Getting to know someone is all part of the fun of dating. From favorite foods to favorite sports teams and everything in between, part of the fun is in the discovery of everything new about this new person. But when should you ask about a person’s criminal background or other more sensitive information? While it may feel awkward to have these conversations, the answer is sooner rather than later.
Part of the problem is that we are naturally conflict avoidant. We don’t want to ask questions that seem rude or imply that someone may have done something wrong in the past. Often it isn’t until we’re further into a relationship that we even feel comfortable asking these questions – but by then it might be too late. Simply trusting what you can (or can’t) find online is not always the answer, either. Just because you cannot find a person’s criminal history online doesn’t mean that person hasn’t been arrested, for example. In the age of technology, too often we rely too heavily on technology and do not want to ask the hard questions.
So how and when should you ask? You should ask as soon as you decide that you would like to keep seeing this person, and especially before you decide to sleep with this person. Yes, that puts the pressure on finding answers up front and early on. But there is an easy way to begin this conversation. Simply start by asking “How much do you want to us to know about each other?” Lead by example, and expect your partner to follow. This will all depend on how much information you feel you need to know in the relationship. Some people feel that the past is the past and they do not want to know anything about past lovers or incidents. Others feel that “full disclosure” is the way to go, and that you can never be truly close as a couple if you do not have that kind of openness. So first, establish for yourself how much information you need the other person to tell you.
Once you find that ground, lead by example. If you want to know about your partner’s sexual past, particularly the thorny ground of STDs, begin by stating when you were last tested for STDs. This opens the conversation up for your partner. If he or she hasn’t been tested and it’s been a while since you were as well, why not suggest you go together? The same is true for criminal acts. Lead by suggesting a time when maybe you had done something you weren’t entirely proud of.
If you aren’t getting any of the information you need to feel like you have full disclosure in the relationship, take that as the sign it is meant to be and move on.