Discussing past relationships can get super sticky even under the best of circumstances. This goes double any time the conversation turns to something painful that happened in a significant other's past. With that in mind, there are a few things to ask your partner if you think they cheated on an ex. Yeah, it's a rough topic to take on, but you can handle it.
Thinking about getting cheated on is a source of fear for plenty of people, and that feeling is backed up by research. "For instance, the act of imagining your partner being unfaithful results in a bigger emotional reaction that recalling a past partner’s infidelity tends to," as counselor Suzanne Degges-White, PhD., wrote in Psychology Today. "Just thinking about something makes it feel as real as if it was happening right then." Of course, anyone who has been cheated on knows how much the whole experience hurts. It's natural to avoid that kind of pain in a current relationship.
That said, if you suspect a current SO has been unfaithful in the past, then open communication is the best way to clear things up. Talk it out. Once you have more information about the partner's past, you'll know what to do.
1. What Do You Consider Cheating?
It's crucial to make sure both you and your SO are on the same page about what constitutes cheating. "Infidelity is a gray area because different individuals have their own boundaries and ideals for romantic relationships," said Dana Weiser, Ph.D., in Women's Health. Where do you draw the line when it comes to behaviors that are OK in the relationship?
2. How Do You Feel About Monogamy?
If you've never had the monogamy discussion with this particular person, then go ahead and have that talk. Not all relationships are monogamous by default. In fact, about one-fifth of single Americans have pursued consensual non-monogamy at some point, according to the Journal of Sex and Marital Therapy. If your SO had an open relationship in the past, then dating around at that time wasn't necessarily cheating.
3. Should We Discuss Exclusivity?
Don't make assumptions about your relationship's exclusivity without a discussion first. "What’s really interesting about the relationship talk is that a lot of people these days, especially online and app daters, don’t feel that they need to do it," said Laurel House, a dating coach on E!’s Famously Single, in The Washington Post. "That leads to a lot of confusion." Spare yourself the drama and talk about whether exclusivity is on the table at this point in this relationship.
4. Have You Ever Been Cheated On?
Yeah, discussing past relationships can be pretty awkward, but it's also illuminating. "Ask your partner if they were ever in a relationship where their partner cheated on them," said dating expert Davida Rappaport in Bustle. "If so, ask them what they did when they found out. If they [say] they never cheated on anyone or experienced a partner cheating on them, you can drop the subject." But if cheating has occurred in past relationships, then your can discuss your experiences and expectations for future boundaries with them.
5. Have You Ever Done Something Considered Cheating?
Here it is, the most difficult and telling question. Your SO's answer, and how you handle that information, is unique to your situation. Just remember that cheating in a prior relationship may indicate that a person is more likely to cheat in a current relationship, as a 2017 study in the Archives of Sexual Behavior found.
6. What Do You Want From A Relationship Right Now?
Is this SO looking for something serious or casual right now? Perhaps more importantly, does this mesh with whatever you want from a relationship at the moment? Don't undervalue your own needs in all this.
7. Is There Someone Else?
This is like the second part of the "Are we exclusive?" question, and it can be a tough one to ask. But ask anyway. "I think people are much better off asking present-oriented questions like, 'Are you dating other people at the moment?' You’re just asking about the here and now. If someone is uncomfortable with present-oriented questions, I think that’s a red flag," said sex therapist Michael Aaron, Ph.D., in Women's Health. It's tough, sure, but asking these questions gives you a better sense of the relationship overall. You'll know what the SO thinks about cheating, exclusivity, and relationships in general. And that, of course, is great info to have going forward in any relationship.
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