Sexual history protocol
June 21, 2006 6:52 AM   Subscribe

You have a new partner. From time to time the two of you meet up with, or maybe just bump into, people with whom you have had sex in the past.

You are still on good terms with these former (for want of a better word) lovers, so you can't ignore them; they might even be friends and a regular part of your social circle. Do you tell your new partner at some point, "Actually I've had sex with X", and risk upsetting your new partner? Or do you keep quiet about it and thereby (it seems to me) create a kind of "conspiracy of silence" towards your new partner?
posted by londongeezer to Human Relations (28 answers total) 2 users marked this as a favorite

Why bother telling your new partner? Do you still have feelings for the ex? Are you still having sex with her? No, right?

If your previous relationship isn't affecting your current one in any way other than bumping into each other once in a while, let sleeping dogs lie.
posted by madman at 6:58 AM on June 21, 2006

Can you not just say 'I used to date...' or 'I used to have a relationship with...'? That's what I'd do, and not mention the sex thing unless specifically asked. In which case I'd reply truthfully.
posted by edd at 7:00 AM on June 21, 2006

I think I personally would be more upset at not knowing -- if I found out later, I'd feel like everyone but me had known and my partner had risked me looking like a fool.

I'm not a jealous person, though. If your partner is jealous, YMMV. If there is no jealousy involved, then you would do better, I think, by not hiding anything. Not that I would whisper "I did him" to my husband right there in front of God and everybody, but maybe I'd let him in on the story when we got home.
posted by sugarfish at 7:01 AM on June 21, 2006

People have sex; It's one of those things that happens. It's really not a big deal. For any adult you may meet, someone, somewhere has probably had sex with them. I understand feeling a little weird bumping into a previous partner with your new one, but you just have to let the weirdness wash over you and continue to be an adult.

Your new partner may judge you for your past hook-ups, or may feel it necessary to compare him/herself to the old partner, but that's their issue. If they want to bring that kinda crap onto themselves, they deserve what they get. You owe it to them to help them realize it's not a big deal and there's no sense comparing themselves.

Also, remember: No matter how hot she is, someone, somewhere, is sick of her shit.
posted by Mr. Gunn at 7:12 AM on June 21, 2006 [2 favorites]

As with most relationship questions, it depends on the nature of the relationship, her comfort with disclosure, and your relationship with disclosure.
posted by KirkJobSluder at 7:16 AM on June 21, 2006

I think it depends on how your social circle interacts. For example, if your friends are the type to mention that time you and your ex did such and such in front of your current partner, then yes, you should tell your current partner before your friends get the chance. If they aren't, then it's just a matter of whether you think your partner would rather know or not know.
posted by starbaby at 7:26 AM on June 21, 2006

You probably should tell your partner, especially if they are the jealous type. The longer you wait to tell them, the more suspicious they might get about the reason for the non-disclosure. As a somewhat jealous person, I'd want to know within a few meetings with the person. You could probably bring it up in a kind of "let's get our histories out in the open" discussion. But phrase it like edd suggested, "I used to see X". Saying "I used to have sex with X, Y and Z, just so you know" is likely going to put your partner on the defensive. They don't really need to know the details of the relationship, just that it happened and that it ended.
posted by blueskiesinside at 7:27 AM on June 21, 2006

I can see how this would be a little weird if you and your new partner both had sex with the same person in the past (which is actually how I read the question on the first pass), but otherwise, it's not a big deal. You bump into [former lover], introduce [new hotness], go about your business, and just mention to [new hotness] "I used to date [former lover]" to explain how you know that person.
posted by adamrice at 7:38 AM on June 21, 2006

it would probably work best if you actually did refer to your current partner as "new hotness."
posted by soma lkzx at 7:41 AM on June 21, 2006

This is not that hard. When you and your new boyfriend/girlfriend run into someone who has some relationship to you, you state it.

"Lisa! How ya doing?
Cindy, this is Lisa.
Lisa ...
is my cousin
is my urologist
is my neighbor
is my babymama
was in my Psych class
works down the hall from me
and I dated back in freshman year
and I had a friends with benefits thing a few years back."

If all that happened between you was hot monkey sex, and you think the other person would not want to chat about that publicly, you say..
"Lisa! How ya doing?
Cindy, this is Lisa."
And right after you two walk away you say...
"Lisa and I had sex once when we were drunk."
Or whatever the situtation was.

The exception would be if you had been previously sworn to secrecy, the only case in which you can be really really vague.

That's what you DO.
You are introducing your new love to your life, so you have to tell him/her who all the people are.
If someone freaks out over this, they are nuts, and aren't you lucky to find out now.
posted by Methylviolet at 7:46 AM on June 21, 2006

This has happened several times to me. I usually say something like "ex-girlfriend alert" to my wife before the inevitably awkward introduction. The sex part is implied, and doesn't really needed to be explicitly addressed, unless she asks. If I'm taken by surprise, I go ahead with the introduction, but then tell the wife afterwards. Before I got married and found myself in the situation, I did the same--once I was on a second date, and ran into the recently-ex-girlfriend. Awkward? Well, sure.
posted by MrMoonPie at 7:51 AM on June 21, 2006

Dude, no. What you do is say "We used to date," or "We dated a couple of times." You don't go off on a "This is Lisa, I did her in the ass" intro.
posted by klangklangston at 7:52 AM on June 21, 2006

Addendum--since I live in a fairly small community, I've always been aware of the possiblilty (hell, probabilty) of running into an ex while I'm out with a current. I've generally given some pre-warning, along the lines of "You know, an ex frequents that spot, so if we run into someone and I act all awkward, that's why." That has helped.
posted by MrMoonPie at 7:54 AM on June 21, 2006

I just say things like "This is Bob, we went out a couple times." No big deal. It's only if you act like you have something to hide that it becomes a big deal.
posted by SisterHavana at 8:01 AM on June 21, 2006

Yes, mention it in neutral terms wherein the new partnerhotness can understand without having the physical specifics spelled out for them.
posted by OmieWise at 8:06 AM on June 21, 2006

Euphemism is fine. Nondisclosure is not. In other words, I second klangklangston, and add this: if you end up telling your current partner explicitly that you had sex with Lisa, wouldn't it be better if it went this way:

You: "Lisa and I went out a few times."
Your partner: "Well, did you FUCK her?"
You: "Yep. I sure did. But that's in the past, and I'm not trying to go back there."
Your partner: "I love you."

Than this way:

You: "That's Lisa. Man. She had the lightest touch on my balls---it was crazy. She knew just when to grab them and how hard. I've never come that hard before. Except, of course, with you, darling."
Your partner: "Oh yeah? Well I fucked your brother."
posted by kosem at 8:07 AM on June 21, 2006 [4 favorites]

I think Mr Gunn is a wise man......
posted by funboytree at 8:11 AM on June 21, 2006

"ex-girlfriend alert"

Hey, I'm a big fan of this idea. It's elegant, simple, says all it needs to, and has a nice air of conspiratorial partnership between you and the new girlfriend. The warning in advance, in particular, saves the new girl the moment of wondering ("So, did he date this chick?") , which can be part of the awkwardness.

But if it's so early on that you haven't established such a code, "we used to date" is all you need to say. And yes, you should say it; I agree that you're introducing someone to you and your life, and not to describe the general nature of your acquaintances would be, to me, a sign of some odd gatekeeping.
posted by Miko at 8:17 AM on June 21, 2006

I would like to meet this Lisa.
posted by WinnipegDragon at 8:18 AM on June 21, 2006

I would handle this in a conversation to my boyfriend. Do you want to know if when we meet someone that I've dated/slept with them?? Because if he asked me the same question, I would most definitely NOT want to know. I would preclude my two cents with... if the past lover has no influence on my future... I like a relationship where my boyfriend owns his past sexual experiences and doesn't feel the need to share, and expects the same from me. I think it's a sign of maturity.
posted by vermontlife at 9:09 AM on June 21, 2006

i think it really depends on how your partner takes things like that ... and i must say that the choice may not be up to you

i was working at a store with my then wife and a girlfriend from almost 20 years back walked in with her husband

me: "long time, no see ... how are you doing?"
old girlfriend: "fine, my kid's doing well, i'm doing well"
me: "this is my wife, x"
old girlfriend: "glad to meet you ... you know, me and p t almost conceived my teenaged son ..."
me: *wishes he could disappear into floor*

lesson - some people will say ANYTHING

(ps - yes, the wife, now my ex, was quite upset ... no idea what her husband thought)
posted by pyramid termite at 9:34 AM on June 21, 2006

Thanks everyone. The consensus seems to be for disclosure in some kind of tactful form: "Ex-girlfriend alert, my hotness!" or something along those lines, and I'm agreeing with that. And I also think, having read the comments, that maybe best of all will be to broach the whole subject, ask "What would you like me to say if we meet an ex? And do you want to know in every case?"
posted by londongeezer at 10:12 AM on June 21, 2006

(standing ovation and golf clap for klangklangston, with honerable mention to kosem )
posted by jeversol at 12:23 PM on June 21, 2006

Don't make a big thing of it, but do tell them. Better to know than to not know.
posted by Radio7 at 1:35 PM on June 21, 2006

In the case of someone you haven't been seeing for very long, there is no need to tell her right away whenever she meets someone in your circle of friends whom you've had sex with. However, as the new relationship develops, you need to mention it, so that when she eventually finds out, she doesn't feel like you've been keeping a secret from her.
posted by bingo at 1:47 PM on June 21, 2006

I'm voting for discussing it before it actually comes up. At some point, you'll probably talk about your pasts, and you should take that opportunity to mention that you're still on good terms with people you've had relationships with, and that occasionally you still run into them.

Then you tell the new person, "I'll be sure to let you know if we ever run into one of my exes, unless you'd prefer not to know about that kind of stuff" and then she'll tell you what she wants you to do. You'll get bonus points for still being on speaking terms with exes and also for being considerate of potential hurt feelings for your new girl. It's a win-win.
posted by stefanie at 1:50 PM on June 21, 2006 [1 favorite]

I've been in that situation in the past. Why would it be necessary to go beyond "we went out together for awhile"? I never went into the details of explaining my entire sex life with that other woman. I think it would be crass to say that "we had sex every single day for the entire 2 months we saw each other". The fact that you dated typically implies everything else. It's nothing to be embarassed about either as adults and typically I would introduce the ex as a "former girlfriend".
posted by JJ86 at 2:05 PM on June 21, 2006

londongeezer writes "The consensus seems to be for disclosure in some kind of tactful form: 'Ex-girlfriend alert, my hotness!' or something along those lines, and I'm agreeing with that."

If only to avoid a Clerks 37 scene.
posted by Mitheral at 2:17 PM on June 21, 2006

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