their Ex

When a couple has been together for a long time, odds are, they each developed a relationship with each other’s friends and family. If your partner’s family adored their ex, this can make you feel like you have to try extra hard to be liked as well. But the truth is, you can’t control what other people think. You can put the very best version of yourself out there, and your partner’s friends and family can still prefer their ex. This is something you may just have to accept.

If this is an issue that triggers your insecurities, Manly suggests engaging in self-work to address and heal the source of these negative beliefs. “Having an open and honest conversation about this insecurity — and how to effectively address it within the relationship — can also be very bonding and healing,” she says.


Their Previous Type

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Many people have preferences or specific "types" they go for. If your partner used to date people with certain traits and features, and you don't exactly fit that type, there's no need to worry.

"Realize that people change," Branson says. "What they once thought was a quality that they had to have, they might now realize that these things may not be as important. It’s important not to put limits on love and realize that happiness is not pre-packaged."

While these are some things from your partner's past that you shouldn't worry about, there are some things you should always look out for. These are things like patterns of abuse, and controlling behavior.

"People can change, but they have to first want to change," Branson says. "If you see these unhealthy behaviors, it may be a sign that your partner needs help."

If none of that is present in your current relationship, it's just best to leave the past behind.

How To Get Over Your Partner’s Past

If your feelings of inadequacy aren’t addressed, Shorter says it can create barriers and conflict in a relationship. The good news is, there are things you can do to move on from obsessing over your partner’s past. For instance, being open with your partner about your concerns and insecurities can help to clear up a few things.

“Ultimately, communication and vulnerability are key here,” Shorter says. “If they are patient and kind, then they won't blame or shame you for your insecurities. In fact, it may open the door for them to share their own. While self-validation is important, there’s nothing wrong with receiving both validation and reassurance from your partner.”

It’s also important to pay attention to any negative thoughts you may have, that way you can consciously let them go. “The more you non-judgmentally practice letting go of your partner’s history — the less attention you give these negative thought patterns — the more your brain will become wired to be mindfully in the present rather than imaginings of the past,” Manly says. “This intentional practice will free up your mind and spirit to engage more fully and lovingly with your partner.”


Dr. Ronica Arnold Branson, licensed therapist and relationship coach

Dr. Fran Walfish, Beverly Hills family and relationship psychotherapist and author,

Dr. Mark Borg Jr., Ph.D., licensed clinical psychologist/psychoanalyst and author

Rosalind Sedacca, CLC, dating and relationship coach

Cherrelle N. “Juice” Shorter, LCSW-S, psychotherapist

Rachel Needle, Psy.D., licensed psychologist

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