She Said, He Said: Clearing up the past

Lori Ann Kret and Jeff Cole
She said, he said

Dear Lori and Jeff,

My boyfriend and I have been together for a little over a year. We met when I moved to the valley from the West Coast. I didn’t really know anyone in this new community and I really enjoyed his group of friends, so I quickly became part of the gang. A few weeks ago I found out that my boyfriend had had a pretty intense relationship with one of the other women in the group but no one, including my boyfriend, bothered to tell me about it. I don’t feel like I need to know their entire history, but the parts that could affect me in the present day seem to be important information for me to have. He says it’s in the past and he no longer has feelings for her, but I think I should have been told as our relationship became more serious. Any thoughts?


Unknowing Friend Of His Ex


Lori and Jeff: Don’t panic, get curious. It’s absolutely possible that their relationship fully ran its course and landed in a place of full closure for both. It’s common for friends, simply because of the amount of time they spend in close proximity, to try dating. And it’s equally common for these pairs to realize that for myriad reasons, they’re not destined for the long term. So the simple fact that there was a relationship in the past doesn’t necessarily mean there’s anything to be concerned about. And instead of allowing this issue to drive you apart, take this as an opportunity to positively impact your future together.

Lori: Many readers would immediately jump to his deceit (whether active or passive), and leave the conversation at that. But being in a healthy, long-term relationship often requires that at every bump in the road, both partners take a moment to self reflect. This situation is not your responsibility, but it might be helpful for your own personal evolution to explore if there are any ways in which you may have contributed to the dynamic. Have you had a tendency to be jealous or insecure? Have your actions or reactions conveyed to your partner that he needs to protect you from uncomfortable information? Have you been critical or judgmental in ways that may make him protective of himself in the relationship? If you’re not sure, ask him. Be clear that you’re willing to hear his feedback and understand that his perception of you may be different from your own. Yes, it is his responsibility to communicate with you, but in relationships, there’s also a responsibility to create a safe place for those words to land.

Jeff: It seems as though you are not satisfied with your boyfriend’s explanation of why he didn’t tell you about this past relationship. The first step to resolve this issue is to get clear about what you’re wanting from him now. Are you looking for a confession? Do you believe he was trying to hide his relationship from you and now you want him to admit his dishonesty? Do you want him to help you navigate your relationship with the other woman now that the dynamics of the group have changed? Are you wanting him to choose between you and the group? You’ll need to figure out the answers to questions like these or you’ll end up creating a situation that could cause a great deal of resentment for both of you. It would have been better if he’d been more transparent with you once your relationship began to get serious, but the reality is that he wasn’t, and no one can change that. What’s important is that you get clear on what your needs are moving forward and have an honest discussion with him to see if he can help work toward meeting those needs.

Lori and Jeff: Past partners can often cause tension within present relationships, even when there is full disclosure. In situations where it feels like there was some aspect of withholding or deceit, the resolution becomes that much more challenging. Clarify and communicate your specific needs and boundaries, but also be willing to let the past lie where it belongs.

Lori and Jeff are married, licensed psychotherapists and couple-to-couple coaches at Aspen Relationship Institute. Visit for all previous She Said, He Said columns.