| February 9, 2017

The past is the past when it comes to relationships. And, of course, we have to respect our partner’s privacy and boundaries. So if they don’t like talking about their past relationships, or offer very little information, that's the end of that.

But what if you’re dating someone new and you’re dying to know who and how they dated in the past? You don’t want to appear suspicious and insecure; you’re just … curious.

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While the experts agree that deceit can be dangerous — and you definitely don’t want to lose your partner’s trust — there are ways to obtain information about a partner's dating history without looking like a total stalker.

#1: Start with elicitation.

This is the art of coaxing information out of someone without their knowing it, says B.D. Foley, a retired CIA operations officer and the author of "CIA Street Smarts for Women." "Direct questions will only cause a [man/player] to be defensive, evasive, or more on-guard. Elicitation can draw them out subtly, and is really the only effective way to vet someone, to learn his true intentions, to find out about his past."

Flattery: An elicitation ploy begins with compliments. Open the door to his ego. "It will uncover arrogance if he drones on about his accomplishments, or exploits, which might include his multiple partners. (for example, [saying something like] 'A handsome guy like you has probably had a lot of girlfriends.') An arrogant jerk might let slip that he has had many women," says Foley.

Attribution: This ploy consists of telling him, "I heard that …"  "It can be something as innocent as 'I heard from some classmates that you have slept with a lot of women.' The thought that she already knows, from a source, could compel him to confess, thinking that it is too late to lie," says Foley.  Or, try mixing attribution with a little flattery by saying, "I heard that you hooked up with five girls in just your senior year." He might feel compelled to correct the record by saying something like, "Nope, it was 15," Foley adds.

Assumption: We don’t want you assuming the worst in your partner, but this is an easy way to get more details on their past. "You can just make an assumption based upon looks, physique, or what frat/sorority they belonged to. "Example: 'My roommate dated one of your teammates; you guys are players.' Again, it is harder for him to deny something that is established, in his mind, than just asking him a direct question such as 'Have you had sex with a lot of women?'" says Foley.

#2. Plan an evening with their friends.

Relationship expert Audrey Hope suggest going out with both girl and guy friends, and listening for signs. "Do your best to bring up your partner’s past in conversation with them, but don’t be too obvious about it. Mix it up with newer topics about life today, and then revert to older ones about life then," she says.  Even better, Hope says try to go with your partner to their class reunions.

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#3. Have dinner with your partner’s parents.

We know how moms love to share stories about their baby boy.  "She may say something like, 'Oh, we had such a hard time with him/her five years ago.' These are the keys that will start to put a story together. Also, getting chummy with their sister or brother is always a safe bet as well, especially since siblings tend to embarrass one another by spilling the beans on everything!' says Hope.

#4. Patiently probe the past.

You can find out a lot by asking subtle questions about his or her exes in appropriate contexts. It's a gradual process, but it allows you to piece together information on past flings. "This slow, patient approach might even give your partner the space to actually open up about the past in a meaningful way. This method, while requiring patience, has the advantage of not requiring any stalking at all," says dating coach Jonathan Bennett.

#5. Take advantage of publicly provided information.

In other words, Google them. Look at work websites, blogs, and any articles and reports that may pop up. "While some might consider that to be stalking, there’s nothing wrong with examining what your partner posted with the express purpose of showing the world anyway. It's unfair to use the word 'stalking' when your new partner decides to look at all the stuff you freely and happily shared with the world," says Bennett.

READ: How Your Crazy Family Can Ruin Your Relationship

#6. Social media may be the answer to your prayers.

Even if your partner has deleted all online proof of their ex, there are still stops you can pull out. Dating expert and matchmaker April Davis says, "If you know their ex's first or last name, try to check his/her friends or family's Facebook friends. Chances are, someone is still friends with the ex online. Same goes for Twitter and Instagram."