Dear Rabbi Shmuley,
Where do you draw the line when it comes to disclosing your past relationships to your current relationship? If you are in a serious relationship, do you let that person know you are in contact with your ex-lovers, or should you wait till something comes up? What is the protocol?
--Still in Touch

Dear Still in Touch,

You're asking an excellent question. First of all, I'm not so sure you should be in contact with your ex-lovers. Most people assuage either the guilt or the pain of a broken relationship by converting it into friendship. Men especially, when they break up with a woman, enjoy keeping them as friends because that way they can justify the breakup. "See, we're all better off now," they say. "We work better as friends than as lovers." In reality, they probably got bored and wanted to move on, but didn't want to feel like jerks who treat women callously.

I am a great believer in clean breaks. You dated, it didn't work out, it's sad, now move on. Cut off all but the most cordial contact. Stop the canard that you can now be friends because you were never friends. It was much more serious than that. You were lovers. And keeping contact with former lovers often obstructs you from moving on with your romantic life.

So I have to encourage you to minimize, to whatever capacity you are capable of, contact with former flames.

But until you do so, it is not a good idea to bring up past relationships with your current boyfriend or girlfriend until the new relationship is at least several months old, and is built on a sturdy foundation. Why bring up the ghosts of lovers past? At best it will seem to your new paramour that you are trying to make him jealous. At worst it will seem to him that you have not truly moved on, and that you may even be subtly comparing them. It is insulting for any man or woman to have to compete with someone you were once romantically involved with and it may serve to undermine the growing intimacy that should be developing between you. To be honest, it will also seem to the new person that you are dating that you are indecisive and don't quite know what you want.

In my book "Kosher Adultery" I discuss how Czar Nicholas II of Russia told his fiancé, the future Czarina Alexandra, all about his previous lovers. He did so in order to come clean and be a better husband. But all it did was cause her enormous pain, and she wondered why he had acted so stupidly. Women don't want to hear about a man's previous sexual partners. In fact, they want him to forget about them completely.

Only after you have truly built a relationship of trust should you bring up previous relationships, and then only as a matter of confiding and sharing previous experiences in order to draw closer. But even then, I can assure you that few people you date or get serious with are going to be ok with your being in constant communication with exes.

Successful relationships are built in intense focus, and you have to minimize every possible distraction.

So cut it off with the others, devote yourself completely to the person you are now seeing, and move on in your romantic life.


Rabbi Shmuley

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