My girlfriend used to be a prostitute
February 26, 2014 7:47 PM   Subscribe

Plus a lot of other things, and I am having so much trouble dealing with this. I feel sick. This is long.

This is possibly a 7 year issue, as we have been together for almost that long. I want to preface this by saying that I have always made it clear that I don't want to be with a person that is into anything other than normal sex within a normal relationship. So please, no advice from sexually liberal people that it was in the past so it doesn't matter. This matters to me.

There is a whole lot of content to this, and I'm really looking for advice and help; and maybe suggestions on which things my girlfriend is lying about considering the parts she has lied about and hidden before, and the things she has done.

When my girlfriend and I started dating, 7 years ago, she made a few casual comments like, "Do you like strippers? I used to be a stripper..."

To me, I should have left then. Because I'm really against the idea of strippers, and strip clubs, and men paying for that. I said, "No, no. I hate that sort of stuff. I don't want to know about it."

Once we were sitting on the couch at her place, "Do you like porn? I have some..." I said, no, no, I hate that stuff I don't want anything to do with it. And then she said, "Me too, my husband always watched it, its disgusting."

Once she was lying in bed and said, "Do you like threesomes? I've had a threesome..." I said the same thing again, I don't like that sort of thing, I don't want to know anything about it. And she said, "oh me too. My ex boyfriend that used to beat me up made me have one with him once, and i tried, and I didnt want to, so he beat me up after it."

Not long before we started dating, her and her (now-ex) husband had gone to Hawaii (to try to save their marriage). She said while they were there, he went to a strip club (she was 35 at the time with 3 kids) and made her go with her. She said he also asked a prostitute if she would have a threesome with them. Which she says they didn't. She says because he was like this, a pig, and into all that, that they seperated. But even now after all these years - I can't help byut think, that if they had been married for 10 years - why would they go to a strip club together, or he would ask to see a prostitute, if it wasn't normal to them??

So a few months into our relationship - we were driving to the beach; and she said that when she was a stripper, she saw at the same place that her sister was working there as a prostitute and she said, "I wonder what happened to her to make her do that?" Then she said her sister and her husband do like partner swapping and stuff, and had sex with different people on the night before there wedding. I said, I don't want to know anything about that kind of stuff.

She also used to work for a guy - he was paying her a lot of money; and I found once that some of the emails he sent her, he called her by a different name. ANd one of the emails he said something about paying her the $4000. And I later found a letter she had typed him, signed by this fake name basically saying, "You can have a night with me, and we'll do whatever you want." She later said - she had told him she didnt like her real name, so he called her this other name; and the letter she wrote him was a joke; because she had been upset at work and it was just a joke.

Not long after - she arrived to pick me up from work; she arrived wearing a jacket and only underneath it underwear. She flashed her jacket open at me in public, and said, "This is what I'm really like, you need to know the truth about me."

Not long afterwards - she had a talk to me. When she was a teenager she was brutally raped. She said as a result she hated herself. So she became a prostitute. I hate the idea of prostitution. I hate the ideas of women having sex with men for money. I would never want to be with someone that had sex with random men for money.

I thought, 'Okay. This woman was brutally violently raped.' Even though I what makes people good is that when bad things happen, they dont do bad things. But I thought. To have something like that happen to her. I can't hold this against her. So as she cried, I told her. It's okay. I still love you.

I had always assumed when she said she was a stripper; that she was just trying to work up to telling me that she had been a prostitute.

I was wrong about that.

A few years ago, I was going through some photos on her hard drive, and I found this folder. It had a lot of things.

* I found photos of her stripping for some man
* Photos her ex husband had taken of her kissing some woman and touching each others breasts
* Photos of her and a friend of hers (taken while she was together with me) that had them posing with each other on the bed in their underwear, touching each other
* Photos of a friends breasts and nipples she had taken
* And photos of her friend and this woman I later found out to be a stripper, at a place I later found out to be a brothel
* A facebook discussion between her and another friend - where basically she said an old client from the local brothel had seen her there, and had said he was going to tell me she was still working there.

Throughout our whole relationship she had always had these mental breakdowns where she had accused me of cheating on her, and she woudl tell me to leave, and go crazy, then apologise and say she was sorry...

In light of the things I found, I was so angry...

I confronted her about them. She denied EVERYTHING. Refused to talk to me. Got angry at me. I'd say - what's this? She said, "Nothing." "I dont remember," "I dont know."

Eventually these are the things she told me.

- She originally worked as a prostitute
- When she was married to her first husband; she became a stripper because it was good money - the reason they seperated was because he found out
- She later got a job as a receptionist at a brothel
- When she was married to her second husband, she used to work as a bartender at a strip club, and her husband would go with her to watch
- Also, her second husband used to smoke marijuana at home with their three kids there; and I guess she didn't care about it...

What she said about the things I found...

- The photos I found of her stripping for some man - she said her ex husband made her strip for a friend of his, and I guess he took photos
- The photos I found of her friend and her in their underwear - they had both had the same abusive ex boyfriend years ago; and they wanted to take the photos to send to him to make him see they were happy with their lives now? wtf
- Her husband had made her kiss this woman - suspiciously; this woman was on her facebook block list - was this for her to hide something?
- The photos of her and her friend and a stripper at a brothel - she had been hired to do a photography job there ( she was doing wedding photography stuff for work) - and they used a stripper that her friend knew for the photos - and somehow I guess her friend thought it would be a good idea to go along and take photos in underwear at a brothel together...
- Apparently a client of hers from when she was a prostitute - AT A DIFFERENT BROTHEL IN A DIFFERENT CITY - saw her LEAVING this brothel where she had only done a photography job - and had told her he was going to tell me she was still working there
- This obviously wasn't true because no one had contacted me...
- SHe later told me this guy had been stalking her at our place for the last 5 years (it was news to me...)
- And that him, or another ex client, im not sure - Met her husband at work, and they became friends, and when he came home to their place one day - he recognised her... I dont even know
- She didnt think there was anything wrong with taking this photography job at the brothel - and thought it was completely normal she was at a brothel, taking photos of her friend and a stripper together...

The problem I am having is that - she always goes on about how she hates cheaters, how much she loves me, etc, etc, etc - How disgusting men that look at porn are, how disgusting men that go to strip clubs are..I can't help but wonder if the reason she tries so hard is because she doesn't want me to know what she is really like -

I let go the fact she had been a prostitute because she was violently raped. But then she worked as a stripper while she was married. Worked at these places again and again. Did photography at one while she was with me - and thought there was nothing wrong with it. So I feel like she is lying to me about who she is.

Also, when we first met - she said she was working for a private detective company as 'the bait' as such. She would meet married men that were cheating, befriend them, go to a hotel room with them - then make an excuse she had to go; and the photographer would get a photo of them leaving.

But I can't stop thinking that that doesnt sound right - Cheating men wouldnt just cheat with a random woman? Wouldnt the agency try and catch them in the act with the woman they were cheating with? Why were these guys giving her expensive gifts like ipods if she was just the bait to lure them in?

Is it possible she was even still working as an escort or something when I first met her?

We've been together 7 years (with a bit of a break about a year ago); and she has three kids that I love, and that I love; and we have three cats that I love. And I cant talk to her about this stuff because I either dont want to know - or she wont tell me the truth anyway. But because there are so many contradictions. It never goes away. Sometimes I feel okay. Then it comes back.

Is she lying about things?

For example - I asked her that when she told me her sister was a prostitute; was she really? Or was she just trying to see how I would react? She said her sister wasnt actually a prostitute. So I asked - does that mean she was talking about her self as well when she said her sister and husband had sex with other people? She said no - that was true.

But why would one turn out to be a lie? And one turn out to be true?

There is just so much here. She keeps doing this sort of thing again and again. She asked if I liked threesomes - I said no - she said, "oh, me too..." Did she actually use to do them with her husband? How recently was she actually working as a prostitute?

I just feel sick and don't know what to do.
posted by anawesomeguy to Human Relations (46 answers total)

This post was deleted for the following reason: Sorry for the delay in closing, but this is sort of a big mess, and the aspects you say you want help with -- determining which things the GF is lying about -- cannot be determined by Ask Me readers. If you'd like to rework this into a question the site might be able to offer useful, more practical help with, please contact us, and we can assist. -- taz

I hear that you are very upset, but what exactly is the question you'd like us to answer here?
posted by deliciae at 7:54 PM on February 26, 2014 [2 favorites]

Honestly, who cares if she actually did all that stuff . . . you don't trust her. Let her go.
posted by Sassyfras at 7:55 PM on February 26, 2014 [7 favorites]

It sounds like you loathe a lot of things that your girlfriend has been involved with in the past. It's possible that you're telegraphing your opinions very clearly and she's backed down from whatever she originally intended to tell you on several instances. It sounds like you are not satisfied in this relationship at all.
posted by flyingfork at 7:56 PM on February 26, 2014 [5 favorites]

Does it matter what she did and didn't lie about? She lied. She lied to tell you what you wanted to hear, after you'd made it absolutely clear that you were not into a relationship with the kind of person who's had the experiences she's had. I'm not blaming you here - you have every right not to want that, and to be up front about it - but it seems pretty clear that she was telling you what kind of person she was all along and you didn't want to know.

Advice? Think about whether you love her (you say you love her kids and your cats, but you don't say you love her). Do you love her enough to forgive her, to listen to her, to try to understand why she lied to you, to try to understand the person she is and love that person rather than the person she has been pretending to be for 7 years? If you don't, you have your answer.
posted by Athanassiel at 8:01 PM on February 26, 2014 [3 favorites]

She may very well be lying, but to be fair, any time she tried to tell you about her past you told her you didn't want to hear it. What could she do?

Does it matter whether she's hiding something, if you can't live with the stuff she has told you?

Don't think you are doing her some big favor staying with her despite your issues with her past. She deserves to be with someone who respects her.
posted by payoto at 8:03 PM on February 26, 2014 [26 favorites]

Why would she be saving all these photos and stuff? Why would she show up to get you in underwear and tell you, "This is what I'm really like?" It's pretty clear that she has some issues and that she hasn't really given you a reason to trust her. She keeps fibbing to work her way up to dropping bomb shells that make you uncomfortable. There's a saying that when people show you who they are, believe them. You know who this woman is and you will never, ever be able to trust this woman. If she had a traumatic past, that's horrible, but I don't think you need to excuse all of her behavior for it and be a relationship that clearly isn't working to show you don't hold her past against her. It sounds like she may need some help, but that's really on her. You don't need to stay with her.

And this really has nothing to do with your attitude about sex workers or whatever. You simply don't trust her. The fact that you find the sort of stuff she's engaged in (and may still engage in) distasteful is just another reason this will never work out. Personally, I wouldn't date a woman like the one you described and I don't think it makes me a bad person or a jerk.
posted by AppleTurnover at 8:03 PM on February 26, 2014 [1 favorite]

We've been together 7 years (with a bit of a break about a year ago); and she has three kids that I love, and that I love; and we have three cats that I love.

Yeah, but do you love her? Do you even respect her? This entire question is about all the stuff about her that makes you sick and distrustful and so on. I don't know what you want us to tell you. This relationship sounds like it needs to end yesterday: she sounds like she's got a boatload of issues to work on before she can be a healthy partner, and you sound like you think she's slime.
posted by Metroid Baby at 8:05 PM on February 26, 2014 [6 favorites]

Have you not broken up with her because you fear you won't find anyone else who will be your girlfriend?

Because that's probably not true, and if you leave this person, whom you don't seem to trust, you might be able to find someone whom you do, someone who doesn't fear to share her history with you, someone whose experiences meets your standards.
posted by batter_my_heart at 8:06 PM on February 26, 2014

She's lying to you. I understand why she's doing it- men have tended to abandon her when they find out about her past. There's a double standard there and it seems unfair. She seems like a broken person in some ways and I pity her. But still, dump her because she is a liar. It's really time for her to just own up and let the chips fall where they may- I think it is clear at this point she may never be fully honest with you. She doesn't trust you and you don't trust her, both for good reasons. It's time to move on. You can't "fix" someone.
posted by quincunx at 8:07 PM on February 26, 2014

What I hear is that you are essentially disgusted by your girlfriend and you don't trust her, and short of her going back in time to change most of the major decisions in her life, you're not ever going to feel much differently. This is incompatible with a happy, healthy, mutually satisfying relationship. It's time to move on.
posted by scody at 8:09 PM on February 26, 2014 [15 favorites]

Your relationship lacks trust, openness, and honesty from both sides. I don't know where you can go from here.
posted by sm1tten at 8:10 PM on February 26, 2014 [1 favorite]

The problem I am having is that...

The problem you are having is that she exhibited deal-breaker behavior for you seven years ago when you first got together, but you're still with her anyway. Those deal-breakers aren't going to go away, and you apparently aren't going to change how you feel about them.

Maybe you love her, yes, but you do not want to be with her. THAT'S the problem you're having.

It doesn't matter whether she's lying now. She's not the person you want her to be. Accept that, and figure out how to move on.
posted by mudpuppie at 8:11 PM on February 26, 2014 [6 favorites]

Why are you still with her? These are things that are pretty clear-cut dealbreakers for you, but you've stuck with it all this time. These things aren't going to magically go away, and you haven't gotten over them in all these years. Let her go, get on with your life.
posted by padraigin at 8:12 PM on February 26, 2014 [1 favorite]

It sounds like the two of you don't really know each other very well. I would question pretty much everything about the relationship in as pragmatic a way as I possibly could.

I was in a relationship once that ended badly, and thinking about it in retrospect realized how many things I'd been ignoring, or blocking out, or justifying to myself. It was surprising to me that what had made it possible for me to have been deceived in the relationship was that I had been deceiving myself the entire time. I think the same thing is probably true for you as well, and it is a very difficult thing to come to terms with.
posted by Ray Walston, Luck Dragon at 8:13 PM on February 26, 2014

If you don't break up with her, she should break up with you. She's with someone who doesn't trust or respect her, who finds parts of her life disgusting, who shuts her down when she tries to speak about her past, who snoops through her old data and demands explanations, who seems to love her kids and her cats more than her.

She sounds like she's had a hard time in life, and maybe she likes your attitude and beliefs about sexual behavior and sees them as aspirational? But if there's no underlying trust or respect, there's nothing there.
posted by Mizu at 8:14 PM on February 26, 2014 [8 favorites]

You've put her, and by extension, you and your mutual relationship, in an impossible position. Every time she's broached a topic with you relevant to the parts of her past you don't like, you say "I don't want to know about it." Well, she's done her best to make sure you don't know about it.

Call it lying if you want, but don't dump her because she's a liar -- break up with her, respectfully, because you can't deal with sex workers, current or retired. That's fine, a lot of people can't (as the sex workers on MeFi will tell you), but be clear that's a shortcoming of yours, not of hers.
posted by DarlingBri at 8:14 PM on February 26, 2014 [40 favorites]

I want to preface this by saying that I have always made it clear that I don't want to be with a person that is into anything other than normal sex within a normal relationship.

That is not going to happen in your current situation. Say the above, and leave your relationship.
posted by hal_c_on at 8:26 PM on February 26, 2014

Please leave her for her sake. Being in a relationship with someone who views your history as a sex worker as acceptable only if it resulted from a violent rape, is just toxic for both of you. You both clearly love each other enough that you have tried by ignoring this enormous difference of values or in her case, by testing the waters repeatedly to see if your views would change, but it isn't going to work long term.

You could go to therapy, but one of you would have to change positions on this. Either you would have to move to the idea that an ex-sex worker can be a trustworthy, honest and decent person in a monogamous relationship, or she would have to move to the idea that as an ex-sex worker she needs to repent and repudiate her past fully, either as a victim of others or as someone who needs redemption.

Short of that, I can't see how you would be able to make this work.
posted by viggorlijah at 8:27 PM on February 26, 2014 [7 favorites]

You've been living in Denial Land for seven years. She doesn't trust you enough to tell you the truth about her life and her experiences because you've made it so clear you don't want to know, and taking her behavior charitably, it was because she didn't want to lose an otherwise healthy relationship that was good for her and her kids.

You cannot in good conscience stay in this relationship.
posted by yasaman at 8:29 PM on February 26, 2014 [2 favorites]

It sounds like she has tried to broach the subject over and over and over with you, even showing up to flash you in public and tell you straight up, while she is flashing you her naked body, "This is who I am." And over and over and over you say, "Don't tell me this, I don't want to know about it."

Does it not make sense, then, that she stops telling you about it? I'm not asking, is it RIGHT that she stops telling you about it, that she lies, etc. I'm asking, does it not make sense she stops telling you about it given that you keep saying you do not want her to tell you about it.

You cannot have it both ways - continually avoiding this topic and yet knowing all there is to know about it. You cannot say, "I don't want to know about the things you have done that would upset me" and then get mad that someone hasn't told you those things. That makes zero logical sense.

You are going to have to gird yourself and tell her that you are ready to hear everything about her that she has tried to tell you in the past, if you really want to know about it.

But really, what's the point of having that conversation? You ALREADY know that she did plenty of things that you strongly judge her for and think she is terrible for doing. You should not be in a relationship with someone you have contempt or disgust for. You should not be in a relationship with someone who you think is a bad person. That is a terrible thing to do to another human being. To me, it is emotional abuse to harbor contempt/disgust for your partner.

And what is the point of pressing more? It's pretty clear that she has a lot of distress and shame around these topics, and it is difficult for her to open up about them. And you already know that you are going to STRONGLY judge her on these topics as a rotten disgusting and terrible person.

Why would you push someone to open up and trust you with the truth on extremely shameful and difficult topics when you already know in advance you are going to react to what that person tells you with disgust and contempt? Talk about doing bad things. If you believe that good people don't do bad things even in extreme situations, then why on earth are you pushing this issue and dragging out this painful topic? Just end the relationship with kindness, gentleness, respect, and love for this woman as the human being she is, who you are not superior to.

By the way, I was physically abused as a child and many people in my community knew it. My friends' parents were schoolteachers, scientists, professors and lawyers. It was also known at my school. Not a single one of those adults ever stood up for me in a vocal and overt way, not a single one ever made a direct objection out loud. The ONLY person who ever did was the single mom of one of my friends who made her living as a stripper, and, I found out as an adult, as an escort. She was THE ONLY ONE. It is almost 20 years later and I still well up when I start thinking about it.

If you want to brand your "partner" as a bad person for her sexual past, that is entirely your right. In that case though, please do her a favor and move on with your life and just stay away from her. She is a human being, equal to you, who does not deserve any of your contempt or judgment. Just keep it much to yourself and kindly break up with her.
posted by cairdeas at 8:34 PM on February 26, 2014 [44 favorites]

You told her you didn't want to know about it.

So, she didn't tell you about it.

You cannot, ever, blame someone for doing what you have asked them to do. Okay? This is one of the most important things you need to learn here. You made it crystal clear that you did not want to hear about her sexual history. That means you absolutely do not get to be upset when you find out she hasn't been honest about her sexual history. You asked for this situation to happen, aka, you made your bed here dude.

The fact that neither of you trust each other and you don't want to be with her, well, this relationship is over so you two need to be adults and extricate yourselves from each other with the minimum of fuss.

Or, you could learn that what someone did in their past is not necessarily who they are in the present. I'm sure you've done things in your past that she wouldn't like. Those things do not define you now.

Either way, staying in this relationship as it is currently formulated is obviously toxic for both of you. The relationship needs to end, or you two need to compromise and be honest with each other.

Only you can decide which of those is the realistic option.

posted by feckless fecal fear mongering at 8:34 PM on February 26, 2014 [5 favorites]

You've accepted the lifestyle that she's explained clearly to you for 7 years. At this point, if you're asking these questions, you have two options. Admit that this was attractive to you for all these years and accept her as she is, or acknowledge that that this isn't acceptable to you and end the relationship.

My advice.... bid her farewell.... I don't see this relationship going anywhere positive for either of you.
posted by HuronBob at 8:34 PM on February 26, 2014

So for seven years, your girlfriend has been saying, "This is what I am like, this is the type of thing I enjoy doing, and here are some past experiences I have had." And for seven years, you've been responding, "I don't want to be with someone like that, I don't want to do those types of things, and I'm uncomfortable with those past experiences you've had." That sounds exhausting. For both of you.

It doesn't sound like you have any interest in trying to explicitly negotiate with her to find a happy compromise between your two individual preferences. But it sounds like you've been trying to find a way to make yourself comfortable with her past and make her adopt your preferences in the present. The issue here is not that your girlfriend used to be a prostitute, it's that you and she have spent seven years unsuccessfully communicating your needs to each other, and you're not happy in the relationship.
posted by Meg_Murry at 8:34 PM on February 26, 2014 [1 favorite]

You can get over it, or you can break up with her, and since getting over it seems unlikely, you should break up with her.
posted by rtha at 8:37 PM on February 26, 2014

It's totally possible to find men who go to strip bars and who watch porn, etc, gross and creepy--even while you continue to provide the product that they're being creepy about. I hate to say this, but stripping and prostitution can be damn good money, especially if you're somewhere--as the OP is--where there's legal protection for both these things. She probably continued working as a prostitute or stripper or whatever because she, like most people with children, needed the money.

As other people have pointed out, you've made it totally clear that you don't want to hear about any of this--and that's unfortunate, because "this" is her life. And you're basically saying "la la la not listening!" and hoping that the things you don't want to know about go away. So of course sometimes she drops bombshells--it's really hard to just not tell people huge things about yourself, especially when you're really close to those people. You seem to want her to just pretend that a huge chunk of her life doesn't exist.

You sound exceedingly uptight, and really determined to stay that way. Your girlfriend sounds relatively liberal. There's nothing in this question that makes me think that you like her or respect her, let alone that you should be building a life with her. It's time for you to move on and find someone who's more suited to what you feel is normal, and for her to find someone who'll be able to appreciate her for the person she is, not for a sanitized version of herself.
posted by MeghanC at 8:41 PM on February 26, 2014 [2 favorites]

- The private detective work is a real thing, but I don't know if she is doing that .

- I could explain the rest to you, and I'd probably be right in my assessments about her, but I don't think it would help you.

Bottom line? I think it is not fixable because you can't heal her or help her see things differently in light of your own perspective on her life's challenges and choices.
posted by jbenben at 8:45 PM on February 26, 2014

P.S. The woman who stood up for me when I was a child -- I love her, STRONGLY. The idea of anyone hurting her or treating her badly makes me feel like I might have an emotional explosion. I see that absolutely nowhere in your post. I don't see a shred of concern for your girlfriend's (CURRENT) physical or emotional well-being or happiness; I don't see a shred of concern that she be protected from hurt or harm. You mention loving her kids and her cats, I guess that's something.
posted by cairdeas at 8:45 PM on February 26, 2014 [6 favorites]

I am still extremely confused as to why you have stayed with this woman for 7 years. She has told you and shown you who she is as a person and what her life is like and you constantly told her that you hated all of that and didn't want to know any information. There is a lot of contempt and bizarre communication happening that you should probably unpack on your own, possibly with a therapist.

My own feelings regarding sex workers and non-vanilla sex set aside, there is nothing wrong with setting boundaries for yourself regarding things that you like, ie, only wanting a "normal relationship and normal sex life". There is something DEEPLY wrong with starting off your post with how strict you are in those feelings and how much those principles matter to you, and yet you have built a life with a woman who is the antithesis of all of that. Do you hold yourself in such low regard that you do not deserve someone who makes you happy? Why would you choose a life with someone who told you right off the bat that she has things in her past that you cannot accept?

Cut her loose so she can finally be free of this.
posted by ruhroh at 8:55 PM on February 26, 2014 [1 favorite]

It sounds to me like this woman deeply wanted your acceptance and approval, but was so terrified of losing you that she never could come out and be herself. From your story, it seems that she was trying to test the waters and gauge your responses by talking about her sister or her ex husband. That's why she told those stories - so she could see your reactions, and figure out what was and wasn't safe to tell you.

That said, please leave her immediately, so she can find someone who will let her be herself.
posted by SkylitDrawl at 8:56 PM on February 26, 2014 [5 favorites]

If you telegraph quite clearly to someone that you are going to find them disgusting and revolting if X is true, above and beyond whether or not you're going to leave them over it? Where X is something about past history, not current circumstances? Then, well, guess what, they are not going to trust you well enough to tell you about X. Yes, perhaps lies are involved, but you provided no safe opportunity for her to tell the truth without judgment. You don't trust her, for good reason--but she doesn't trust you, also for good reason.

You don't respect her, you certainly don't love her anything close to unconditionally. She is not in a safe place in your relationship, and she is behaving accordingly. Stop teasing her with the idea that there might possibly be a time and place where she will someday be safe to be herself with you; let her go, and go find someone who is actually more to your taste.
posted by Sequence at 9:01 PM on February 26, 2014 [4 favorites]

Not very much about your situation makes sense. Why are you with a woman whose lifestyle you totally disapprove of? Why is she with you? For seven years? How did you meet? Why don't you just break up? Something is very strange here. Most people simply don't get into situations like this, much less for almost a decade.
posted by BabeTheBlueOX at 9:14 PM on February 26, 2014

To me, I should have left then

It sounds like you're advising yourself to break up. If you want permission, it sounds like you already gave it to yourself.

"I don't want to know about it."

Whatever happens with this relationship don't continue adding that emphasized part on when discussing, well, anything with anybody. You clearly do want to know. You just didn't want to go through the messy part of learning about it, which is a tad contradictory. You can't expect people to hear that from you and have them think "better stop dating this person, they don't want to know about my past". Some people, which apparently includes your girlfriend, will think "better not talk about it or they'll stop dating me" which, honestly, I could see as being an implicit part of what you said. It's like she heard: "I don't like this kind of thing so let's pretend it never happened and we'll be cool". The honest side of people makes it so they'll eventually talk about that kind of thing though; it's hard to keep a part of yourself hidden from someone you care about especially for 7 years.
posted by Green With You at 9:15 PM on February 26, 2014

She tried to tell you the truth, over and over and over. You kept telling her you didn't want to hear it, with a heaping dose of shame for good measure. And now you're complaining because she lied to you about the truths you said you didn't want to know about? That you found out about by going through her personal things? What did you expect, that going "la la la I can't hear you" was going to change the past? Did you think that seeking out her secrets after telling her you didn't want to hear them from her own totally honest mouth, essentially telling her you wanted her to hide them was going to go well?

Good news: it did go well, because now you have to take your blinders off. Considering the way you treated her, it's time for you to leave. Like now. Next time you're in a relationship and someone wants to tell you about themselves, let them. Then deal with that person as they are, not as you want to pretend they are.
posted by davejay at 9:15 PM on February 26, 2014 [6 favorites]

The thing is, if you're not in the kind of social world where there are people who do sex work, you've gotten nothing but messages about how bad/freaky/broken sex workers are and how their work unfits them for "normal" relationships. That's what you've grown up with. It's understandable that all this - now that you can't ignore it - is very shocking and upsetting. Not because sex workers are terrible, but because you've been socialized to see people who do sex work as unacceptable, and those feelings aren't going to vanish unless you work to vanish them.

It sounds like your girlfriend has had a pretty tough life - not because she's been a sex worker but because she seems to have been in a lot of very intense survival situations where she's had limited choices. And because she's had to live so much of her adult life hiding a big part of herself.

It seems unclear as to whether she is still doing some kind of sex work while in a relationship with you. That on its own would be difficult to think through - it's something that is, I think, important to know about in a relationship, and it would be pretty shocking to find out unexpectedly.

I just don't see a way around breaking up, unless you want to do serious therapy and get all this on the table.

Seriously, I get that this is shocking and upsetting. It seems like a tragic situation - you love this woman, she loves you, you are damaged (because if you weren't, you wouldn't have responded to all this stuff with 'la la I can't hear you') and she is damaged by her earlier abuse...and your mutual situation seems to have wound itself into a place where you can't fix it. That seems horribly sad to me, and you have some sad times ahead of you.

I really, really think you should work through some of this "I don't want to hear about that" stuff. That's an unusual response, that total clear and verbal refusal to hear something. Where does that come from in your life? It's going to be a problem for you on an ongoing basis, I think.

I also think you should consider why sex work freaks you out so much. I know folks who do sex work including escorting, I know folks who have dated sex workers, I know folks who would absolutely never do sex work, I know folks who would not want to date someone currently doing sex work....and yet your response seems weirdly intense to me. Like it's not just a boundary but a panic/revulsion response. Again, where does that come from for you? What is it about the mere idea of sex work that just totally shuts you down? What is it about a situation where someone you care for may have done something you dislike that completely shuts you down?

I think that if you consider those things, it might help you process all this.

I strongly urge you to be kind when you break up. Your girlfriend has been trying to tell you about all this stuff and you have been too upset to hear her. She's been under a huge amount of pressure trying to keep all the parts of her life together.

I was raised in a very strict home with very, very strict and clear-cut moral boundaries - not just about sex but about everything. It has been very easy for me to fall into habits of thought where I'm all "but how could a person possibly do something that [shameful/trashy/bad/etc], doesn't that mean they are a deceptive or awful person? " But in general, I've learned that a lot of the stuff I grew up believing shameful and bad is just...stuff. Stuff that people end up doing because they don't have a lot of good alternatives, stuff that they end up doing just like I ended up being a secretary even though I have a fancy college degree and great GREs. Sometimes life just...ends up in some kind of way, and it's not because anyone is terrible, it's because folks are trying to get by and do work that they can tolerate, based on a limited number of choices. Sometimes sex work is totally the best option - not because people are so broken or damaged that they can't do anything else, but because of money or scheduling or people's emotional capacity, or because sex work is more pleasant for them than slinging hamburgers or answering phones or being a paralegal or a middle manager. It's just a thing that happens. You don't need to like sex work, or be comfortable with a partner who is doing it. I'm just saying that your question makes me think that you've got really rigid mental categories that you place on top of the world, and I tend to do that, and life is a lot less painful for me when I just think "yeah, people's lives can take them all kinds of places" rather than applying a giant moral yardstick.
posted by Frowner at 9:22 PM on February 26, 2014 [3 favorites]

So many replies! I haven't had a good look yet; but I want to clear a few things up

- When she first told me she was a prostitute; as much as I despise that sort of thing, I told her it didn't matter, I still loved her. I wanted to be understanding of her situation. Did I need to ask her to explain what she did when men paid her for sex? I don't think so. And I don't think it unreasonable to not want to know. I was happy to leave it in the past.

- Am I upset/disgusted that I found out 5 years into our relationship? Yes, and I think that is fair. I did plan on leaving then - when I did, she begged me to try and work things out, she booked us a holiday to Hawaii, things seemed to be okay, we worked on things from there.

- Yes, I am disgusted that while she was in a relationship with me, always accusing me of cheating on her, going through my mail, my phone, etc, that she was hiding from me the fact she was taking dirty photos with her friends, and taking photos of strippers at brothels. I don't think people do that in a normal relationship.

- She told me from day one she thinks that people that have sex with other people, and aren't commited to the one person is wrong. I never told her not to tell me about herself - I told her - and I apologise if my words were not more clear before - that if she was into that sort of stuff, that I didn't want to be in a relationship with me; and her answer was always, "I hate that sort of stuff, but my husband that used to beat me up made me do it, or beat me up for not doing it."

She keeps telling me she wants to marry me, and have a fairy tale wedding and life, where we love each other, and love each other so much, I'm never with anyone else, and she is never with any one else.

Okay - so I am asking - in context of everything else - considering she did all these other things in secret while we were together - what are the chances she is lying about that? She has always been adamant she hates people that are sexually promiscuous, and have sex outside of commited relationships. Okay. You people know her. Perhaps, people that know themselves may know if a person like this is lyng in this situation. And given all that - what are the chances that she is lying about that - because she found a guy that will treat her well - and is actually into the sort of things she says she is not?

I should say, I also never told her not to tell me - anytime I asked her, she lied, twisted the truth, etc.
posted by anawesomeguy at 9:37 PM on February 26, 2014

You can say she should be totally open and honest with you. Or you can say she shouldn't tell you anything you'd rather not hear about. But you can't say both. Pick one. Either get everything out in the open so you can decide how you feel and go from there. Or forget about all this stuff, and just live with having a general understanding that she won't tell you about certain things you're uncomfortable with.
posted by John Cohen at 9:40 PM on February 26, 2014 [2 favorites]

Even though I what makes people good is that when bad things happen, they dont do bad things.

This sentence seems to have gotten scrambled in the course of revising drafts but it sounds like you explicitly said or almost explicitly said she's a bad person by default whose life has to be excused somehow.

Maybe it's just me but in reading through your post, the underlying theme is that you utterly and viscerally revile her at some level. Which isn't incompatible with also loving her. But even if the person she's most intimate with in the world reviles her just a little bit, that's something which could completely destroy her life and prevent her from escaping whatever miseries she's known, like the way a tiny trickle of water can catastrophically wipe out a million-ton concrete dam if it seeps through in a vital place.

She may have mistreated you too in one way or another, but you have or at least express an existential disdain for her soul: it does not weigh less than a feather, its value is not as much as others. You see her like Jacob Marley, girded in chains from execrable deeds that can no longer be undone.

I can't imagine that separating as has been suggested above is anything other than the best thing, for both of you. And I say that with the full power and authority invested in me as a Random Internet Person Who Read A Few Paragraphs About One Side of the Story.
posted by XMLicious at 9:41 PM on February 26, 2014 [2 favorites]

You people know her. Perhaps, people that know themselves may know if a person like this is lyng in this situation.

Dude. If we know her better than you do after reading a little bit because her nature as a person is so distant and alien and diametrically opposed to that of her boyfriend of seven years, does anything she has actually done or said matter?
posted by XMLicious at 9:57 PM on February 26, 2014

It sounds like you two have very different values. Why are you even together?
posted by Dansaman at 9:58 PM on February 26, 2014

Re: your update.

Yeah, OP, Mefi is coming down hard on you because you're being super judgey about sex, and MeFi skews really liberal towards sex. If you had just left out the "normal sex" part of your question, I feel like people would be more sympathetic to you.

Anyway, I see absolutely no reason to assume that your girlfriend is totally in the right here, is a fragile flower desperately trying to open up to you but you just won't listen, is sobbing her eyes out because she deeply loves you and you're just so cruel, etc. etc. I think people are WAAAAAAAAYYY jumping to conclusions on this one!

I mean, yes, I do have sympathy for her. She sounds like she's had a rough life. But that only goes so far, you know? I've had a rough life. At some point, she is responsible for purposefully misleading you, if she has done so. It sounds to me like she definitely should take at least some portion of the blame here. Hiding sexy photos and ongoing stripper/whatever other sex work while dating you is a big deal.

Anyway, OP, this really sounds like a huge train wreck. Trust is gone at this point, and I think it will take loads of couples counseling to fix this, at the very least. I would probably walk if I were you, but my tolerance for drama is uber thin.
posted by quincunx at 9:58 PM on February 26, 2014

I should say, I also never told her not to tell me - anytime I asked her, she lied, twisted the truth, etc.

You keep dodging your responsibility and agency in all this. Whether you told her in so many words "do not tell me these things" or not, it's clear that your actions and attitude implicitly sent the message to her that you didn't want to hear the unvarnished truth about her past. She clearly has a lot of shame about her past, and you seem to have done nothing to make her feel otherwise.

You're not her victim. Nor, by the same token, is she your victim. You are two adults who are poorly suited for each other, and yet have both continued to make various choices to stay together in spite of that, and to try to construct half-truths about who you are and what you feel and what you need and what you believe in order to try to stay together. Basically, you've spent seven years building a house of cards, and nothing anyone here says is going to make it a sound structure on a solid foundation. You may indeed love her, and she may indeed love you, and you still don't have the essential elements -- respect, trust, empathy, etc. -- that are the crucial building blocks of a good relationship.
posted by scody at 10:09 PM on February 26, 2014 [1 favorite]

You people know her.

First things first: Dude, you are a mystery internet stranger. I don't know you or your girlfriend any more than I know the people currently sitting on a city bus down the block. All "sexually liberated" people are not one giant neurally-connected organism, wtf. We're not a different species from you, we're just people. And your girlfriend is a person, not a gross alien replicant who forced herself on you.

There's a line in Old School where the main character catches his girlfriend having a threesome with internet people. He says,

"Be honest with me: Tell me this is the first time this has ever happened."

And his girlfriend says,

"Well do you want me to be honest or do you want me to say this is the first time?"

What you want is for your girlfriend to be some complete other person whose life at no time resembled the life your girlfriend has actually lived. This is not a possible thing.

Just. Break. Up. With. Her.

And dude, if you couldn't take the five hundred thousand million hints she was giving you for the last seven years of your life, you either have some intense denial issues going on OR, you kind of got off on her "secret" past and shaming her for either case, you gotta get yourself some head-work, because none of that is a recipe for a healthy relationship at all.
posted by like_a_friend at 10:09 PM on February 26, 2014 [2 favorites]

I should say, I also never told her not to tell me - anytime I asked her, she lied, twisted the truth, etc.

What? You repeatedly use the phrase "No, no. I hate that sort of stuff. I don't want to know about it." That's a direct quote from your OP. So which is it?

Yes, I am disgusted that while she was in a relationship with me, always accusing me of cheating on her, going through my mail, my phone, etc, that she was hiding from me the fact she was taking dirty photos with her friends, and taking photos of strippers at brothels. I don't think people do that in a normal relationship.

This would be a dealbreaker for me. I don't know if she's lying about everything or just some things or what, and I don't understand why you think we can answer that, since we don't know her and you do. Like I said above - it is okay to break up with her. You feel betrayed and lied to and you don't trust her. Those are all good reasons to break up.
posted by rtha at 10:11 PM on February 26, 2014

She keeps telling me she wants to marry me, and have a fairy tale wedding and life, where we love each other, and love each other so much, I'm never with anyone else, and she is never with any one else.

Is she lying? Probably not. I suspect she wishes this was who she was - she just doesn't believe she is.

Solid marriages take trust - and two partners who will unfailingly work hard to earn that trust from their partner. You don't have that with her - and she doesn't have it with you. Sadly, especially for her children, this isn't going to work.
posted by summerstorm at 10:14 PM on February 26, 2014

I have always made it clear that I don't want to be with a person that is into anything other than normal sex within a normal relationship... I don't think people do that in a normal relationship.

I'm willing to bet cold hard cash that what you think of as "normal" is exactly what you're comfortable with -- if you like anal, then that's normal, but it you don't, that's some weird practice of sexual deviants and libertines. Same thing if you only like missionary, or don't like sex toys, or whatever.

Despite your attachment to the idea, there is no normal. You need to stop using this idea as a way to disparage your girlfriend or make her some "abnormal" person worthy of shunning. You're allowed to have sexual boundaries, but that does not make the people who frolic outside of your personal comfort zone unworthy freaks. Please break up with this woman -- you will never be happy with her, but just as importantly, she will never be happy with you living under constant judgement.
posted by DarlingBri at 10:27 PM on February 26, 2014 [3 favorites]

You're 30. [As of last May.] She's (presumably) 42.

You met and began dating her when you were 23? You thought she was "bait" (reiteration of her words through your description).

The entirety of your post. Some things, many things, don't add up.
I'm inclined to think: This some kind of badly-executed joke. And that someone is trolling.
posted by simulacra at 10:29 PM on February 26, 2014 [5 favorites]

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