How to deal with feelings of inadequacy?
January 21, 2013 10:44 AM   Subscribe

I'll be blunt: I think I married a man who is too good for me. I'm having trouble dealing with my feelings of low self-worth and am tormented by insecurity. It's like the relationship version of Imposter Syndrome.

Many of these feelings are a result of my very checkered past, which includes a failed "starter marriage" in my early 20s in which both parties had massive emotional and psychological (not to mention substance abuse) problems, but my infidelity was the breaking point. My 20s were in general a terrible time, full of extremely bad decisions (cheating on my spouse), horrible ethical choices (several affairs with married men after my own marriage ended) and just basically a long litany of things that I am still deeply ashamed of.

Over the last five years or so I have really pulled my life together, started making healthier life choices, moved to an entirely new country and started all over again. I have a great job, friends, respect, and no one who knows me in the new location has any inkling about my dark past. Most people see me as successful, attractive, confident. I'm in my 30s now and I have worked really hard to get in a good place, and while I still struggle from time to time, I have mostly moved on from the darkness and the shame.

I met a man just over a year ago who is frankly the most unbelievably amazing person I have ever met. We quickly fell in love and were married, and overall I have never been happier. He is intelligent, sensitive, handsome, successful, kind, gentle... we share so many interests and he lavishes me with love and affection. He tells me all the time how much he loves me, tries to anticipate my every need, puts me first in every situation, and is just generally the ideal husband. I adore him and quite frankly am in awe of him. Even after a year, he seems to have basically no faults.

The fact that he is so wonderful just somehow makes me wonder what he sees in me. I have a short temper and am sometimes irritable, including with him; I can be overly emotional, impatient and excessively negative. He has inspired me to work on those negative qualities, so I am making some progress, but every time I do something "bad" - whether it's drinking a too much at a dinner party or forgetting to buy more toilet paper - I feel like an absolute waste of space and that he could have someone so much better than me. I worry that he compares me to previous girlfriends who were "better" than me. I worry that he will eventually discover the "truth" about me, and leave me for someone else.

He knows about my previous marriage, but not many of the details (i.e. my infidelity). I've never told him the extent of the things I went through in my 20s and, although he is quite open-minded, forgiving and tolerant, he is also quite conservative and from a somewhat sheltered upbringing, so I think he would be pretty shocked if he knew about my drug use, affairs, heavy drinking, suicide attempts, etc. - which makes me feel even worse about myself that I am "hiding" this from him.

I know I should get into therapy, but the country I now live in doesn't offer a lot of counselling resources due to cultural reasons, and the options in my native language (which is also not English, by the way, so please excuse any mistakes) are almost nonexistent.

So can you please share any resources, ideas, or ways of framing my feelings in a more positive way? I know this question is a little bit rambly, but as you can probably tell, I'm really struggling to understand my own feelings and badly need some help.
posted by anonymous to Human Relations (27 answers total) 18 users marked this as a favorite
Okay this is going to seem way out of left field, but I suggest checking in with some form of meditative practice, perhaps Zen Buddhism. This isn't about finding a deity, it's about quieting the voices in your head that are always second guessing you by understanding where they come from and that they only have power over you if you give them that power. And the less power you give them, the less you'll hear them.
posted by seanmpuckett at 10:50 AM on January 21, 2013 [6 favorites]

I am not a therapist, I am not your therapist, but some of your worries strike a chord in me and remind me of the skills I picked up during my own Cognitive Behavioral Therapy that helped me out so much last year, so I will mention this.

This doesn't take the place of the therapist-guided part of Cognitive Behavioral Therapy, and the recommendation is to take therapy as well as to use self-help tools if you need them, but given your lack of therapy options, you should know that there exists a free Cognitive Behavioral Therapy course assistant provided by the Australian National University called MoodGYM.
posted by kalessin at 10:55 AM on January 21, 2013 [3 favorites]

I wonder all the time what Husbunny sees in me, but then, who cares, we're very happy together.

Would it shock you to know that your husband loves your imperfections in addition to the nice things about you?

He loves the fact that you need him. He loves it that you're cranky if you're hungry. He thinks your stank morning breath is funny. Guys are weird. Thank God.

He may feel inadequate about something about him. Perhaps he thinks he doesn't make enough money, or that his calves are too skinny, he may think that you're more sophisticated than he is.

It's not such a hot thing to have secrets from your husband, so I would advocate sitting down with him to discuss your past.

"Honey, I know I shared with you that I was married in my 20's, but there was more to it. I was very confused and hurt myself a lot. I drank too much and I used drugs and I was imprudent. You know I've worked very hard to get beyond this, but I'm insecure that you'll judge me, and think badly of me."

If he wants more details than that, be honest. But I doubt he will. He'll love you all the more, for fighting so hard to overcome that disasterous few years.

Don't be afraid to confide in your husband that you feel insecure. Husbunny and I do it all the time.

"Sweetie, I gained weight over the holidays and I feel like I'm a box of Thin Mints away from having strings tied to me and being floated over 34th Street in the Macy's Parade. Do you still love me?"

Husbunny will assure me that he loves me just fine, and will ask me to share the cookies.

Sometimes he'll have a bad day at work, and he'll catastrophize.

Husbunny: So what if they discover that the numbers are all wrong and then they fire me?

Me: You'll get a new job.

Husbunny: So you won't take the cats and walk out on me.

Me: No.

Husbunny: Oh, good.

So the point is, we're all goofy, we all love our spouses for some pretty strange reasons and we all feel better is we don't carry around toxic secrets.

Hang in there. It will be fine!
posted by Ruthless Bunny at 10:55 AM on January 21, 2013 [47 favorites]

If I were in your position I would have a long talk to him telling him the "truth" about you. How much detail you share is up to you I guess, but I would be honest and clear enough so that you felt sure he understood who you were. Tell him about your history, tell him about how much you've changed and how much you regret those times. Tell him that you're afraid to have him know all this about you, but it is destroying you from the inside and you want your relationship to exist as honestly and authentically as possible. Also tell him how far you have come, how much you have grown and matured and changed.

I think if you continue to keep your past as a dirty little secret, the more it is going to poison you, and I think in time that poison is going to bleed in to your relationship. I suspect it won't be the secret that hurts your relationship, but instead it will be act of KEEPING IT SECRET (and what it is doing to you) that will harm your relationship.

Maybe this is bad advice, but I know for me I'd rather the relationship end because I was honest with myself and honest with them, instead of having the relationship end because the guilt from my history was eating me alive and causing me to (likely) sabotage the relationship.
posted by PuppetMcSockerson at 11:02 AM on January 21, 2013 [7 favorites]

Therapy is so important in this situation, but I understand that it's not always the easiest resource to find outside of countries where it's common. One idea: are you an expat of any kind? Check/join expat forums for resources.

On preview: yes, meditation and CBT if you can find it!

As for the main part of your question: please be easier on yourself. Yes, you made some bad decisions in the past, but you have obviously come so far in your self-healing process. Acknowledge your accomplishments in growing out of the self-destructive behaviour that defined your twenties (which many many people can relate to).

Small mistakes here and there are not signs that you're slipping back into that behaviour, but a cycle of disproportionate self-judgement can be destructive in itself. This is a trick we play on ourselves: to predict and anticipate non-existent rejection so that when it happens we're "prepared". In the meantime, you're tuning out the joys and happiness that actually do exist in your life.

Most importantly: this man whom you believe is so amazing and wonderful chose you and married you. You are obviously as lovable and good as you think he is. Please remember that!
posted by sundaydriver at 11:03 AM on January 21, 2013 [2 favorites]

Based on what little you wrote, I think your secrets are actually imprisoning you in your own mind and the only way out of the prison is to reveal the secrets. You do not have to go into detail, but mention the highlights.

We all make mistakes. We all view our mistakes through a prism of knowing what we think are our own failings. Maybe I am a glass half full person, but if you told me about your 20s knowing how you describe yourself or how you are viewed today, I would be impressed with the amount of proactive change and maturity you fought for AND achieved.
posted by JohnnyGunn at 11:07 AM on January 21, 2013 [5 favorites]

You're ashamed of yourself. But shame is not going to help you recover from your past, it will only fester. It will subtly and subconciously change your behavior until you've found some way to ruin this great new thing that you have, because you don't "deserve" it.

Shame does not help us grow. Guilt can and it is healthy to feel about what you've done in the past.

Please check out some of Brené Brown's books and talks. She is a shame researcher. This is a good one to get you started: The Power of Vulnerability.

A therapist (CBT, REBT) is probably a good place to start sharing a story like yours.
posted by Nerro at 11:07 AM on January 21, 2013 [2 favorites]

If forgetting the toilet paper meant people didn't deserve love, then we'd all be single, wouldn't we? You are bigger than your mistakes. He didn't fall in love with you because of your TP-remembering skills. If that was what he wanted, he could've married or something. He didn't fall in love with you because you're never grumpy. Think of the millions of less-grumpy people -- maybe the delivery person, for instance! There's something about you that he loves. I agree with others that you should stop hiding parts of yourself so that you can trust he loves you.
posted by salvia at 11:09 AM on January 21, 2013 [5 favorites]

Are you actively working on (or have you, via a lot of effort, already worked out) whatever issues/traumas/mental-health states may have been underlying the "drug use, affairs, heavy drinking, suicide attempts, etc." you experienced in the past? Because the nagging sense that this guy is "too good for you" sounds a little like some part of you might be trying to sabotage the relationship. If you're used to people abandoning you, then it might be very tempting to do some preemptive abandoning of your own, just so it's less out of your control. If you're very accustomed to volatile and dramatic relationships, then it might be very tempting to inject a little emotional volatility into this one, just to restore yourself to a more familiar state.

That'd be one option for constructively reframing this to yourself, if you wanted--PastMe is scared to let me be happy in this relationship, but I can be strong and not listen to that part of myself. But really, a better way of making your past a non-issue would be to make sure you're actively working on recovering from that past-- not just with private bootstrapping of your own, but with the help of a professional. The more you've actually progressed and healed from that past person you used to be, the less that person is likely to haunt your current relationships.
posted by Bardolph at 11:17 AM on January 21, 2013 [3 favorites]

When you have some time, read this. She understands shame and forgiveness and relationships in beautiful ways.
posted by tacoma1 at 11:27 AM on January 21, 2013 [3 favorites]

Not only does he probably not see your "flaws" the way you do, but you probably aren't seeing HIS "flaws" at all, because you're so consumed with overcoming and hiding your past. That takes energy and it's distracting, and it's only been a year. That's nothing. With time and a little calm detachment from your old self, I think you'd start understanding where he comes from and he'll start seeming a little more human.
posted by slow graffiti at 11:38 AM on January 21, 2013 [1 favorite]

I'm pretty sure you're the only one who thinks you're not good enough.

You've set a standard for how you need to behave to be loved - a standard that is so high you can't possibly reach it. Even if you are perfect, you have all of these Big Bad Things in your past that will counterbalance all of the good stuff. You've built up your past to be so bad that no one could love someone who did those things.

What you've also done is turned your spouse that is an idol. Everything he does is perfect. He is amazing. He is the best thing ever. It's just one more way you punish yourself; the better he is, the less you deserve him and the higher that bar of "good enough" goes.

He isn't perfect. And you will never feel like you're "good enough" for him.

The first thing you need to do is stop framing him as being perfect. Notice his imperfections. Notice when he does something that isn't up to your impossible standard of yourself. In fact, take that standard that you have for yourself and start looking at your friends and family through that lens. What would you tell your sister, or your cousin, or your best friend if they expected so much of themselves? What would you say to them if they thought they had to be perfect to deserve love?

You also need to tell your husband. The thing you're afraid of here - talking to him, being open - is the only thing that can free you from the weight of guilt and shame you're carrying. Could he walk away? Sure. But honestly, I would be surprised if he didn't already guess at some of it.

And anything's better than carrying around all of this shit for another minute.

I know what this is like. Memail me if you want someone to talk to.
posted by guster4lovers at 11:48 AM on January 21, 2013 [3 favorites]

In addition to the good other resources already mentioned, let me recommend Facing Codependence by Mellody, Miller, and Miller. Some of your experiences in your first marriage sound similar to the ones Mellody relates about her first marriage, and the "maybe he'll divorce me because I forgot toilet paper" is closely akin to some fears Mellody experienced with her awesome second husband (though it was leaving lights on rather than toilet paper). I think you'll find the book relevant.
posted by Sidhedevil at 11:57 AM on January 21, 2013 [2 favorites]

I advise you not to tell him the details of your "secrets" and moral/behavioral lapses - little good will come of it, and you could open a stream of unintended consequences. Tell everyone else in your world, just not your husband given the likely fact he will be shocked as you say. Shock can cause reactions of the illogical kind.

Have total trust in the absolute universal fact that all human beings know to be true: We are all flawed, and only our own eyes can fully see the missing, bent pieces within us. Your husband knows his flaws as intimately as his deepest thoughts. Partners are to be a source comfort for each other, comfort that he is obviously experiencing through your presence, for which in return he pursued you, committed to you, married you, and daily, attempts to please you by making you happy, loving you, and being a better person for you. That is your clear validation
posted by Kruger5 at 12:21 PM on January 21, 2013 [1 favorite]

To me, I think the distinction here, re some of the above "tell him everything/don't tell him anything!" comments, is to be open about your life without feeling the need to confess, or be granted absolution by an outside party.
posted by tapir-whorf at 12:29 PM on January 21, 2013 [7 favorites]

i've cheated on partners. i've slept with married men. i've had sex in closets during parties. i've done drugs. i cut. i tried to commit suicide a few times. i have such a grotesque history of sexual abuse that even i feel like a lifetime movie plot that was trashed for being too outlandish. i have told all of this to my husband. i don't hide that i have struggled with fidelity. it allowed us to have very frank talks about what was going on then, what's different now, what work i've done on my own to not fall into old behaviors.

if you're anything like me, keeping these secrets will keep you feeling like an imposter. the only way to feel like he really loves you is to really show him you. there's not an easy shortcut.
posted by nadawi at 12:32 PM on January 21, 2013 [12 favorites]

This kind of shame is toxic. It's one thing to not be proud of bad/stupid stuff you did, but it's another to be so ashamed that you end up believing you're a terrible person who's undeserving of a good life. Whom does that help? No one.

Forgive yourself. Whether you get there by talk therapy or CBT or self-help books or meditation, work on getting there.

Second thing: Do you trust your husband? Trust his judgement? Then even if you don't believe you're worthy of being loved by him, believe that he believes it. When that evil little voice pops up in your head and fucks with you, remind yourself that you love your husband and trust his judgement, especially his judgement about how awesome you are.

Good luck.
posted by rtha at 1:01 PM on January 21, 2013 [3 favorites]

Your past is just that - past. Give yourself the present and future as an older, wiser person.
posted by Cranberry at 1:03 PM on January 21, 2013 [1 favorite]

Strongly seconding Brene Brown, particularly her books, The Gifts of Imperfection, and I Thought It Was Just Me. Great to read if you can't easily access therapy. Check out her website. I think she has online lectures and exercises.

I also want to STRONGLY support what others have said about being more open with your husband about your past. Having a partner you can be open and honest about who you truly are, and having them accept you (as I strongly suspect your partner would) is truly one of the great gifts of love. It is freeing in a way I can't adequately describe. It's only your past that is making you feel unworthy. People's little "imperfections" are not drawbacks to the people who love us, they're what makes us uniquely us, uniquely the person our partner loves. Being open is really the only way to get the most out of your marriage. You will feel like a mountain has been lifted from your shoulders.

I understand that your husband is conservative, but he sounds like the type of person that will focus on who you are now, rather than who you were. Remember also that all the mistakes and struggles you endured before were part of a path that led you to him and the happy life you have now. Which makes it all the more likely that he will accept your history because he is also happy with you.

Best of luck. You've survived a great deal. You are SO MUCH stronger than you realize. You can do this.
posted by dry white toast at 1:24 PM on January 21, 2013 [1 favorite]

Two parts jump out for me. First, the guilt and regret you feel for those things you did in the past, and second, how your negative daily thoughts about those actions make you feel unworthy of being loved by your husband. It might help for you to try and separate them in your mind and deal with them both individually, hopefully breaking them up will make them more manageable.

I do think you should have the conversation with your husband framed as Ruthless Bunny suggests. "I had some tough years back then, did some stuff I'm not proud of, and it's really been weighing on my mind lately. It would probably help me to know that you're ok with it. Do you have any questions about that period of my life? Are you ok with it?" This will at least start you on the road to a healthy conversation that might ease your mind a little. But remember, many partners do not want to know the details! Respect his wishes if that's the case with yours.

The next step is to break the cycle of those terrible thoughts. I've given this advice before. One year I read a question here about spending New Years Eve alone. After a really bad year of stupid actions and bad choices, I was dealing with a ton of guilt and regret and decided to take some of the advice there. So I bought one of those "theme" candles (I think mine was a serenity candle but any candle will do), spent the day cleaning my house from top to bottom and stopping to write down all the regrets I had about the previous year. At the end of the day, I ran a hot bath, lit the candle, read all the slips of paper out loud and burned them one at a time with the candle. Each time they burned, I visualized letting them go, releasing them into the air. I took that hot bath, and gave myself a long talking to about releasing all that guilt and negativity, and resolved to STOP tormenting myself about it all. In the next few weeks, every time I started to think about the bad stuff, I just told myself "stop, you let that go, remember? Think about something else." It took me about 10 days to break the cycle, and now I only occasionally think about those bad times. I am not a new-agley type of person, but this really helped me. I never had to do it again, but I would in a minute if I ever found myself back there.

Memail me if you have any questions. I really hope this helps you like it helped me.
posted by raisingsand at 1:37 PM on January 21, 2013 [4 favorites]

We're all posers. Everyone else looks better from afar. People are looking at you with admiration while they feel terrible in their own skin. Just recognize it's part of the human condition and enjoy your situation. It sounds like you got a new chance at happiness. Enjoy it for what it is.
posted by Doohickie at 1:54 PM on January 21, 2013 [3 favorites]

In moments of loosened discretion, friends have suggested to me that I may be the other half of your relationship. My partner of nearly 14 years, now wife, comes from a very different socioeconomic background from me, can be harsh and abrasive, many people have wondered why we're together.

Truth is, I don't know either, and we've had some serious moments in our relationship, but every success she has, every time she gets to blossom and grow and fulfill her amazing potential, gives me joy. You can't change the past, but you can change who you are going forward, and I suspect that the best way you can respond to the support and caring that you're feeling from him is to just work on being the person you want to be.

There's also a big aspect of Doohickie's "we're all posers", I'm also overjoyed to be able to share my life with someone who can put up with my crap. I'm rather proud that I've managed to pose well enough that the aforementioned friends don't see all of my crap.

And let me reiterate that "can't change the past". Those are lessons, and you get to do things differently moving forward. You even get to ask for help from your partner on this, "gee, I feel really stupid for drinking too much, can we work out a signal if you notice that I'm getting tipsy...?" or "...would you support me in not drinking?". "Hey, I feel like a failure for forgetting the toilet paper, I know that doesn't make me a failure, but can you help me figure out a system for getting these things on the shopping list?"

But let me also toss another caution out there: If you're feeling stupid about these things because of his reaction, then your relationship isn't all the wine and roses you think it is. Which is another reason to engage him in conversation about it, because communicating about these things is not just what's said, it's what's heard, and everyone can work on that.
posted by straw at 2:05 PM on January 21, 2013 [3 favorites]

It took me ages to be vulnerable enough to trust that someone could ever really love me. I mean the real me, not me on my best behavior. I think many, many people struggle to understand that love isn't earned with perpetual perfection. I burned through a few fiancés while I figured out that no one could love me until I got past my obsessive need to pretend I could be Perfect All The Time.

He's not perfect. You're not perfect. You have past with some regrets and so does he. Do you resent his imperfections or do you accept it as part of the person you love.

Ask yourself what would happen if you cut yourself as much slack as you cut him.
posted by 26.2 at 2:39 PM on January 21, 2013 [14 favorites]

Disclosure: I have been described by others as that 'ideal husband', and without going into too much detail, 'quite conservative' (but not nearly so nowadays), and can chime in from that perspective.

You describe yourself as having the relationship version of the Imposter Syndrome as you see yourself as pretending to be someone you aren't - and if you show your truer self (i.e. the one with your specific background) your ideal husband won't find it in him to look past it.

But a quite conservative and sheltered background often does know a surprising amount of real-world detail, and if his affection and love for you really mean anything on a deeper level, he will surprise you.

One possibility - his past has items that haven't yet been revealed, or that your past comes as no shock to him and that he still loves you and accepts you just as you are today.

One thing I've learned is that we're all human, and need to show the vulnerability and human-ness that makes us real. Otherwise we're just the imposters that everyone avoids.
posted by scooterdog at 2:52 PM on January 21, 2013 [3 favorites]

I'm with someone whom I think is too good for me. You might find my post here, helpful.

Since that post, we've gotten a lot closer, and I can now see a lot more of what he sees in me, and realize how judgmental I was, and how afraid of being known.

Here's what I've learned:
- He isn't too fazed by my past, my family background, all of that crap. He just doesn't have any bad experiences with that kind of thing, so it doesn't register as this huge storm of horribleness.

- He knows that his family is awesome and kind of takes it for granted. He has no idea what it's like to go through what I did, so it's something you talking to someone who survived a POW camp. I mean, maybe they killed someone there to get food and it haunts them, but you really have no concept of how awful that feels. (Nor do I.)

- He likes to be needed. A lot. Part of this is his own issue, but part of it means that I can be kind of needy and it's okay.

- He's not hung up on my status as much as I am. So the fact that I haven't finished the PhD, etc. is not as big a deal to him as to me. He knows I'm smart; he is less concerned with titles than I am.

- The things I think are so awesome about him are things he takes for granted and does naturally. He is not impressed by them. They impress me because they are new to me. There are things that I can do that impress him in the same way.

- He has vast wells of insecurity related to his issues. He has no idea why I am insecure about mine since they just don't register to him. Perhaps this is true of your husband as well.

Feel free to Memail.
posted by 3491again at 7:35 PM on January 21, 2013 [1 favorite]

Until you can get therapy, you might want to try reading things geared toward people with borderline personality disorder. Not saying you have it or you don't, but you have described very many traits associated with it, and friends who have exhibited those traits have found that understanding BPD has helped them immensely when it comes to understanding where their feelings come from. (Some friends were officialy diagnosed, some weren't.) It should be pretty obvious early on whether it resonates with you or not, and if it does, you can get a better understanding for why you feel inadequate or excessively negative or like an imposter, why you behaved self-destructively in the past (if you don't know why), and so on. If it doesn't resonate, you won't have wasted much but time spent reading, and it might steer you in a different direction that's more helpful; lots of times, books on this topic will compare borderline motivation with similar external behaviors that can have other motivations as well, so you might not find the borderline perspective resonates but another will.
posted by Nattie at 11:58 PM on January 21, 2013

Oh, hai, welcome to the Scary-Great Husbands Club! I've had some thoughts like this over the years, and I'll just share some of my ideas about this. My husband likes what he likes, and he likes me. I'm not going to complain or worry too much about that. I'm not going to double guess him about his favorite frying pan, his hobbies, his friends, his favorite pullover, or his favorite person – me. He apparently doesn't want a perfect Stepford wife, he apparently wants me. In his choices generally, he's quite adamant and decisive, and doesn't usually incline toward the newest, the shiniest, the glossiest, the most expensive, the one everyone else has, or the status choice. He likes things that are unique, quirky, interesting. He likes old things more than new things. He'd rather build something than buy something. He likes a hidden away vine covered mom-and-pop cafe courtyard with amazing food more than a trendy five-star restaurant. He hates to throw anything away, he'd rather fix it. He doesn't ever give up on things, or people.

He also has about as much curiosity about my love life before him as I do about his: roughly zero, all things considered. We've shared some stuff, but it's just not a big item of interest for us. We've never, ever had exhaustive, intense discussions about our former lives or spouses (both with one divorce) or lovers or hard times. There's no lying involved, and information is shared casually, but it's just not a thing we've been that interested in, which I do understand will seem incredibly strange to some.

Do you want to share? Do it. Not so much? Don't do it. Has he indicated he wants to know more? Maybe he's just not the type who feels like he needs some full confessional disclosure to feel closer... but if you wanted to get it out of the way, I bet he'd be perfectly fine with that. Maybe you don't have to decide right now. Maybe you can just sort things out in your head a bit and read some of the books recommended and assess the true state of things, because there isn't a black and white answer to this. If I were forced to characterize why my relationship with my husband is not of the poring-over-deep-secrets-of-the-past variety, I'd say that it's because it is what I guess I think of as "active and demonstrative," rather than "examining and contemplative." We show each other our love every single day in word and deed, without planning or forcing that dynamic, and we're definitely live-in-the-moment people.

Yep, I'm grouchier than he is, and more sarcastic, less kind, lazier, more willful, more selfish, more eccentric. Not anything even close to perfect! But I do realize that while he seems perfectly perfect to me, he's not perfect either. But we're perfect for each other, we delight each other, and we're so ridiculously lucky to have found each other (over 20 years ago!). What possible past indiscretion or poor choice could ever make a difference to that?

But we didn't have this perfect ease of understanding from minute one. We did feel like some great force in the universe put us together and were deliriously happy, but it took me a couple of years to begin to trust my insanely good fortune, and a few more to finally come to luxuriate in the feeling of taking it for granted. In a good way, not in a mistreat-your-partner way.

You think about it and do whatever feels right. Don't lie because that is actively harmful, but you can just mention things when they come up and feel right, or have a big talk and put it away, but consider that not everyone needs or wants an exhaustive relationship and behavior resumé from the one they love. I'm perfectly content having a somewhat fragmented view of my husband's past relationships and sexual/other adventures. I know enough that it's not some big mystery, but not so much that it's ever preoccupied my thoughts – which, for me, is just about perfect.
posted by taz at 2:29 AM on January 22, 2013 [6 favorites]

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