Haunted by HER Past Sexual Encounters

Dear Toni--

My girlfriend and I (both in our twenties) have been together for about nine months, and the relationship has grown into something serious. Last weekend we talked about our "pasts." We both have "hooked up" with someone we just met, but for a variety of reasons I never went all the way with that someone. However she did on several occasions. My only sexual experience is with a woman I had a six-year relationship with.

Up to now, both of us felt our relationship was heading towards marriage. The problem? Even though I told her that her past didn't bother me, I have been thinking about it obsessively since we talked. Her sexual encounters DO bother me, a lot. I felt both surprise and disappointment that she would have one-night stands. Her "innocent" appearance was a big attraction for me.

Now I feel jealous of the experiences she has had that I have not. I wish I were the only one she has been with, but now know there are other guys out there who have been intimate with her. I know this is unfair to her and that the past should stay where it is. I also know that it is hard to find a woman who shares my limited experience. We are great together in every way, but I can't help what I feel. I've considered breaking it off and looking for someone as great as her but with a sexual history more like mine. But I believe I'll never find someone like her again.

I've thought about discussing it with her, but don't want to hurt or upset her. The problem is mine. How can I deal with this? Do I just suck it up and accept this as dating in the new millennium? --Looking For a Girl Like Mom

Dear Looking For a Girl Like Mom--

Your question is a good one that comes up more often than you may think. You feel this girl is very right for you in many ways. Both of you have felt you were heading towards marriage.... Then along comes this "little" issue.

The first thing I need to emphasize is that it isn't just about you or just your problem. It's about the two of you and how right or wrong you are for one another. You can't solve this one alone. Nor would it be fair to either of you if you tried to ignore it or forget it, while harboring all of these negative and potentially destructive feelings.

Begin with a brief (and honest) inventory of your deeply held values. Make a list. Then highlight the things that are MOST important to you. Write down what you must have in a partner and what you cannot tolerate. Once this is done, examine your values in light of the information your girlfriend shared with you about her past. Pay close attention to how important a person's sexual past is to your ultimate choice of a partner.

Once you have gotten a handle on your true feelings, you have several options for dealing with them. All will require an honest and open conversation with your girlfriend. If you can't and don't want to be with someone because of her experience, you need to tell her. Not doing so will only prolong the inevitable and cause more hurt for both of you. She deserves your honesty. For without it, you could end up in a brief marriage or a long-term one that is characterized by resentment or lack of respect and honesty. If you decide that this is not a deal-breaking issue, you must make a commitment to yourself to let it and any negative/obsessive feelings go.

Whatever your decision, talking to her about your feelings would increase honesty and healthy communication in your relationship. You don't need to go into specific detail about these feelings. Just share that you wish you were her only one and that you feel jealous of the other guys. This will give her the opportunity to tell you that YOU are her special one and that those experiences were nothing more than brief and meaningless encounters that are in the PAST.

(from April 2004)

Want to read other columns on this subject?

"Does Opposite Mean Incompatible?"
List of more
"Compatibility Issues"

"Nice Guy vs Bad Boy- What Does She Want?"


Toni Coleman, LCSW
Phone: 703-847-1768


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