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Listen to point she’s making, not the details

Carolyn Hax Creators Syndicate

Dear Carolyn: At 32, I obviously have a bit of history. At 30, my fiancée has some as well. Fine. Dandy. But how many times can I ask her to leave the past in the past before my frustration makes me want to try to eat my own face?

Translation: She feels her past has made her who she is, she values her experiences and has learned a lot from them, so therefore keeps them very near the surface – as in, she brings up former dudes all the time. I feel the exact same way about the past, except that each of us learns from our own experiences. I would rather not learn from hers. Talking about old boyfriends is fine, I would just rather not know every little detail about every guy she’s hooked up with.

I have told her this repeatedly, but she gets mad at me because of how important her past is to her. I don’t want to hurt her feelings by telling her to flat-out zip it, but I’ve told her I also don’t want to her to hurt my feelings by continually bringing up other guys. She even complains that since we got engaged some of her former dudes have been acting “weird” around her. Would it be wrong to let her know I don’t give a rat’s behind about her former dudes’ behavior? – MoveOn.exes in Arlington

Beats eating your own face.

It’s also how you feel, so better that it’s out there – even flat-outly – than quietly turning to rage.

But before you blow: You’ve obviously given a lot of good thought to your opinion of having and handling a past. Have you given the same to hers?

You say she “values her experiences.” But I see the same facts – her having a history, and dwelling on it, and defending her right to dwell on it – and I see the awareness of how her engagement is playing among her admirers (!), and I think: Wow she sounds insecure.

People who feel desirable don’t need to tell you how desirable they are. Or were.

You know her, I don’t, and whether I’m right or wrong, you still need to say how you feel. But you already know what you want from this talk; taking a step back from what she says, to get a better look at what she’s saying, might help you anticipate the most she’ll be able to give.

Dear Carolyn: How important, if at all, is it for couples (either one or both) to tell about parts or all of their past if they are dating or plan on marriage? For an example, if one of their previous marriages ended due to alcohol, drugs, cheating, whatever: Should that be told, and when? – A.

Yes, and, if you have to ask, probably now.

But the edification of your partner is only half the reason to tell. (Although it’s a compelling half; people deserve to know whom they’re with and a general idea of how they got there.)

The other half is to save you from eternal concern that you’re one truth away from being dumped. There are many things worse than being alone, and that kind of suspense is one of them.

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