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Handling Past Relationships

Dear Dr. Bill: This may seem like a "no brainer," but I'd like to have your opinion anyway. I am currently engaged and have had a few relationships before this one that never resulted in marriage. As a result, I have some pictures of former girlfriends. I don't like the thought of destroying those photos; but at the same time I know I'd be bothered if my fiancé pulled out pictures of her former boyfriends. What do you think?

I believe there is a way to strike a healthy balance on this issue. I don't think you necessarily need to destroy photos of old girlfriends, but at the same time, you shouldn't be "pulling them out" to show your fiancé. I think a lot depends on the type of photo involved. Photos taken of you and your old girlfriends together could be considered cherished memories, especially if those relationships ended on a fairly positive note. On the other hand, it's not a good idea to keep portraits or glamour shots of old flames…hanging on to photos like those can only lead to trouble.

That being said, what's critical in this situation is not what I think, but what your fiancé thinks. Hopefully you have the sort of relationship where you can discuss this question openly and honestly. If you don't, I would consider that to be a major red flag.

If you feel that you are unable to talk to your fiancé about an issue like this, your relationship obviously needs some work before you head into marriage. If you're hesitant to discuss the photos because you fear that she would be intensely jealous, that is definitely a cause for concern. On the other hand, if you are comfortable bringing this up and your fiancé simply prefers that you don't keep the photos, I would honor her wishes.

I hope that's helpful. By the way, you may have heard me mention in the past that I'm a major proponent of pre-marital counseling. Most couples today spend thousands of dollars on their wedding day but don't invest anything in the future of their marriage relationship.

I suggest that every engaged couple participate in a structured premarital counseling program that includes personality testing. You can learn more about premarital counseling by contacting our counseling department here at Focus on the Family.

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