Do I need to know what (or who) he did while we were broken up? Is it wrong to ask?
October 7, 2009 8:37 PM   Subscribe

Do I need to know what (or who) he did while we were broken up? Is it wrong to ask?

My ex and I had a mutual, amicable breakup about 7 months ago, after 3 good years together. We've known each other for almost 10 years and have been best friends. We've remained friendly throughout our breakup - still seeing each other on occasion to have dinner or coffee or see a film while maintaining a respectful distance. We've both spent most of this time apart doing our own thing, getting out more and meeting new people. We haven't talked about other people we've been with during our breakup period, although a couple of months ago he did bring it up. I was honest and told him I'd slept with one person but didn't go into any detail. He told me he hadn't slept with anyone. I feel he was being dishonest, and know from a few external sources that he has in fact been involved with a few girls since our breakup - the level of those involvements is uncertain. I didn't press the issue because I didn't feel it was my right to probe any further. It has, after all, been his right to see/sleep with whomever he likes. We've been broken up for months. I decided to leave it at that. I didn't need to know and at that point, preferred not to know.

Lately, however, we've been seeing each other more and have talked about getting back together. This led to things getting physical again. We haven't come to a decision just yet, although it seems we're leaning towards a reunion in the near future. Here's my problem: Now that we're sleeping together again and considering starting over, I'm absolutely DYING of curiosity about his exploits during our time apart. Every day I spend hours fixated on this - who'd he sleep with? Who did he kiss? How many did he sleep with? How many did he kiss? Did he actually like anyone? Did he hook up with that friend-of-a-friend I'd suspected he was spending time with over the summer? It is all-consuming. I need to know. Honestly, what he did (unless it's totally, thoroughly deplorable) won't keep me from wanting to try at working things out with him. It's not about judging him. We've known each other for so long and have known every little thing about each other - until now.

I have no problem telling him about my involvements while we were apart. I'd really like to have an honest conversation about it (barring all the unnecessary nasty details) because it's been a time in my life during which I've learned a lot about myself and relationships. I get the feeling that he'd rather not discuss it at all and feels uncomfortable with the topic - or that he'd rather denydenydeny to spare any negative feelings on my part. But I just want him to be honest. I want us to be honest. I feel I should know if he's slept with anyone else for my own sexual health considerations, but I want to know more than that. I want to know who and when. I want to know who he's just fooled around with. I want to know if he went on any dates. I wouldn't be angry or sad or lash out at him - I just want to know.

How do I bring this up? Should I bring it up? Do I just let the past be the past and move forward with him? How do I address the nagging curiosity?
posted by blackcatcuriouser to Human Relations (35 answers total) 1 user marked this as a favorite

 
Let it go. It's his business, and if he wants to share it with you he will.
posted by pintapicasso at 8:40 PM on October 7, 2009


I'm going to go out on a limb and predict that he won't seem that interesting again after you know. Act accordingly.
posted by Ironmouth at 8:41 PM on October 7, 2009 [1 favorite]


You don't get to know. And whats more important you do need to know. Assume that he did and make sure you make him forget all the others. Wondering is sexy, Knowing is not.
posted by Rubbstone at 8:44 PM on October 7, 2009


Best answer: Knowing doesn't make the nagging thoughts disappear. It just gives them technicolored images.
posted by Juliet Banana at 8:51 PM on October 7, 2009 [32 favorites]


I understand your frustrations but it's usually much worse in your head than it is in reality.

Given that you've already slept with him it's too late, but the only thing I'd ask is if he was sure he was still clean. Nothing beyond that. Also, while some guys say that they have no problem hearing about a girlfriend's other sexual exploits, I've found that a lot of them actually do.

It's possible he doesn't want to bring it up because you seem so adamant (in just this post) to let him know you've been with other people and it hurts him a bit despite your lengthy friendship. What gets me past those "OMG did he or didn't he???" moments is just to think of the way he gets along with you now, the way he looks at you now. You two are trying to work things out with each other again, and that's all that matters.. not the gossip.
posted by june made him a gemini at 8:51 PM on October 7, 2009 [1 favorite]


He told me he hadn't slept with anyone. I feel he was being dishonest, and know from a few external sources that he has in fact been involved with a few girls since our breakup

This, to me, is the critical point.

Why was he being dishonest with you? Was he sincerely trying to protect you from being hurt? Or is he keeping his distance from you, and keeping this part of his life private because he wants to maintain that distance?

Many people get obsessed with their partner's former dalliances in an unhealthy way. See Chasing Amy for the definitive study. I think this is the more common reaction, and it's one reason people don't talk to their current about their formers.

Alternatively, people can be interested, even fascinated, even turned on by knowledge of their partners other partners. Viewed positively, some people call this compersion. I've experienced that, and it's really wonderful. It was one of the most memorable positive experiences of my life when I ran into my true love in the grocery story with this other guy she was dating at the same time and found myself really happy to see them together.

Of course, most people think you're crazy when you claim that compersion is possible.

I'm not sure where you are on this scale. It sounds like you're more on the compersion side of things. You need to figure that out, and then figure out where your ex-ex is on the sharing/protecting/withholding spectrum. Then if you have two check marks, you just have to convince him that you'll be okay and truly are interested in knowing about what he's been up to.
posted by alms at 8:53 PM on October 7, 2009 [1 favorite]


You don't want to know. I had an ex that we continued to work together for almost two years and she loved telling me tons of stuff even though i didn't ask. Juliet Banana is absolutely right. Just make sure he's clean, std wise.
posted by djduckie at 8:53 PM on October 7, 2009


Your nickname is "blackcatcuriouser". You of all people should know what curiosity did to the cat...and it will do the same to your maybe-kinda-sorta rekindled relationship.

So let it lie. You can be honest and silent at the same time. Don't put him in any position to have to lie again by asking. Your "need" to know is something you need to get over, or move on to another guy.
posted by inturnaround at 8:55 PM on October 7, 2009


Do I need to know what (or who) he did while we were broken up?

Nope.

I want us to be honest.

Dear, don’t bore him with trivia or burden him with your past mistakes. The happiest way to deal with a man is never to tell him anything he does not need to know. And the reverse is true as well.
posted by Cool Papa Bell at 9:00 PM on October 7, 2009 [1 favorite]


You can not put the toothpaste back in the tube.
posted by Brittanie at 9:04 PM on October 7, 2009 [2 favorites]


I want us to be honest.

No, you want to be nosy. Being honest =/= full disclosure. I agree with Ironmouth. This is just something new and intriguing to obsess about; it's not within your rights to know.
posted by runningwithscissors at 9:06 PM on October 7, 2009 [1 favorite]


Nope!
posted by BlackLeotardFront at 9:11 PM on October 7, 2009


Best answer: In general, it is a big fat mistake to think about the fact that your partner was with anyone, gave their heart to anyone, before they did so with you. The convenient fiction is that the start of a new relationship is the start of two new people, and the reason that we do that is so that we don't go insane. Complete honesty is not required or even desirable about these sorts of things.

Of course, things seem different because you two were together before. That 7 month hiatus seems like more of a hold on your relationship than being broken up, and therefore you feel that you have a right to know. But you're wrong. This new segment of the relationship is absolutely the same as just starting out all over again, which includes pretending like your partner never did anything with anyone before. If you can't handle that, maybe you shouldn't be trying to start things over again with this guy.
posted by TypographicalError at 9:16 PM on October 7, 2009 [7 favorites]


I have no problem telling him about my involvements while we were apart.

Yeah, maybe he doesn't want to hear about that. And probably for the same reasons that he doesn't want to talk about what he did these past few months. I mean, it's one thing to know that you're girlfriend has a sexual life before you dated her, it's totally another to know who was doing your girl during a 7 month break. It's not fun to think about, and he probably just wants to move on with you and have a fresh start.

Honesty doesn't mean you have to share every thought, event and detail about your life. He doesn't want to know, and you do not need to know. Leave it at that.

and know from a few external sources that he has in fact been involved with a few girls since our breakup

So basically, you know nothing. You know from someone else that he's been "involved". What the fuck does that mean? How would this other person know? Maybe he went out on a date and nothing happened. Maybe he made out with someone but that's it. Maybe he got a blowjob. Maybe he didn't do anything and this other person(s) doesn't know what they're talking about. The point is, why assume he was lying when he said he didn't sleep with anyone? If you can't assume he was being honest, why are you getting back with him?
posted by spaltavian at 9:21 PM on October 7, 2009 [3 favorites]


I'm absolutely DYING of curiosity about his exploits during our time apart. Every day I spend hours fixated on this - who'd he sleep with? Who did he kiss? How many did he sleep with? How many did he kiss? Did he actually like anyone? Did he hook up with that friend-of-a-friend I'd suspected he was spending time with over the summer? It is all-consuming. I need to know. Honestly, what he did (unless it's totally, thoroughly deplorable) won't keep me from wanting to try at working things out with him. It's not about judging him.

I gently suggest that you are perhaps getting a little wrapped up in drama, here. You sound more like you're jonesing for the next episode of a TV show than exploring your feelings about a relationship. Look, we all do it at times and no-one likes to admit it. But get a hold of yourself, focus on the person in front of you. Curiosity killed the cat.
posted by desuetude at 10:02 PM on October 7, 2009 [1 favorite]


Once you know, you can never not know. Sometimes it's best to not share every single thing, but instead draw a figurative line in the sand and say to each other, we move forward from here; everything before is not important. This is one of those times, in my opinion. As bad as you want to know, you (or him) run a significant risk of feeling much worse after your mutual sharing.

Also please consider that he's giving you signs that this is not something he wants to do. Respect, then, that doing it anyway might hurt him or damage your relationship.
posted by Houstonian at 10:12 PM on October 7, 2009


This, to me, is the critical point.

Why was he being dishonest with you?


We have no evidence that he is.

know from a few external sources that he has in fact been involved with a few girls since our breakup - the level of those involvements is uncertain

You don't know that he's slept with anyone else, you have just decided that he must have. I think its a bad sign for your relationship that you trust 3rd party rumours and assumptions over his word. If you can't trust him then you shouldn't be with him.
posted by missmagenta at 10:53 PM on October 7, 2009 [1 favorite]


;You both have pasts. You don't get to force his past out of him, and you should make sure you should be forcing your past upon him.

I mean, how would you feel if you broke his heart because you did sleep with someone, and he really had been avoiding it because he was really in love with you?

At this point you're just going to have to get over it, and you should probably tone down talking about what you did with whom during then as well.
posted by gte910h at 10:57 PM on October 7, 2009


I was recently in an extremely similar situation. I thought I really wanted to know and pressed her for details and got them. It fucked with my head for sure, but it was nothing I couldn't get over. On the other hand, she seemed like she really didn't want to know, so I didn't volunteer any information. We got drunk and she asked some questions I maybe shouldn't have answered. Unfortunately, my alcohol soaked judgment prevented me from really taking what I perceived to be her true feelings into consideration, and even though I suspected that she probably didn't really want to hear it, I told her. It really upset her in a way that is probably irrevocable. It sounds like this guy has your best interests at heart, and is trying to protect you. I have nothing but respect for him, and I wish I had taken a page from his book. I ended up really hurting someone I care about, and even though she said she wanted to know, she really didn't. Maybe you're like me, and while it will sting a little, you'd rather have your curiosity satisfied. Maybe you're like her, and you'll end up dwelling on it a lot longer than you expect. If you're not sure it's the former, is it really worth the risk?
posted by solipsophistocracy at 10:58 PM on October 7, 2009 [1 favorite]


Best answer: Why do you care so much?

People kiss, people have sex, people like each other. I'm sure you've done all three with others, and so has he.

Big deal.

What matters is this moment, with him, now.
posted by trevyn at 11:39 PM on October 7, 2009 [1 favorite]


Best answer: To follow up on what I said earlier: if you're this obsessed right now, why do you think you're going to be easy, breezy and carefree once you know for sure? Aren't you just going to be spending hours torturing yourself with your newfound knowledge?

Think about why you need to know. I know a lot of my jealousy of my boyfriend's past relationships is because secretly I wonder "what if she's way cooler than me and the best fuck in the world and he would drop me in a second to get back with her?" And instead of harping on some innocent girl who I'm not in competition with, I focus on resolving that insecurity. I think about all the times my boyfriend has said he loves me more than he's ever loved anyone and how he would rather be with me than any girl in the world, and I take a deep breath, and I believe him, and I chill the fuck out.
posted by Juliet Banana at 2:21 AM on October 8, 2009 [3 favorites]


Response by poster: Thanks everyone. I think you're all right that I need to let it go and work on moving forward.
posted by blackcatcuriouser at 5:09 AM on October 8, 2009


In my experience, this is usually a guy/girl difference. Girls like to disclose, guys don't. Girls want to know, guys don't.

As a girl, I used to WANT TO KNOW ALL AND MUST TELL ALL regarding sex. As I've gotten older, I realise that it's nice to have some (harmless) secrets from my SO. It's NOT healthy to share everything.
posted by peanut butter milkshake at 5:22 AM on October 8, 2009 [1 favorite]


Am I the only one who disagrees?? I see you've made your decision, but I'm gonna tell you my opinion anyway. When I date someone it's usually someone I am comfortable with, someone I can tell everything to, and someone who's past I would like to learn about. Every single time I've been in your situation it's come up in conversation, and we've been able to talk about it. Sure, I don't know if the guys are being honest, but if you can't talk about something like that, then what's the point of even trying to date? If he feels he has to hide something then something's up. If he's willing to tell you then you know he's past all that and wants to be with *you*

I could be wrong about this, but this is the way all my relationships have been. And I'm pretty sure that the harmless 10 minute conversation about this is not the reason I'm single. Of course if you're the type to wonder about it even more after that quick 10 minute conversation, then don't even go there. But I know I am able to take it more in a "I'm glad you told me, thanks for not feeling like you have to hide stuff from me" kind of way instead of "omigod how was the sex between them ahhh"
posted by KateHasQuestions at 5:27 AM on October 8, 2009


Girls want to know, guys don't.

No. We want to know, too, but only if nothing happened.
posted by Civil_Disobedient at 5:32 AM on October 8, 2009 [4 favorites]


Kate, when you're in the situation where you're getting back together with a guy you've already broken up with, I think that's very, very different than getting together with someone new. Having discussions about history are very different without the emotionally-charged context of a prior relationship (unless it's been a long time.)

Obviously, people differ - if you're cool with exchanging info on what happened during a break-up gap, more power to you... but she's already made it clear that she HAS TO KNOW. And that, in itself is a red flag.
posted by canine epigram at 6:45 AM on October 8, 2009


How do I address the nagging curiosity?
You don't want to be that girl who asks about stuff like this. Leave the mystery alone.
posted by bunny hugger at 6:58 AM on October 8, 2009


Love how you put it as "what he did". Whether it's some girl named Suzie or a cantelope, you'll be resentful.
posted by stormpooper at 7:44 AM on October 8, 2009


Depends... would it be hot to talk about, and turn you on? If so, then yeah, it could be fun to talk about. If it's just going to make you feel jealous (and be honest with yourself here), just give it a rest and concentrate on what you have now.
posted by darkshade at 8:10 AM on October 8, 2009


who'd he sleep with? Who did he kiss? How many did he sleep with? How many did he kiss? Did he actually like anyone? Did he hook up with that friend-of-a-friend I'd suspected he was spending time with over the summer? It is all-consuming. I need to know. Honestly, what he did (unless it's totally, thoroughly deplorable) won't keep me from wanting to try at working things out with him. It's not about judging him.

For guys it generally isn't wise to spread a bunch of gossip, or engage in a bunch of bragging, about relationships they were themselves involved in.

I mean, if I told you about my own past partners, I wouldn't just be revealing my sexual past (i.e. private information); I'd be revealing their sexual past too. Mostly I sleep with people I like, so I'm not inclined to violate their privacy - even if doing so would score brownie points with my current girlfriend.

That said, maybe he doesn't go for discretion in the same way I do. If my partner asked me about my sexual past I wouldn't be upset that they asked - however, I'd tell them what I told you and little about my sexual past.

To use an old computer industry joke, discretion is a feature, not a fault!
posted by Mike1024 at 9:04 AM on October 8, 2009


Best answer: **I mean, it's one thing to know that you're girlfriend has a sexual life before you dated her, it's totally another to know who was doing your girl during a 7 month break. **

This.
posted by teg4rvn at 9:18 AM on October 8, 2009


Knowing doesn't make the nagging thoughts disappear. It just gives them technicolored images.

This. From my experience with this sort of situation, ignorance, as it is in so many cases, is bliss.
posted by Lutoslawski at 11:11 AM on October 8, 2009


Wasn't this a Friends episode/storyline?

Rachel: You slept with her???
Ross: We were on a BREAK!!!

Didn't turn out well.
posted by CathyG at 2:54 PM on October 8, 2009 [1 favorite]


It will totally fuck with your head if you do know. You'll probably see the chick around town and it'll eat at you every time. Better not to know.
posted by CwgrlUp at 5:03 PM on October 8, 2009


If you do ask, brace yourself for the absolute worst, something like: "Well, since you asked, it was really so sexy, like -- you know how I always ask you to be more X and to do that you never want to do? She did that in this amazing way! And her overall passion; it was so hot. Have you ever thought about why you're not like that? It kind of seems like a deep-seated wound, or maybe it's more like an inborn personal flaw or moral failure or something. Have you thought about seeing a counselor or something?"
posted by salvia at 9:24 PM on October 10, 2009


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