Is the Past more hurtful to the Future?
February 11, 2010 7:40 AM   Subscribe

I've been married for just a little while now. I still have issues with handling my husband's "past." He took my virginity early in our relationship. He was with other women before me.... I don't know how to deal with this heart-sinking feeling when i think about his life before me. Advice would be gratefully appreciated.
posted by shortbus to Human Relations (36 answers total) 5 users marked this as a favorite
What thoughts give you that feeling? Do you feel jealous of those women, or that you might not live up to his previous experience? Do you feel as though you've missed out on the same variety of relationships he's had?

Identifying the thoughts you have that inspire the feeling will help you move beyond it.
posted by ocherdraco at 7:45 AM on February 11, 2010

The fact that he decided to marry you, after having been experienced with other women, should be something for you to feel good about.
posted by bingo at 7:47 AM on February 11, 2010 [1 favorite]

This thread might be of interest to you. ("I am jealous of my boyfriend's past interest in other women. Please give me new perspective.")

Your sentence "He took my virginity early in our relationship" is striking. Why, looking back on your whole marriage (albeit brief at this point) and relationship with him, does this one event stand out so much? I don't mean to suggest that losing one's virginity isn't important -- it is -- but I wonder why you seem to feel that it continues to weigh you down. Also, you say that he took your virginity. You're choosing to present yourself as a passive object that he does things to. How about: "The first time I ever had sex, I did it with him." Same meaning, different attitude.
posted by Jaltcoh at 7:53 AM on February 11, 2010 [23 favorites]

I cam here to say what bingo said. He was with other women, but he chose you. I bet he sometimes wonders "I wonder if she wonders what sex is like with other men. I wonder if she'll leave me/cheat on me to find out." So, you know, there's baggage either way.
posted by dpx.mfx at 7:55 AM on February 11, 2010 [6 favorites]

Oh, the fact that you're 18 years old does clarify the situation a bit. You'll get more relaxed about it with time and age.
posted by Jaltcoh at 8:02 AM on February 11, 2010

>> I think the biggest issue with my situation is that they were all one night stands...

And the fact that they were all older than him.
And he is older than me.
posted by shortbus at 8:08 AM on February 11, 2010

I have, historically, had a very difficult time dealing with the general topic of ex-girlfriends, sometimes for specific reasons but just as often not. I know well that sinking, awful feeling in my gut when I allow myself to think about it too much.

Unfortunately, the solution I found -- and my advice for you -- isn't a quick and easy fix. Because basically? What I needed was time. The more secure and comfortable I felt in my relationship with my husband, and the more years there were between him and the other girls he'd dated, the easier it was to just stop thinking about it entirely. And when it does come up, the topic feels much safer than it used to, and the occasional moments of distress don't last for very long.
posted by Narrative Priorities at 8:09 AM on February 11, 2010 [1 favorite]

I hate the term "taking" in reference to virginity, like it's some physical asset that he stole from you while you were watching TV.

You had sex, you had sex together. Presumably, since you're married, it was pretty awesome overall.

This, to me, sounds less about his past and more about your future. Are you happy with him? Are you happy with yourself? Are you happy with your relationship? Or are you afraid you are going to wonder - two, three, ten years down the line - if this marriage was the right choice for you, rather than the right choice for him?

The number of people you have sex with does not matter, it is who you chose to share your life with that does. He chose you. Are you okay with having chosen him?
posted by lydhre at 8:13 AM on February 11, 2010 [10 favorites]

I know this isn't the same but worth thinking of for perspective.

When you buy a dress that you love, does the fact that other people tried it on before it became yours bother you? I'm guessing not, because it's yours, you love it, and no one else is going to be trying it on anymore.

Your husband is yours now. He might have had a few one night stands before, but you've got sexytime with him forever. Chances are by now, you've probably already had sex more times than his one night stands combined, and if not, that number will be surpassed soon.

Life is short. You're married and young. Make the most of it. Instead of dwelling on his past sex life, start enjoying yours. Build up mental confidence and realize that you are an equal partner in this relationship - no one took anything from you, you gave it - and your heart - to him, and he reciprocated and married you because, presumably, he loves you.

Before him, did you kiss other guys? Do you care about them now? Probably not, and that same 'meh' feeling probably mimics how your hubby feels about his one night stands. Life goes in no direction but forward. Don't miss out!

(spoken as someone whose younger, way less experienced partner could easily have been freaked out by my previous promiscuity but instead rose to the challenge to make up for lost time)
posted by citystalk at 8:16 AM on February 11, 2010 [2 favorites]

I had the same kind of feelings until I had been married for about 8 years. Then one day he said, "Don't you realize the I have so much more with you than I ever had with any of them?"

It adjusted my perspective.

Your guy chose you. He chose you for a reason. You have something with him that he didn't have with them. Trust that.

Also, my husband is 10 years older than me and had many ex's. I was young then; you are young now. It took him those 10 years and all that experience to develop and mature enough to know what he wanted/needed/cherished. Maybe your guy needed that time, too. Now he's ready for you.
posted by SLC Mom at 8:24 AM on February 11, 2010 [1 favorite]

"Unfortunately, the solution I found -- and my advice for you -- isn't a quick and easy fix. Because basically? What I needed was time." Narrative Priorities


I think it requires a shift in your personal focus on the future rather than the past. These kind of things can sting but I strongly second Narrative's point... this falls into the time will heal category. Good luck!
posted by meta x zen at 8:24 AM on February 11, 2010

I feel so confident in my relationship with him. Except when it comes to his past. And I feel so bad for making this an issue.

The issue.

I never feel this way when I am with him, either chilling or having sex.

So why the hell do I feel this way when I'm alone?
posted by shortbus at 8:24 AM on February 11, 2010

Umm, "took"? Is this just an archaic choice of words, or did you mean you weren't a totally willing partner? I'm assuming the former in the rest of my response, because I don't know how to deal with the latter.

Are you feeling jealous that he had sexual relationships before you? Did you intend to marry a virgin? By marrying you, he's committed himself before friends and family to only have a sexual and romantic relationship with you, for the rest of his life. He obviously didn't marry the other women. Unless you have some reason to not trust him, you should let this go and believe he will act in good faith.

Perhaps you are jealous that you'll (presumably) never sleep with anyone but him? If we're all aboard the monogamy train, this one person, with whom you hopefully have a trust-filled life partnership and steamy sex, is all you need. Plenty of sexual experimentation can happen in your marriage, (with or without other persons).

I'll assume that for most of your relationship he's been the "teacher" in the sack. Maybe you'd feel more confident if you taught him a thing or two. Pick up something fun at a sex shop? Read a book?

And most of all, TALK TO HIM about this. If you're going to have a marriage that lasts, you need to be able to communicate about pretty much everything, including dark-jealous-unhappy things. Hopefully you both have the emotional maturity to work through this together.

On preview, I see you mentioned all his previous sex partners were one night stands. This implies that he may have had a different level of value placed on sex than you do. Presumably you've both come to a convergence of opinion on what the importance of sex is. (eg, it IS meaningful, and you two are not to seek it outside the marriage) What does he feel about those one night stands today? His answer will hopefully reassure you that he would not seek one now. You've got to allow people to grow up. At age 18 you've got a fair amount of life changes coming your way. You're not the person you were at age 16, and you're not going to be the same person at 30. Neither will he.

One of the best things for a relationship (which I'm not sure I had the capacity to do at 18*) is to realize when you are having irrational emotions, realize when your partner is having irrational feelings, and both be able to accommodate and work around or through them. That is to say, your feelings, and your partner's feelings are never invalid or to be discounted. They are what they are, respect them, and expect respect for your feelings too.

(*yes, I realize I'm only 23.)
posted by fontophilic at 8:28 AM on February 11, 2010 [1 favorite]

My partner was extremely experienced when I met him; I think this is a great thing, as his life experience is what has made him who he is. His behaviour towards me is always respectful and loving, which is the important thing to me.

On another front, I noticed lots of curious implications in your question that you might want to think about.

Do you think of sex as dirty, or as a negative thing, or reducing your self-worth in some way?
Do you regret having sex before marriage?
Is sex a positive experience for you? If not, could you discuss with your husband ways to make it so?
What does sex mean to your husband? Is this a problem for you?
Are you able to discuss your feelings about sex with your husband?
Do you find it difficult to be assertive about your needs in your relationship? Is that part of the problem?
posted by emilyw at 8:31 AM on February 11, 2010

Not "took."

I meant i proposed it to him and he kindly accepted the offer... :)
posted by shortbus at 8:32 AM on February 11, 2010

So why the hell do I feel this way when I'm alone?

Mostly because you're 18. I know, I know. This is the answer I hated hearing when I was 18. But the thing with getting older and maturing is that you know these things are true. We can even get all scientific about it: your frontal lobe, the part of your brain wired for reasoning, isn't even completely formed yet. That doesn't mean you get to be unreasonable just because, but it does explain why you can't seem to reconcile your feelings when you're alone.

Talk to your husband. Communication is the foundation of marriage.
posted by cooker girl at 8:33 AM on February 11, 2010 [1 favorite]

I was a virgin when I met my boyfriend. He was not. I don't know exactly how many people he slept with and under what circumstances (dating, one night stands, whatever). He has told me that his sexual experience isn't vast either, and he's never dated anyone for more than a few weeks before me. Frankly, I've never asked because to me, it doesn't matter. As long as he's safe and disease-free, which he is, all I really have to think about is the present and future.

I worried initially about the disparity in our experiences, how I can't measure up in bed, etc. But really? He chose me, and your husband chose you. My boyfriend told me that casual sex teaches surprisingly little about skills in bed, which makes sense because...well, everyone has their preferences (especially in my case, where I haven't discovered them yet), but without the same partner to constantly practice it on, one night stands doesn't necessarily translate into being awesome in the sack. You don't mention how many one night stands your husband has had, but might be food for thought. If your insecurity stems from that, well...consider that with every new partner, everyone has to relearn some sexual technique. There are very few (none?) techniques that works on universally everyone; as far as I'm concerned, whenever one has a different partner, there is always a learning curve. Your husband may not have been too confident in his prowess in bed when he started sleeping with you.

I advocate talking to him about this. Be prepared to think of what you need from him when you're feeling insecure: do you want him to reassure you you're awesome in bed, that he's no longer interested in other women and haven't in years, ...? But relationships and marriage are about helping each others through moments of uncertainty. This is your (first?) major insecurity. It probably won't be the last, if you're to be together until the end of your days.

Closing thought: your husband gained his sexual experience through other people. Experiences shape people, teaches/lets them learn what they want.

Your husband, ultimately, wants you.
posted by Hakaisha at 8:39 AM on February 11, 2010

It says in your profile that you're a stripper. If this is true, I have to imagine that you encounter people unfairly judging you based on your occupation.

Has it occurred to you that you're doing the same thing to your husband -- unfairly judging him based on sexual encounters he had before you were together?

Maybe this perspective will help you see things more clearly. Everyone has a past. it's how he treats you now that you should focus on.
posted by cjets at 8:40 AM on February 11, 2010

We have had MMMMAAAANNNNYYYYY discussions about this topic.
As for the possible idea of me wanting to be with other men, he has given me an open door choice to have sex with other men if it will help our relationship. I honestly think it would not help.

If i were to have sex with someone else, I feel like I would be betraying him and the relationship we have built together.
posted by shortbus at 8:40 AM on February 11, 2010

Have you mutually agreed that he would maintain fidelity to you? Because I wonder if that's where your worry is.
posted by amtho at 8:51 AM on February 11, 2010

I never feel this way when I am with him, either chilling or having sex.

So why the hell do I feel this way when I'm alone?

Because you are choosing to dwell on it, not because it is a real problem.

posted by General Tonic at 8:54 AM on February 11, 2010 [3 favorites]

He told me that he would remain faithful.

I often wonder if he's comparing me to the others.
posted by shortbus at 8:56 AM on February 11, 2010

So why the hell do I feel this way when I'm alone?

I'm betting it's because you are alone and have time to think about things and thoughts start going through your head and they're of a negative variety. You're not actively feeling his presence/love, so you start to wonder.

The big issue may not be your age, but the fact that you haven't been with anyone else. If you had, you'd realize that those past encounters, while nice, don't compare to the present person, that's why they're in the past and he's with you!
posted by Brandon Blatcher at 9:01 AM on February 11, 2010

Do you really want to free yourself of this burden? If you do, all the tools you need are right here. If it makes you feel better, repeat your mantra to yourself: "He chose me over all those other women."You feel insecure when you are alone because it is not your husband's past that makes you worry, but your own thoughts on yourself in relation to him and his past. You don't have much experience yourself, whether sexual or life, and things feel like a much bigger deal now than they will in a year or ten years.

Also, it is not your husband's "past," like you said; it is his past. It's over, and you can't do anything about it. You cannot change anything but the present, but that's okay. He loves you, enough to live with you, to marry you, enough to share all your sex with you. Let him love you.
posted by opossumnus at 9:06 AM on February 11, 2010

Why you only feel like this when you are alone...well, alone time is when the insecurities get a chance to rush in. Maybe you don't feel good about yourself, and when you are alone is when that little mean voice gets to pipe up and say "But what about those OTHERS? Can you EVER compare to them? You're so inexperienced..." and then your mind starts imagining about how these women must have been like porn stars, just total sex goddesses, and you're really not, and then you start worrying about your body, your looks, are you doing it right? are you keeping him happy? he's having sex with a total beginner, how can he enjoy that???

Yeah. Tell that little voice to fuck off. You don't need it. If it tries to speak up, think "LALALA I AM IGNORING YOU" and shut it out. That voice is misleading and toxic, and can only hurt you, so don't let it.

Two things to keep in mind here.

1) He's been honest with you. I know people who think their one night stands "don't count" as part of their relationship history, so it's a good, healthy thing that he has told you about who he's slept with, even if it was just a brief fling. And the key thing here is "ONE night stand." Obviously these women did not really make a huge impression on him, or he would have stayed with them for two nights, or three, or started a relationship with them, right?

2) They may have been older women that he slept with, who were more experienced, but really? You can sleep with 100 people and still be horrible in bed. (unusually beautiful people, in particular, sometimes coast along on their looks and don't do squat in bed, they just kind of lay there, doing no work). So don't think of these mystery women as amazing vixens who you will never live up to. Chances are they were just pretty average--most people are. You have the advantage here--you are in a committed relationship with this man, and I bet you are open to learning new things. You get to become an experienced lover WITH him, and I am sure he's enjoying that.

Which is sexier: a partner who needs constant reassurance and keeps asking "Honey? Are you sure you don't miss those other women? Are you sure they weren't better than me? No, are you SURE? You're not just saying that?"

Or, a confident, assertive partner who doesn't need to be told how great she is--she KNOWS, damn it.

Be confident, rock it in bed, and have fun.
posted by castlebravo at 9:12 AM on February 11, 2010 [6 favorites]

castlebravo: thank you.
posted by shortbus at 9:16 AM on February 11, 2010

I often wonder if he's comparing me to the others.

Sex is not a gymnastic routine that one does correctly or incorrectly. You may be concerned about "measuring up," but that's not really what's going on. Sex with you is a different experience for your husband than sex with anyone else. Sex is not about comparing people.

He had a fairly common experience (being young and single, having several sexual partners). That common background is making you uncomfortable because it's different from your experience. It's fine to actively work to find ways to handle that discomfort, but it's going to make you crazy if you aimlessly worry about this.
posted by Meg_Murry at 9:19 AM on February 11, 2010

My husband was a truly notorious D-O-G before he met me. I tease him about it, but it never really bothers me because hell, out of all those women, the one he wanted to actually STAY with, LIVE with, SHARE his life with, take care of and be taken care of by - was me. Damn, I'm good.
And so are you.
posted by Billegible at 9:22 AM on February 11, 2010 [1 favorite]

Billegible: "Damn, I'm good. And so are you"

thank you for making me smile.
posted by shortbus at 9:29 AM on February 11, 2010

I think it's important to remember that this is all coming from thoughts/assumptions inside your head, not from some objective truth. For all you know, your partner could be deathly afraid that you might wake up one day and think, "I really need to have sex with WAAAYYYY more people. Forget this dude!" and walk out--but is that necessarily true about you or the way that you're thinking about him or your relationship?
posted by so_gracefully at 9:52 AM on February 11, 2010

He did compare you with others. You won. Be happy about that. The fact that you won means he is done comparing.
posted by caution live frogs at 9:54 AM on February 11, 2010

What exactly is your issue? Simply that there were women in his bed before you?

If it really is as simple as that, I gotta tell you, I think that's a waste of your emotional energy. I am now 37. I have been around the block more than a few times - I had rediculous amount of sex with a ludicrous number of people in my teens and 20s. And one thing I have noticed in the last few years is that there's a sort of imprinting thing that goes on. After a few months of consistently shagging the boyfriend I had in London, I couldn't really remember anyone before him very clearly.

We were together for six years - which is a lot of sex, by the way - and now, having been with my husband for seven years I can barely remember it. I mean, I remember it was good and that I liked it but I can't remember it in any detail.

Therefore, I would say that based on my own experiences, you really should not let these women haunt you. It's likely they exist for him only in the most fleeting way.
posted by DarlingBri at 10:25 AM on February 11, 2010 [1 favorite]

There's an entire movie about dealing with a significant other's sexual past -- Chasing Amy. I would recommend it -- mostly because it's a really good movie, but also because it might help you think about this.
posted by jb at 10:40 AM on February 11, 2010

Although it's rare that I've been more virginal than my partners, my personal experience with this issue is similar to Narrative Priorities' experience.

So I'll second her, and add a caveat: This kind of insecurity can cause major havoc in your relationship with your husband. I'm sorry to say that my own issues heavily contributed to the destruction of at least one of my relationships.

And that's to be expected! If you constantly need reassurance, constantly doubt, and constantly speculate, you can wear your partner down. No one can be expected to put up with their partner's constant doubt, without it taking a major toll on them. You're married now, so it's time to grow up, and take the (generally very good) advice in this thread on letting go.
posted by Coatlicue at 11:11 AM on February 11, 2010

they were all older than him.

And he married you. Get over it, with therapy if necessary.
posted by coolguymichael at 1:25 PM on February 11, 2010

I never feel this way when I am with him, either chilling or having sex.

So why the hell do I feel this way when I'm alone?

It isn't about this issue. Its about some other issue. You think about this one to avoid thinking about that other issue--whatever that is.
posted by Ironmouth at 6:26 AM on December 16, 2010

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