Dear Carolyn: I am currently considering getting back together with an ex. We were together for over three years, then were separated for over a year. We recently spent a wonderful weekend together in the Caribbean after we both expressed that we missed each other and wanted to try again.
We both seem to be curious about one another’s love lives while we were separated – I suppose this is somewhat natural. He says it doesn’t really matter what I did during our time apart, but he just wants to know the truth. I’ve also asked him some questions because I also wanted to know the truth, although, to be honest, I might have preferred that he lied.
He is from a traditional background, as am I, and although I did not do anything I am ashamed of, I just feel like providing details is more hurtful than anything else.
Do you think full disclosure is necessary in this situation, and do you think it is within my rights to not disclose? We have both been tested for STDs and are clean, if that matters. Do you think it says something about our relationship that I am unwilling to fully disclose?
A: “Clean” says something about your view of people who test positive. There aren’t two types of sexually active people, “clean” and “dirty,” there is only one type: “sexually active.” Maybe you already think this way, but it is important to those who don’t dodge the bullet to make the effort also to talk this way.
Needed to get that off my chest.
As for your urge to ask for details and your discomfort with the details themselves: Figure yourselves out, then figure each other out. Any details will be needless distractions without that crucial self-knowledge.
Meaning, understand exactly why you’re curious about each other’s “love lives,” preferably before you start asking. Does either of you, for example, think sexual involvement would reflect poorly on the other’s character? Is it about health? Is your curiosity really just rubbernecking? Do you think there’s a difference between having one sex partner during that year-plus and having two or three? What about two or three versus 10? Do you regard any recent exes as rivals?
Once each of you knows what you’re trying to find out, then you’ll see – I hope – not only that specifics are gratuitous, but also that requesting them is needlessly invasive.
Why? Because if you want to know whether there are lingering attachments, then you simply ask that. If you want to know whether you (still) have similar values, then you ask that. If you want to know whether you agree on what is and isn’t each other’s business, then you ask that. If you want to know about health, then, as you did, you get tested. All of it is available by some means other than knowing who did what with whom.