So you broke up with your boyfriend or girlfriend and it was horrible. Breakups are, indeed, some of the most miserable parts of our young adult lives, right after making independent financial decisions and having to buy our own groceries. Even more unfortunate is the realization that, unless we’re fortunate enough to find the person that we’re going to spend the rest of our lives with at a young age, we’re going to go through our fair share of heartache. But as that one saying goes, “time heals all wounds,” and eventually you’ll be ready to get back into the dating game. Good for you. Life goes on.
You might be saying to yourself, well whoop-di-freaking-do, Maureen. We all know that dating is like that crazy aunt that you have to talk to at family gatherings: Necessary and mandatory, but incredibly annoying and uncomfortable. So much can (and let’s face it, will) go horribly, horribly awry in the dating world. Like he invites you over and there are candles all over his apartment and “Your Body is a Wonderland” is playing on his stereo but you’ve only been on two dates kind of awry. I will not lie to you, Darlings: Dating will be the absolute worst sometimes. Maybe your dating history will follow you around when you initially try to get back out there, causing you to think that maybe you’re not worth dating or that no great guys or girls are out there and you’re just going to end up being an old Wolf-Lady out in the mountains somewhere (a friend of mine doesn’t believe in Cat-Ladies and I think it’s brilliant.) But then one day you sit down at a café/bookstore/bar and you look over and see a cute guy or girl with a cup of coffee/copy of Anna Karenina/beer in hand and somehow it’s different. And you hit it off right away, so much so that you can practically see the sparks flying between you. You marvel at how strange the heart is; this stupid little muscle that controls so much of our lives. (Congratulations, Darling, I’d say you’re moving on!) You have great first dates, you kiss in the rain, their smile makes your heart beat a little faster. However, unless this is a purely fun and let’s-get-physical sort of relationship (which can be fun too!), you’re eventually going to start asking deeper questions about this person besides “So where did you go to school?” and “Pepperoni or cheese?”
When it comes to creating a relationship out of the thin wisps of air in front of you, some people say that honesty is always the best policy. Better to tell the truth now than to explain later. Complete transparency is paramount. Sharing is caring. Well that’s all fine and dandy, but sometimes I think that stapling a piece of paper to my hand would be easier than being 100% honest with the guy sitting across from me. Honesty is a wonderful theory; so full of promise and the potential for a deeper emotional understanding and intimacy. But we’ve all been on a date with that one guy or girl who judges you hardcore for being open and honest about something in your past. And that hurts. So how much do you reveal about yourself then? More specifically, how much of your dating history do you share with this great guy or girl who is making you weak at the knees? When you jump back into the dating game, is your relationship history really anyone’s business?
As a recent member of the single-and-ready-to-mingle train, I find myself continuously struggling with my tendency to overshare about my past on dates. I’m not the biggest fan of small talk and I figure that, if I get hit by lightning tomorrow, I’d like to die knowing that I was open and honest with people. (Transparency is, as they say, paramount.) But, like any other person, my past is complicated and there are things that I like to keep private. Moreover, I realize that the guys I go on dates with might have parts of their past that they would prefer to keep private as well. Yet there have been times when I start to get curious about the guy I’m dating: Why did he break up with his last girlfriend? How many girls has he dated? Do I personally know anyone he’s dated? These questions can make any sane person’s head spin; however, we all know that liking someone tends to make us a little less sane. What’s worse is that the desire to know everything about a person’s dating history has been further perpetuated by our numerous social media outlets, which allow us to skim through photos, statuses, and captions of people’s exes. Suddenly bits of that person’s past are in front of you, and you become desperate to piece the puzzle together.
It is in these moments of speculating about someone’s dating history that I have to remind myself of two important things when it comes to dating: You can never know a person completely and neither of your dating histories really matter. The longer you date someone, the easier it is to think I know this person. I know him or her completely and totally. Even if you haven’t been dating long, it is easy to think that you know most of someone’s dating history through the combinations of word of mouth and social media. Yet these are just snippets of the things we want people to know; in most cases there is more to our dating histories than we let on and, ultimately, more to each of us than we let on. You can never know a person completely. Even if you understand who they are now, there is so much that makes up a person; so many experiences and little tiny moments that would take decades to fully uncover and explain. Your separate dating histories are a part of both of you, but they can also contain painful memories that aren’t worth bringing up again, or information that simply isn’t relevant to who you are today.
So does your potential/new partner need to know every detail about your last boyfriend/girlfriend? Perhaps, but only if you’re comfortable sharing and it’s relevant to the moving forward of your current relationship. Otherwise, I would argue that the past is the past, and we should all leave it there. At the end of the day both your history and your new partner’s history do not define who you are now. Your exes, hookups, and awkward dates have certainly impacted who you are today, but the difference is that those things do not define who you are in this moment with this person. So go kiss that guy or girl who makes you weak at the knees. Enjoy dating, darlings. We’re all young and full of mistakes and holding that against or judging the person you’re dating is not going to progress the relationship any further. Take chances, always look forward, and enjoy the ride.