Marriage 101: Talking to Your Spouse About Your Past

Sweaty palms, tightness in the chest, nausea . . . these are all symptoms of vulnerability.

New dating relationships always make vulnerable conversations easier to accept, listen to, and understand. It is fresh, and you are still getting to know someone. There seems to be less of a risk in bearing your past to your beloved and less disappointment when listening to theirs.

But what happens when you are well into marriage and your past comes up, whether it be sexual relationships, insecurities, or childhood wounds? These vulnerable conversations can be more difficult and more hurtful. How do you determine what is and is not appropriate to share with your spouse?

Conversations like these can be tricky for a few reasons:

  1. As a married couple, you’re supposed to become one, and this leads to a feeling of obligation to explain every detail of your past.
  2. There are conversations that you might struggle to open up to your partner about because you’re unsure whether or not it is appropriate.

These feelings are completely understandable. Although it is not black and white, I do believe there is a balance between being vulnerable, open, and honest with your spouse while also being prudent in what and how you share.

The most important act of authenticity should be your desire to help your spouse and you become the-best-version-of-yourselves.

It can be confusing trying to determine what is best for your spouse and your marriage. Here are some tips to help you navigate this often sensitive issue.

If You’re Sharing with Your Spouse

Is it necessary?

The first thing to ask yourself before disclosing your past to your spouse is whether or not it is necessary or relevant to your relationship.

If you feel a burning desire to get something off your chest from fifteen years ago, it is worth asking yourself whether or not sharing will result in bringing you closer to each other and to being the-best-version-of-yourself.

If you’ve really been struggling to accept acts of love or touch from your spouse, it may be helpful to share with your partner why that is.

Again, this is about strengthening your marriage and bringing you closer to each other.

Beware of oversharing

Oversharing is one of the easiest things to do when it comes to these dicey topics.

It is vital to first understand that your partner can never be the one to give you the peace of mind and comfort you seek. You need to first forgive yourself.

Always have the intention to forgive. This is a great way to better love, know, and serve your spouse and your marriage.

It is very tempting to spill unnecessary amounts of detail to your spouse in an attempt to alleviate guilt or seek sympathy.

Some things are best shared with a trusted counsel, and that is okay. It is also worth noting that it is easy to confuse oversharing with vulnerability.

I know I have experienced this many times in my own life when oversharing did not help me find the intimacy I sought, but further pushed others away.

As much as you might want to share, your spouse may or may not be ready, and that’s okay!

Be patient with your spouse

It might take time for your partner to absorb everything you disclose to them. Being patient and allowing them to listen and think can be a great act of love for them. Before sharing, it is important to be open to how they might respond.

This is also a great opportunity to trust your spouse more by openly sharing with them.

If Your Spouse Is Sharing with You

Curiosity vs. Constructivity

Something to keep in mind as you are on the receiving end is that it is easy to ask questions out of unhealthy curiosity. Sometimes asking questions or probing deeper can cause more harm than good and set you up for hurt or disappointment.

“Curiosity killed the cat” is something I always try to remember. If I find myself full of questions, I always check my intention first: will it help me love and understand my spouse better, or am I trying to satisfy my own sense of curiosity and power within my relationship?

Resolve to forgive

Before having a conversation, it is important to always have the intention to forgive. You may hear things that are painful or hard to understand.

If it is something that may take a long time, that’s okay! Be kind and patient with yourself. This is a great way to better love, know, and serve your spouse and your marriage.

Last Thoughts

Honesty vs. Vulnerability vs. Authenticity

Something worth mentioning is that as you share with or listen to your spouse, know that not disclosing every detail with your spouse does not mean you are being inauthentic.

It is easy to confuse the two. We can make excuses in our heads for sharing something that may not be constructive and by claiming that it’s authentic and vulnerable.

At the end of the day, the most important act of authenticity should be your desire to help your spouse and you become the-best-version-of-yourselves.

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