The beginning of a new relationship is a time of discovery, in which you get to unearth everything there is to know about this new person in your life - the good, the bad, and sometimes the downright ugly.
But when it comes to sex, - and more precisely, the number of people you have had sex with, - how much do we really want to know?
And does sharing (or not sharing) make a happy future together more likely?
“Whether or not you choose to tell you partner is entirely your decision,” says Peter Saddington, counsellor at relationship charity Relate.
“It is most likely to depend on how much you tend to share with others.”
“What you’re comfortable to share is influenced by many things, including: your culture or religious beliefs; the degree of security in your relationship and your own feelings about your sexual history,” Saddington adds.
So, we asked relationships about the benefits and potential pitfalls you should consider before deciding to lay bare your sexual history.
What are the positives of telling your partner?
You don’t have to waste energy keeping it secret.
When you are regularly sharing intimate aspects of your life, it might feel like withholding this one piece of personal information is using up a lot of mental energy.
Sarah Ryan, a dating expert who runs a matchmaking agency, believes opening up can help take your relationship to the next level:
“Any relationship that is set to last is built on two fundamental things - trust and respect. I think that comes with sharing as much about you as you possibly can, inclusive of sexual history,” she said.
“If you are in a relationship with someone that you want to run the distance then why hold back on previous partners and experiences?
“Holding back on things in life actually takes more energy than sharing and letting it go.”
Your past experiences are part of who you are today.
Undoubtedly your past romantic and sexual experiences play a part in shaping who you are as a person, and how you behave in relationships, so it might provide important context or understanding for your partner.
“While past experiences don’t determine your future, they certainly shape who you are today and surely your partner wants to know as much about you as possible, inclusive of divulging sexual liaisons; especially if it’s a serious relationship,” says Ryan.
Honesty is the best policy in relationships.
It might sound cliché, but honesty is often the best policy. And although withholding doesn’t necessarily mean you are being dishonest with your partner, you might find it means you have to tell a few little white lies along the way. Wouldn’t it be easier if they just knew?
“From my perspective honesty is the best policy and you should be an open book with your partner as much as possible, wherever possible,” says Ryan.
What are the negatives of telling your partner?
It might change how you perceive each other.
We all know that the number of people your partner has slept with shouldn’t make a difference to your current relationship - after all it is ancient history.
But you should be mindful of your own feelings towards casual sex, ‘promiscuous’ behaviour, or lack thereof, before you go digging around for information.
“If you ask your partner how many people they’ve slept with and they tell you, try not to judge them,” advises Saddington. “You wanted to know after all.
“If they’d rather not tell you, it’s fine to ask why this is, but don’t push them into it and respect their privacy if they say they’d rather not.
“If your partner judges you for the number of people you’ve slept with, consider that this says a lot more about them and their own insecurities and prejudices than it does about you.”
It could be a sign that your partner is too controlling.
When you are making the decision about whether to open up, bear in mind that you don’t owe your partner this information and you have a right to keep it private if you choose to do so.
If your partner casually enquires about this, then there is no need to be concerned, but if they pressure you into ’fessing up, be mindful of their agenda.
“It is worth asking yourself, or even asking them directly, why it is they want to know,” says Saddington.
“When they ask you the question, if it feels intrusive or uncomfortable, you’ll know instinctively. If they push you into saying it, this can be the sign of a controlling relationship.
“A sign of a healthy relationship is feeling like you can tell your partner if you want to, but not feeling like you have to.”
Giving an arbitrary number means nothing.
At the end of the day, a number is a number, so make sure you don’t torture yourself too much with this arbitrary marker of ‘sexual experience’, because we all know that how many notches you have on the bed post doesn’t determine how good one is in bed.
“Giving a specific number of people you have slept with might not achieve very much - unless they want to know,” says Ryan.
“It all really depends on the context and understanding exactly why they want to know.
“If it’s relevant to understanding what you both do and don’t like sexually then that’s important for physically communicating between the sheets, but if it’s about tallying up who is more ‘sexually experienced’ then this will achieve nothing for your relationship.”
How should you share this information?
If you have decided you do want to share this information, be careful about how you approach doing so.
Before sharing the information, talk about whether you both want to know. Otherwise you might be left feeling like you’ve shown your hand too quickly.
Ask yourself how important the numbers really are to you, how will you feel if your number was higher or lower than theirs? Would you rather not know at all?
Finally, remember what is worth sharing: “Going into details about who, where, when, what positions you did it in and the size of their various body parts may not be helpful,” advises Saddington.
It’s also worth considering the privacy of the people who you slept with - how would you feel if somebody was dishing the dirt on you with their current SO?