Carolyn Hax: Exes reunite — but what happened while they were apart?

Carolyn Hax
Columnist September 25, 2013

Dear Carolyn:

I am currently considering getting back together with an ex. We were together for more than three years, then were separated for more than a year. We recently spent a wonderful weekend together in the Caribbean after we both expressed that we missed each other and wanted to try again.

Carolyn Hax started her advice column in 1997, after five years as a copy editor and news editor in Style and none as a therapist. The column includes cartoons by "relationship cartoonist" Nick Galifianakis -- Carolyn's ex-husband -- and appears in over 200 newspapers. View Archive

We both seem to be curious about one another’s love lives while we were separated — I suppose this is somewhat natural. He says it doesn’t really matter what I did during our time apart, but he just wants to know the truth. I’ve also asked him some questions because I also wanted to know the truth, although to be honest, I might have preferred that he lied.

He is from a traditional background, as am I, and although I did not do anything I am ashamed of, I just feel like providing details is more hurtful than anything else.

Do you think full disclosure is necessary in this situation, and do you think it is within my rights to not disclose? We have both been tested for STIs and are clean, if that matters. Do you think it says something about our relationship that I am unwilling to fully disclose?


(Nick Galifianakis/For The Washington Post)

Anonymous

“Clean” says something about your view of people who test positive. There aren’t two types of sexually active people, “clean” and “dirty,” there is only one type, “sexually active.” Maybe you already think this way, but it is important to those who don’t dodge the bullet to make the effort also to talk this way.

Needed to get that off my chest.

As for your urge to ask for details and your discomfort with the details themselves: Figure yourselves out, then figure each other out. Any details will be needless distractions without that crucial self-knowledge.

Meaning, understand exactly why you’re curious about each other’s “love lives,” preferably before you start asking. Does either of you, for example, think sexual involvement would reflect poorly on the other’s character? Is it about health? Is your curiosity really just rubbernecking? Do you think there’s a difference between having one sex partner during that year-plus and having two or three? What about two or three vs. 10? Do you regard any recent exes as rivals?

Once each of you knows what you’re trying to find out, then you’ll see — I hope — not only that specifics are gratuitous but also that requesting them is needlessly invasive. (As is calling it “the truth,” as if wanting facts for the sake of facts isn’t just voyeurism with a side of agenda.)

Why? Because if you want to know whether there are lingering attachments, then you simply ask that. If you want to know whether you (still) have similar values, then you ask that. If you want to know whether you agree on what is and isn’t each other’s business, then you ask that. If you want to know about health, then, as you did, you get tested. All of the answers are available by some means other than knowing who did what with whom.

As for what it says about your relationship that you’re unwilling to disclose, that depends. Is there a reaction you fear that he’s going to have or that you can’t handle? You can ask him about that, too.

Write to Carolyn Hax, Style, 1150 15th St. NW, Washington, D.C. 20071, or tellme@washpost.com. Sign up for Carolyn Hax’s column, delivered to your inbox early each morning, at http://bit.ly/haxpost.

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