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How to approach the sexual history ‘body count’ conversation with a partner


We all have a number (Pictures: Getty)

Getting to know a new partner is fun and exciting – there’s the date nights, lingering eye contact and the deepening emotional connection.

But diving into the nitty gritty of previous sexual partners can be a tricky topic.

Of course, everyone has a ‘body count’ number – and some individuals want to know, while others don’t.

So how do you even go about approaching this conversation? And do you really need to have it?

Ask too soon and things could get intense very quickly, or leave it too long and you might feel you’ve missed your opportunity – or assume the worse and self-sabotage the relationship.

We’ve asked experts if this conversation is a necessity and, for those who want to ask, how to go about it. This is what they had to say:

Keep it light

Psychotherapist Noel McDermott says it’s good idea to get it out the way sooner rather than later, but do so in a non-dramatic way. 

He tells Metro.co.uk: ‘Sex is ideally a fun activity and framing it as a dramatic or dark thing from the past is the opposite of this. 

‘Avoid “I think we should have a serious talk about our sexual history”, in fact it’s probably best to go with the whole romantic dinner and candles.

‘Assume it’s going to be a fun. If difficult issues do come up, then a loving and fun atmosphere is more likely to help with that.’

Remember what actually matters

If you really like your partner, then it’s important to think about what knowing their ‘number’ will mean to you. 

Will it make you feel better or worse?

Also, if the number is higher than you expected, is that really something you would consider ending a relationship over?

Noel adds: ‘Sexual history in terms of experiences, assumptions and feelings about sex is more important than simple numbers. 

‘In fact, there is little relevance to numbers at all – unless there was a history of hyper-sexual behaviour. 

‘What’s crucial is looking for shared beliefs and feelings about what is good sex and how to make yourself and your partner happy in terms of desires and wishes.’

However, on the flip side, talking about previous sexual history really is important in a health context – especially if sex has been unprotected. 

Noel says: ‘The other issue is about health and whether or not there are any medical issues that need to be shared. It may be difficult to talk for example about having genital warts/HPV, but it is important to be open to allow your partner to make informed decisions about sex. 

‘There is an old saying that it is never about the thing, it’s about trying to hide the thing. Lack of trust in your partner and lying to them will cause significant harm in your intimacy.’

Take time to process

Let yourself process the information, before you react (Picture: Getty)

It’s difficult to know exactly how anyone will react to new information. So try not to take your initial reaction at face value – make sure there’s time for processing on both parts. 

Noel adds: ‘Remember you have had a lot more time to process your stuff than your partner has and immediate reactions of fear, or shock etc, from them will almost always fade to be replaced with compassion and love. 

‘Similarly, if your partner raises issues you find difficult, try first to give yourself permission to feel them and second not to become reactive.

‘Kicking things into the long grass is always an option if you feel some overwhelm, you could say: “you know, I don’t know what I feel right now about X as I need time to process the information/I love you and understand this was difficult to raise and you took a risk.” 

‘These types of responses reduce the risk or reactive escalation and give you time to process and get support.’

Approach it in a loving context

Noel adds the key to this type of talk is to frame it within a loving context. 

He says: ‘If you do have things to share that you find difficult,  set the scene with signalling gentleness, love and emotional intimacy and this will help you and your partner not to be reactive but supportive. 

‘Again, if you have difficult things to share, be open to your partner having mixed and confusing feelings.’

Take a moment to think about consequences

‘It can also be very triggering for some people to hear about their partner’s sexual past,’ says Dr Becky Spelman, a psychologist and clinical director for Private Therapy Clinic.

She adds that while you might feel open and relaxed about having the conversation in the beginning, you should also be prepared to hear an answer you might not like.

Think about what’s right for you as a couple

The truth is the conversation doesn’t have to happen for you, just because other couples have spoken about it.

Becky adds: ‘If the answer is likely to make you or your partner anxious then it’s best to steer clear of the topic.

‘Focus on the future rather than the past and perhaps discuss other important issues such as sexual preferences and thoughts on monogamy.’

Do you have a story to share?

Get in touch by emailing MetroLifestyleTeam@Metro.co.uk.


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