Q I've just met a great woman and I'm thinking about taking it to the next level. I have a past, as does she, but mine is wild — lots of exes, a few kids and I have herpes. How much of this should I tell her? I don't want to scare her away. I can see us together forever.

A: We don't like secrets or surprises when it comes to things such as STDs, so it's important to get that all out in the open right from the start. A good rule of thumb? Tell her only the things that will affect her life — things that happened in your past that will not affect her life are not necessary to volunteer. Sitting in a romantic bistro, sipping a glass of wine and telling her how many women you have slept with is really tacky, especially if there were a lot. We don't believe the exact number is ever necessary to divulge — by either of you.

However, it is important that you protect her from embarrassment. For example, let's say she's new to your crowd. Don't set her up to go to a party without giving her the necessary background — is the host(ess) your ex's best friend? If so, will that ex be at the party? And if that ex was the love of your life, that's your business.

We can't stress enough how important it is that you tell her you have children right from the start — especially if you share custody. Kids impact a partner's life and may be a deal-breaker for her. Even if you don't have custody now, as kids grow into their teens, it's not uncommon for them to choose to live with the other parent. She could be with you for years, only to find herself as bonus mom to a bouncing baby 15-year-old.

Have to say it: We are definitely advocates of "forever," but that word can also be a big red flag when spoken so early on — especially from someone who admittedly has had a few forevers. Keep your eyes open and go slow. Good luck!