A very close friend of mine said whenever she gets asked by a new guy she is dating about how many men she had dated, her answer had always been “the guy before you and now you”. This seemingly innocent question can sometimes have some very disturbing motives behind it as many women who have been in abusive relationships have observed that the information they gave had been used against them as the relationship progressed. The question then is are you obliged to disclose how many people you have been with when you go into a new relationship? Also, to those that ask the question, what is the purpose of this information for the future of the new relationship?
While I think it is fine to ask why a person’s last relationship ended – if you are serious about the person you are dating, I think this question is very different to asking someone how many people they had been with before dating you. The feedback I got whiles investigating this topic was that when most people ask their new partners how many people they had dated, what they were actually asking is what their ‘body count’ (number of people they had had sex with) is. I asked most of the people I spoke to what they thought the reason was behind this questions and 7 out of ten advised that at the time they gave an answer to this question, they never thought it would be used against them but it was and sometimes in the most humiliating way.
Not everyone ends up with the first person they dated – as a matter of fact, it is very rare to end up with the first person you date in today’s world. In every stage of life, we evolve and change and what was important to one person at the beginning of a relationship may not necessarily be relevant as time goes on and people change, sometimes not for the best, so we end relationships and move on with our lives. But in certain cultures, a person who had had multiple relationships is sometimes viewed in a bad way and people are quick to jump to conclusions about them being promiscuous. I particularly find that when a woman had been in several relationships, then she is viewed as morally bankrupt and percived a certain way.
A young woman told me how she would tell the new person she was dating about her past relationships. From what she told me, he seemed at the beginning to want to understand her as a person so she did not give much thought to what the motives were behind the question and she answered in honesty. It was not long into the relationship that he started acting controlling and throwing insults at her insinuating that she was sleeping around. She added that whenever he started behaving this way, she would initially try to ask where these accusations were coming from and his answer would always be her reply from when he had asked her about how many men she had been with. This man seemed to have no self awareness that perhaps it was behaviours like his that had led people to end their relationships and try to find love else where – therefore increasing the number of people they had dated.
A friend of mine said that when he asks about the past relationships of a potential partner, he normally wants to know how things ended to help him gage if there were any issues being carried over by this person into their new relationship. He added that he was not interested in the number of sexual partners the other person had had. His focus is more on the character of the person – there was absolutely nothing he would do with the information they gave him about how many people they had been with. To him, it would be a deal breaker if there is no tangible reason given as to why his potential new partner required this information – he saw this as a sign of insecurity. If the person wanted to volunteer the information then that is entirely up to them.
There have also been others who have argued that when they ask this question, it is to get an understanding of where their partners are coming from and it is simply to understand them. I don’t think there is a wrong or right answer to this but I think from my write up, you can see my stance on the issue. Perhaps as time progresses in a relationship and trust has been built on both sides, I may be comfortable to share such information. For those that simply want to understand their partners past by knowing how many sexual partners they have had, I am keen to know when it is the right time in the relationship to ask this question – I would love for you to get in touch and share your thoughts on this.
I do not think the number of sexual partners a person has had should be the decisive factor in whether they deserve love or respect. There are so many reasons that drive people to make the choices they make and the person one may have been a month ago may not be who they are today. Yes, maybe knowing the number would help you paint a picture of the risk you are taking by going into this relationship and I am very much aware that sex addiction is an issue people deal with. However, every relationship is a risk and I think it falls on the person being asked if they are comfortable to answer such a question and most importantly, what the purpose of the question is. In the event you decide to ask such a question, be sure to explain why you would like to know and why it is important to you. If you are asking to use as ammunition in the future, then think again about how your actions may damage the other person.
I would love to hear from you and your experiences – please get in tough and let’s effect change through our shared experiences.