A regular reader emails that he is having difficulty coming to terms with his girlfriend’s sexual history. He says that they are very much in love, but that he obsesses over her past with other men. He asks if it’s possible to get over these feelings.
Well, dear Reader, assuming that your girlfriend doesn’t have a medical condition directly related to her past sexual behavior, then the only thing standing in the way of your getting past this is … you. Concerns about a person’s past behavior, sexual or otherwise, are sometimes valid. For example, “You started a relationship with me while you were still with your husband/boyfriend. How do I know you won’t do the same thing again?” Though this is reasonable, it’s also fair to ask yourself: “Why did I get involved with someone who was already attached? And why did I choose to participate in the lie?” Forgiving yourself for that can make it easier to forgive her.
In my experience, much of the concern over a partner’s prior sexual history arises from insecurity brought about by unfounded beliefs. For example:
False belief #1: “I won’t be as good a lover as her prior lovers.” First of all, she’s no longer with those prior lovers. Either they weren’t as good as you think they were, or other things matter more to her. If you need to compare anything, compare your personality traits with theirs. What do you have to offer that they didn’t? And why didn’t it work out with them? It could be that things other than sex matter to her just as much or more.
False belief #2: “Her prior relationship was very different from the kind she now has with me.” So what? People change. If you don’t think much of her prior relationships, i.e., that her sexual activity was too frequent or unusual, then she has apparently reached the same conclusion.
False belief #3: “I want her to love only me. If someone else offered her something I don’t have, then she doesn’t really love me.” Nope, wrong again. Every relationship is different. Think of your own past relationships. Weren’t some of them exciting and right for their time, though perhaps not what you’d want now? If you had met your girlfriend, say, five years ago, it’s quite possible that she wouldn’t have been interested in you. But now you are her choice.
False belief #4: “I want control over her. I don’t have control if I know someone else has appealed to her physically.” This is an immature attitude. Love is not control. Healthy romantic love is a response to the values and attributes you see in a person. This response, however, does not make her your property. Unfortunately, a lot of insecurity and eventual unhappiness come from the incorrect assumption that one can control the person they love. This childish idea is one of the major false beliefs that ultimately destroys a relationship.
Though love and trust are obviously important, respect is essential. A partner or spouse cannot respect you if you’re chronically insecure. If this insecurity manifests itself in the form of control, things will go from bad to worse. Years ago, I heard about a newlywed friend’s husband who insisted she throw out all the sheets and pillow cases she might have owned when she was involved in a physical relationship with any prior boyfriend. Now, I’m all for clean linens and such, but this struck me as profoundly insecure and infantile. To dwell on these kinds of things suggests that he was lacking the confidence in himself to be a satisfied — and satisfying — partner. To many people, this sort of behavior is a turnoff. Most everyone wants to be in love with a winner, and first and foremost, a winner has confidence in him- or herself.
So, to the gentleman who wrote the email, keep reminding yourself that the past is past. Try to remember that in the present, and for the foreseeable future (perhaps maybe forever), YOU are now your girlfriend’s choice. And she has her reasons.
Michael J. Hurd