One of the things that I discovered through various relationships and not just romantically, is that you can share information about yourself but as soon as it leaves your mouth, you have no control over how it will be perceived and what impact it will make on that relationship.
I remember a couple of exes telling me that because of my fraught relationship with my mother back then, that there must be something “wrong” with me. I told another ex all the things that bugged me about the previous ex and he adjusted his behaviour, something that to be fair, many people do when they’re eager to win over a partner but it can be quite manipulative if it crosses into a territory of being 1) deceptive and 2) covert abuse.
In lighter terms, the ‘adjusting’ is as simple as being on a date with someone and them telling you that they were always arguing, not getting enough sex, and feeling quite neglected with their ex. Next thing you know, you’re cautious about avoiding conflict, think you need to be riding them like a pony 24/7, and you’re in overdrive pandering to their every need. We forget then that although these issues may have been real, it doesn’t mean that they’re the true reasons that broke the relationship or that if you’re the polar opposite that you’ll ‘win’ them.
I’m frequently asked how to deal with sharing past experiences or ‘revealing’ insecurities – the healthiest type of information sharing is the type that doesn’t have the quiet agenda of generating a specific emotion or action out of a person. Whatever you impart, you’re comfortable with it, you’re at peace with it (or are on the way to being so), and it’s part of your emotional honesty.
There’s nothing wrong with talking about your past or even your insecurities (to a point) because it’s part of what broadens the depth of knowledge about one another, but if you share for misguided reasons it will backfire. Probably spectacularly.
In fact, in the wrong hands, this misguided sharing can be the equivalent of handing someone the blueprints to screw you over.
The key is to understand your motivations. Are you trying to draw sympathy? Are you trying to draw empathy but actually getting it mixed up and still trying to draw sympathy? Are you even being manipulative in that you hope that this new found knowledge will quietly coerce them into changing their position or even their behaviour/character? Are you trying to warn them?
Often when people ‘share’ their past, hurt or insecurity, it’s like “Please don’t hurt me!” or “You can’t or at least you shouldn’t hurt me because look what at what happened to me!”
From personal experience and listening to many stories, what we don’t realise when we ‘overshare’ is that somewhere we feel a need to impart this information because we suspect that we have reason to be cautious.
Rather than lay out all of your insecurities and pour out various ‘Hurt Stories’, it would be better to address the insecurities and make peace with the painful incidences so that when you do talk about these things, you’re talking about something that’s in the past. It’s very difficult to evaluate a relationship on its merits and know whether you’re dealing with a present or past insecurity or issue, when you’re carting your baggage from relationship to relationship. It’s like you’re together for a while and then one night, you show up with all of these extra bags. “What’s in there?” they ask. “Oh just some problems I need to make you aware of because I’d really like not to be hurt again so I’m going to tell you in the hope that if you were thinking about hurting me, you’ll change your mind” you reply.
We all have pasts and sometimes, they’re ones that we’re not proud of, that we have some regrets or embarrassment about, or that still impact us. That said, while your past experiences can contribute somewhat to who you are, they don’t represent all of who you are and can actually distort you.
They’re getting to know you. Anything you’re telling them should be done so organically and not the equivalent of vomiting out your insecurities and your past so you can get it out on the table before either of you get too comfy. I know I’ve been guilty of saying some stuff because it was like “OK they’re definitely going to turn into an asshole now that they know this”, as if I was trying to force the self-fulfilling prophecy.
Also never allow yourself to be coerced into sharing or find yourself having to apologise repeatedly for something you did ages ago because both overstep your boundaries and they cannot control the uncontrollable. You cannot ‘make it up to them’ for a past that they weren’t a part of.
How your past or insecurity comes out has a lot to do with where you are with it. A number of readers have said they’re embarrassed about being married a few times or being with a few jackasses. If you talk like you’re ashamed, you’re setting yourself up to fail. You’ll also find that we’ve all got at least one ghost of shady relationship past in our closet – I’ve practically got a little cemetery going on!
Instead of going into intricate detail about your exes (you shouldn’t be talking about them on the first 1-3 dates anyway as you have better things to talk about), the simple answer is “We wanted different things.” This is 100% true. This is a lot better than “They were a psycho” or pouring out your life story. Detail, where needed can be gradually added later. I’ve found that buffering what you disclose with contrasting who you were then with who you are now, also clarifies that you’ve moved on from it.
When I told the boyf about the guy with the girlfriend, I felt slightly embarrassed about it but more in a “I can’t believe how silly I was and what an awful mistake” way as opposed to “I’m so ashamed and I may not be good enough for you.”
Don’t Fast Forward unloading your past and insecurities – it’s best to establish a relationship, to gradually get to know one another, to gradually share, and to have positive, healthy experiences in the relationship that build your trust. You should obviously disclose anything of direct relevance to this relationship like a STD, convictions, that spouse you forgot to mention somewhere, etc. The rest comes out organically – you’ll always find out new things about one another. You will find that you can talk about your past or even your insecurities with more confidence when you have a secure footing in the relationship because you know each other enough for it not to impact.
That said – as I explained in the last post, don’t offload all of your insecurities as it makes for a very toxic atmosphere that will increase your insecurity. They’re your insecurities to address. Unless the insecurities are about them and related specifically to things that are currently happening in your relationship, you telling them that you’re insecure because an ex did something in 2005 will only tell them that you’re not over this situation. They can’t prove themselves to correct someone else’s eff up. You have to judge them on the merits of their own actions and the relationship.
They’re getting to know you. If you’re emotionally honest, authentic, and living congruently with your values so that words and actions match, they’ll ‘get you’ without you having to do the equivalent of doing the entire Dynasty boxset of your past and a Powerpoint presentation on your insecurities. Your past is a part of you, but not all of you.
Check out my book and ebook Mr Unavailable and the Fallback Girl in my bookshop.
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