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Can love actually solve our disputes?
April 18, 2012 10:42 AM   Subscribe

How can the virgin get over not being the first for her partner?

I've been with my (lesbian) partner for a year and half. Our life is great together, but we have been arguing the topic of past and sex for about a year.

My partner and I come from very different backgrounds. We're both in our early 30s. This is my first (serious) relationship ever.

Her history: She comes from a very dysfunctional family and started having sex in her early teens. Those early years, until she was 17 or so, she had been with males. Many of them even lived with her in her parent's house. She then came out as gay and had her first girlfriend. After that she had a long-term relationship with another female, which lasted several years. Then, even though she labeled herself gay, she had a one-year relationship with a male. After that, she had another long-term relationship with a female, whom she married when it was legal. All this, strung together with one-night stands.

My history: I grew up like an only child, with my siblings being much older than myself and moved out, with a single mother. I was I was shy, but came out of my shell living abroad for a year after college. I never dated in high school or college; I was happy enough doing my own thing, and didn't even really think about dating. I never got lonely and, to this day, still like/need a lot of alone time. It was during my mid-twenties that I started dating both men and women. I thought of myself has bisexual when I was in my mid-teens. Although I was pretty sure I was gay, and have never been ashamed of my sexual orientation. But until this relationship, I was a virgin. I really wanted to be in a relationship before I had sex with someone. And I wanted that someone to be one I cared for deeply.

I had liked a lot of the women I dated, and even wanted relationships with them, but many times I was shrugged off and treated inappropriately. As a romantic and sensitive person, I took these heartbreaks very hard, even though they didn't "go anywhere" in most people's eyes.

Now, my partner is the type of person is very anecdotal. She used to tell many stories concerning her past. Initially, I didn't have any problems with this. But over time, it really started to bother me. The fact that she was lived with a male, especially after being with women and saying she knew she was gay, was a red flag for me, but all of her qualities, I thought, trumped this fact.

It seems her speaking about her past relationships kind of dug a little insecure hole in me. I wondered why I didn't have any luck in relationships, why it seemed so hard for me to be loved when I put myself on the line and never got anything back. At times, I think that I may be jealous that she got to experience the good and bad in relationships, and even though I tried, I didn't get to experience that. That she got to experience really good things with other people, and she has all of my "firsts".

And since not having experienced sex before her, and now knowing what it's like, I've had trouble not letting my imagination get the best of me about her past relationships. I've had horrible images of all the sex she's had with men, and it bothers me so much. If she slept with a guy three times and figured out it wasn't for her, then that's okay. But 10 guys who were 2 to 6 month "relationships"... That is a lot of sex. It's not so much the number, but the fact that she kept doing it and saying in retrospect that she wasn't really into them. I can't even watch porn anymore because I see women who look similar to her in compromising positions, and it makes my stomach turn.

I also think maybe I have trouble with her past choices, and her values on sex and relationships. (I don't think I'm judging her necessarily because I have friends with similar histories, and I'm fine with them.) She's told me her values have changed, and she wouldn't even have casual sex because she's put herself through some bad things in the past, and she says she has a higher self-esteem and self-respect now. But just two months prior to meeting her, she had a summer fling with someone. How can I trust that her values have changed so drastically in that short amount of time?

Admittedly, most of our issues stem from me not fully trusting her. Our fights generally surround the topic of sex, and has made our once-great sex (she says I'm the best she's ever experienced) life now a little wobbly.

I think she is an amazing person. When we first met, our date lasted for hours and we talked about everything. I accept her past as fact, but these images are disturbing. Will they ever go away? Can love actually solve our disputes?
posted by sunogenous to Human Relations (17 answers total) 7 users marked this as a favorite
 
Sex is different things to different people. To you, it is this super intimate special act between two souls. For some people, its a way to connect. For others it is affection. For some it is just lust. You sound like you don't have much respect for the fact that she might view sex differently, and therefore have made different life decisions about her sex life.

You shouldn't be with people you don't respect or trust, full stop.
posted by Nickel Pickle at 10:49 AM on April 18, 2012 [19 favorites]


she says I'm the best she's ever experienced

There's something that gets said a lot on askmefi that makes a lot of sense. It's to Believe People when they tell you things. Your not believing that statement is ruining your relationship.

Admittedly, most of our issues stem from me not fully trusting her.

Exactly. Who she was in the past is not who she is now. Has she given you any reason to believe that she wants to sleep with anyone other than you now?

That she got to experience really good things with other people, and she has all of my "firsts".

I can relate to you here - I've had some of the same insecurities around my partner and I have Very different pasts. But, y'no, sometimes firsts aren't great. My partner has had to deal with me learning a Lot about sex and relationships, whereas I get the benefit of all the learning he did previously.

So unless she's giving you reason to think she wants to choose someone other than you, believe her. If you can't believe her, talk to a therapist about your insecurities - they seem to be the root of your troubles.
posted by ldthomps at 10:49 AM on April 18, 2012 [9 favorites]


The fact that she was lived with a male, especially after being with women and saying she knew she was gay, was a red flag for me,

Sexual preferences are different for everybody. The Kinsey Scale is a good way to conceptualize that. There are plenty of people who identify as straight who have occasional same-sex relationships, and the same is true for people who identify as gay who have opposite-sex relationships.

The same is true with regards to the emotional/social weight you put on sex. Sex should mean whatever consenting adult participants agree it means.
posted by Jon_Evil at 11:00 AM on April 18, 2012 [7 favorites]


That she got to experience really good things with other people, and she has all of my "firsts".

She doesn't "have" your first anything. You both, together, shared your firsts. These 'firsts' aren't prizes that you gave away, they are moments in YOUR life. YOU have them as much as anyone else. I think a large amount of sexual anxiety is hung on objectifying virgin fetishization, and it doesn't help anyone.

Try to imagine it like any other 'first time' you did something - if you liked it, and did it again, the first time is rarely the 'best' time you had... especially for something that often takes practice to get comfortable with.

Your life together with your partner isn't about all her past relationships - it's about YOUR relationship, NOW. The only reason images of her past are disturbing is because you aren't secure in your present, and that takes trust on your part as much as any behavior on hers.
posted by FatherDagon at 11:03 AM on April 18, 2012 [18 favorites]


Before I met my husband, I dated both women and men, and lots of them, and I really liked those experiences. I've been with my husband -- monogamously -- for sixteen and a half years now. I didn't change, I just found the person I wanted to be with. I had my last "fling" literally days before I started dating my husband.

You may have reasons not to trust her, but her past isn't it. You might want to spend a little more time unpacking your feelings to see if you can chase down the roots of that.
posted by KathrynT at 11:06 AM on April 18, 2012 [15 favorites]


I've had horrible images of all the sex she's had with men, and it bothers me so much. If she slept with a guy three times and figured out it wasn't for her, then that's okay. But 10 guys who were 2 to 6 month "relationships"... That is a lot of sex. It's not so much the number, but the fact that she kept doing it and saying in retrospect that she wasn't really into them. I can't even watch porn anymore because I see women who look similar to her in compromising positions, and it makes my stomach turn.

These thoughts sound intrusive and irrational enough that I think you should discuss them with a therapist -- probably before you discuss them any further with your girlfriend.
posted by hermitosis at 11:06 AM on April 18, 2012 [19 favorites]


Also: If your relationship works and is good in the present tense, then try to act and think and love like someone who is in a good healthy relationship. Courting jealousy and resentment during otherwise happy times is like rooting for your relationship to fail.
posted by hermitosis at 11:07 AM on April 18, 2012 [3 favorites]


I know what you mean. I don't like imagining someone I'm in a relationship with, in a moment of sexual abandon with another person. Something about that extraordinary intimacy that sex involves ... it troubles me to imagine someone I'm with, experiencing that with another person, even if it was before I met them!

But, it seems strange that you would hold your partner's former dalliances with men against her. It seems fair to allow her (the past her the freedom to explore her sexuality and sexual pleasure as she sees fit. I mean, you developed the way you developed, you have your own past, and she doesn't hold it against you, I presume. What if she were to disrespect your integrity, telling you that you should have been "more of a libertine" (there was a Metafilter question where a guy was complaining that a girl told him that). You'd be pissed, right?

I think one of the prices of being with another person intimately and romantically is that you have to accept them as they come to you. Think about it: the ones we love come to us as imperfect people, who confronted life's confusions and did the best they could. Radical acceptance of their past is really necessary if you love them. That's a beautiful thing, to be with someone and accept their imperfect selves with wholehearted love and acceptance.
posted by jayder at 11:08 AM on April 18, 2012 [6 favorites]


Will they ever go away?

Yes. You need to talk to someone about this, and when I say "someone," you know I mean a professional. Or at least journal about it till you're burned out on it and you have a breakthrough. This is a strange position you've put yourself in here!

Can love actually solve our disputes?

Yes! Of course. Also, you don't actually have a dispute. All I can see here is a tight bundle on your part of some weird kind of regret, mixed with distrust, mixed with anxiety. And you're taking it out on her. So take it out of the relationship and deal with it on the side for a while.

Also, why can't she be different than you? Some of us will have sex with anyone! And if we regret it every once in a while, it doesn't eat at us. Why is it eating at you on her behalf?

I'm just going to say the word "boundaries" as short-hand for what's going weird here. Best of luck. You can be totally fine! Treat each other with love.
posted by RJ Reynolds at 11:11 AM on April 18, 2012 [1 favorite]


This is a little petty, but have you ever asked about the laughably bad relationship experiences she's had before you? When I was first dating my wife, she told me hilarious stories about some of the men she had dated before me, and I've found it occupied the mental space that would otherwise be filled with worrying how I rank against her exes.

And after a while, if the relationship lasts, you will realize that you must rank pretty highly with them because they're still with you, right? And, especially if they have dated/slept with more people than you, they must know what they want, and that's you.
posted by Elementary Penguin at 11:19 AM on April 18, 2012 [3 favorites]


It's hard because, at least to me, the desire for a partner to have been a virgin is totally irrational. I say this because I've been there. My first girlfriend was also my first relationship and first sexual partner. I was a virgin. She wasn't. And it bothered me. I got over it because we were happy... but... it bothered me if I thought about it. We were together for two years.

My next girlfriend was a virgin. We were together for closer to three years. We waited for two months before we had sex. Any idea what the first thing I noticed after we'd had sex was?

It was no different.
And I felt no different.

In the end, the fact that she'd been a virgin was irrelevant. All that mattered was that we were happy - and we were.

Even if your girlfriend hadn't had sex with someone before you, she kissed people before you. And even if she hadn't kissed anyone before you, she shared other forms of intimacy before you such as conversations thoughts and touch that really mattered at the time. And you've done that as well, right? None of that really matters. You can't change the past. And, really, you shouldn't even want to. Without those past experiences, your girlfriend wouldn't be who she is today. And, who knows? Without those past experiences, she might not be in a place where she can truly appreciate what you two have today. You can't change the past. What matters is what you have now and what you will have in the future.

Only you can choose to not let the past destroy the future.

Best of luck!
posted by 2oh1 at 11:50 AM on April 18, 2012 [2 favorites]


Now, my partner is the type of person is very anecdotal. She used to tell many stories concerning her past. Initially, I didn't have any problems with this. But over time, it really started to bother me.

Why does she tell you so much about her past sexual experiences? Have you told her that it bothers you and asked her to stop? You have every right to do that. If she won't stop it, end this relationship: she doesn't respect you.
posted by Carol Anne at 11:57 AM on April 18, 2012 [2 favorites]


Therapy would help with the intrusive thoughts.

Beyond that, I have only the standard advice for anyone troubled by a partner's previous dalliances.

Fixing this requires that one of two things changes: either your insecurities or her past. One of these is significantly more tractable than the other.

I've been in situations not unlike this, where I was basically taken to task for the life I had before I met the person I was with. And ultimately, the answer was always the same: "You know who I am now. You know what I want now, and how much I care about you and this relationship now. You may not have loved the person I was, but here and now, you love who that person turned into. So what exactly is it that you want me to do, here?"

She's told me her values have changed, and she wouldn't even have casual sex because she's put herself through some bad things in the past, and she says she has a higher self-esteem and self-respect now. But just two months prior to meeting her, she had a summer fling with someone. How can I trust that her values have changed so drastically in that short amount of time?

Have you asked her about this? Does her summer fling have to have been casual sex? What does she think of it as?

Other than therapy, please try to remember this: Your partner loves you. She says you're the best she's ever had, and she has enough context for that statement to know exactly what she's talking about. Your lives together are wonderful. Talk to a professional about the intrusive thoughts, but realize that it feels really shitty to be judged for something you can never, ever change. She's done a lot of living and made a lot of mistakes; she openly admits to them and she seems to have learned from them. She's not perfect. Her imperfections are different from your own. That happens.

Here and now, she loves you. She wants you. She wants to be with you. Let her.
posted by FAMOUS MONSTER at 11:58 AM on April 18, 2012 [2 favorites]


A few thoughts come to mind. . . .

1. You might be setting a bit of a high bar for people to fall in love with you. I am sure that there are people out there whose backgrounds are a match for you, but being lesbian cuts this number down. She is here, as the last commenter said, and she wants you and desires you.

2. Everyone has a different sexual history. My daughter came out gay at age 13. Which was/is fine, not an issue. Then a few years later she is unusually moody, and blames it on the birth control pills which we had no idea she needed! So people change, and go through phases. The fact that this woman slept with a number of men might disqualify her, in your eyes, from being a suitable partner for you, but I would refer you back to point #1.

3. Sex is about connection, love, and is great when it is this mutually exclusive garden that two people get to enter and enjoy. But it's also a craft, and this woman has had experiences that arguably could enhance her as a lover, and give her more to bring into this special new place that she now shares with you.

I feel like it behooves you to give her a chance to love you.
posted by Danf at 1:49 PM on April 18, 2012 [3 favorites]


Well, she's with you now so I think that's all that really matters here...
posted by mleigh at 6:05 PM on April 18, 2012


Stop worrying about not being her first,
work on being her last.

Would you judge her for her ethnicity?
Would you judge her for living in a certain city when she was in her 20's?
NO--because those are just facts and history.

Judge her and your relationship on how you treat each other and whether you enhance your lives by being in this relationship.

The rest of the past truly, truly, doesn't matter--unless you decide it does.
If you can't accept her and her past then let her go; she deserves someone who loves her for the person she is now.

Just as you deserve someone who loves you for the person you are now.
posted by calgirl at 9:25 PM on April 18, 2012


It seems her speaking about her past relationships kind of dug a little insecure hole in me. I wondered why I didn't have any luck in relationships, why it seemed so hard for me to be loved when I put myself on the line and never got anything back. At times, I think that I may be jealous that she got to experience the good and bad in relationships, and even though I tried, I didn't get to experience that. That she got to experience really good things with other people, and she has all of my "firsts".

I grew up somewhat sheltered (not as much as you, maybe) and I definitely watched the people around me have relationships long before I had one, and I know where you're coming with the jealousy. I also used disapproval as a coping mechanism for dealing with the jealousy--rationalizing that I shouldn't be jealous, because they had to be bad people in some way to have all of those relationships, and it would be better to wait. But then you have to rely on putting down other people, which is not great... So what I've finally settled on is reminding myself that they did things to get there that weren't good for me at the time.

So in this case, your girlfriend had relationships early in life, she had relationships with men, she had casual relationships... These things aren't wrong or bad. But they weren't right for you. Sure you wanted love, but for you, then and right now, you needed a certain kind of love, and for you (then and now) it was right to wait for it, even if it was hard. Think back to the person you were... I'm pretty sure you can see that it wouldn't have been right for you to jump in to casual relationships. And maybe that'll change in the future, just like your girlfriend has changed to the point where a long-term relationship is right for her, right now. But you can still look back on the past and take comfort in the fact that you did the best you could to do what was right for you at the time.
posted by anaelith at 5:20 AM on April 19, 2012 [3 favorites]


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