Does Body Count Matter? (And Why You Might Want to Think Twice Before Sharing!)
Whether you've spent years fully submerged in the dating pool or you've just hit the apps after a long term, monogamous relationship, one of the questions that will always come up as things start to get serious is, does body count matter and do I need to share my number?
There's always curiosity around the number, but that doesn't mean it's necessarily something that will lead to a healthy discussion. To find out exactly how to think about body count, whether it matters and if and how to share that number, we asked two experts for their thoughts and how they approach the topic with couples who are grappling with this same question.
In this article:
What is a Body Count?
In short, the body count definition is the number of sexual partners a person has had. However, what exactly that means isn't always clear. "Body count is a term that can be both straightforward and nuanced, as the interpretation of what constitutes as sex can vary from person to person. For some, it might only include penetrative sex, while for others, it could encompass a broader range of intimate activities," explains Holly Wood, PhD(c), Sex Therapist at Bedbible.com.
Never assume that your definition of a sexual encounter is the same as your partner. As with all things, Dr. Karen Stewart, PsyD, recommends clear questions to receive clear answers. "Ask your question directly. Coded communication is not communication," says Stewart.
Does Body Count Matter in a Relationship?
To help explain whether body count really matters in a relationship, Stewart advises her clients to think about why they want to know. "Why do you feel you need this information? How is it going to help you and your relationship? What is it going to do for you?," asks Stewart. Typically, the answer is that nothing positive is going to come from it. Knowing the number does not impact how their partner treats them today, and while those experiences helped shape them, they are not relevant to their current relationship.
"It should not matter who or what your partner did prior to meeting you," says Stewart. If someone is bothered by their partner's body count, that is typically not reflective of the partner or their number. "You may want to look internally at what is actually bothering you and address that within yourself," explains Stewart.
How Body Count Can Impact a Relationship
Wood explains that while past experiences do not have bearing on a current relationship, they don't feel entirely irrelevant for some people. "For some, this information may carry emotional weight, potentially influencing feelings of intimacy and trust. The key lies in mutual respect and understanding, acknowledging that everyone has a past and what truly matters is the present and future you're building together."
Should You Share Your Body Count?
"As a sex and relationship therapist, I have been asked this question by countless individuals and couples in therapy," says Stewart. My personal opinion is that nothing good can come from asking this question!" She notes that this can be relevant if it impacts sexual safety. Even in those cases, however, it's not that number that matters, but the precautions and testing that come with it.
Meanwhile, Wood explains that some people may want to share their body count. "Choosing to share your body count with your partner is deeply personal and entirely up to you," says Wood. "It's crucial to approach this decision with an understanding that you have the autonomy to share or withhold this information based on what feels right for you." Wood advises that if your partner decides to open up, you should allow them to do so freely and without judgment. This is an opportunity for mutual respect, regardless of whether you also decide to share.
If It Comes Up, How Should You Have that Conversation?
Wood recommends approaching the conversation with care and the ability to listen. "Begin by expressing your reasons for wanting to share this part of your history, emphasizing that your intention is to foster greater openness and trust."
But Stewart reiterates that it is not necessary for this to be a two-sided conversation. She recommends those who are uncomfortable with the topic simply state that they don't feel it should impact their current relationship and, while they're not trying to withhold information, they also do not see it as beneficial. "Owning your boundaries is a key component of a healthy relationship," says Stewart.
What Do You Do if Body Count Becomes an Issue?
Before it becomes an issue, Stewart again recommends that people think about why they need to know. "What's behind your need to know? That's wherein lies the real juice of the question," says Stewart.
And, if things go awry because someone has a higher body count number or a lower body count number, it's time to sit with and understand those feelings. "If you've already asked and now you need to figure out what to do with the feelings it has conjured up, perhaps you seek couples counseling to learn healthy boundaries and communication skills that will enhance your relationship," says Stewart.
Wood advises that if the number has been shared and it becomes a point of contention, it's important to look at the underlying issues. " Often, issues stem from insecurities, fear of judgment, different beliefs about sex or differing values. Seek the guidance of a therapist or counselor to navigate these conversations constructively, ensuring that both partners feel heard and respected."