his past. my present.
January 29, 2008 5:20 PM   Subscribe

feelings about his past relationships? how to get past it?

My partner (23 years old) and I (24) have been together 2 months. He told me in the beginning of the relationship that he has been with 15+ women (5 short term relationships and the rest were all strictly sex). I had told him it didn't bother me when we first met, but now it does, and I don't know why and if it should be bothering me at all. Maybe it's because I have only been with 3 men my whole life and I kind of feel like I have to be at his level for some reason. I've told him this and he said he doesn't want to be with someone who has had many sexual partners.
Could it be some type of jealousy? Jealous that he has been with that amount and I haven't had that experience?

Or maybe I'm just jealous because he is a guy and as a guy he can have that amount of sexual partners without the feelings that I get when I have sex with someone?

He tells me the past was the past for him and he doesn't want to bring it up in our relationship or wants to know who I've been with. How do I stop myself from imagining him being with all of those women and being curious about his past relationships? I really can't see him with any other person. just me, right now.

should I be going to therapy about this? does this mean i'm in love with him? ahhhh. questions I can't answer myself.

Does anyone have any insight on this or have felt this way before?
posted by anonymous to Human Relations (17 answers total) 3 users marked this as a favorite

All I've got to say is that this:

he said he doesn't want to be with someone who has had many sexual partners

... gives me pause. It seems to indicate an ugly double standard.
posted by orange swan at 5:27 PM on January 29, 2008 [6 favorites]

Is he just saying that to try to make you feel better, rather than as a double standard?

Anyway, decide whether you are bothered by his relative depth of experience, or your relative lack of it?
posted by gjc at 5:33 PM on January 29, 2008

Yes, he has ugly double standards and is therefore a sexist jerk and you should dump him...

Or its possible that numbers don't matter to him, or you have been in longer term relationships and have have more sex then he has with fewer people.

I don't know him, I don't know you, but I can tell you that there is nothing more unattractive then insecurity, and he is with your for a reason, accept that and stop worrying about his past, or your own for that matter. Obviously you can hold your own or he wouldn't stick around.
posted by BobbyDigital at 6:21 PM on January 29, 2008

I really, really don't mean this to sound snarky or judgmental, but I can think of an extraordinarily few situations where a relationship of two months would require someone to go to a therapist.

You're new together. You're still getting to know each other. It's a process. Talk to him about stuff that bothers you, tell him how you feel, and go from there. Don't get hung up on OMG REST OF MY LIFE PARTNER PARTNER PARTNER though. It's way too soon for that. It's not good for you, for him, or for the relationship.

How do I stop myself from imagining him being with all of those women and being curious about his past relationships?

The harder you try not to think about it, the more obsessed you'll become. Try another tack -- imagine him with ugly people, or the kind of people you know now that he is absolutely uninterested in. Remind yourself that he's with YOU now, not them.

Most of all, give him a chance to prove himself to you.

And honestly, if you really have to run to therapy two months in, you probably should have been in therapy to deal with relationship stuff all along.

does this mean i'm in love with him?

Slow down, sweetie, and enjoy the dating. Don't worry about that just yet.
posted by mudpuppie at 6:27 PM on January 29, 2008

I don't think it is jealousy, it's fear. Fear you are another notch on his belt to the top 100 fucks before he is 30. Don't screw him until you know him very well. It doesn't sound like he sticks around for very long after the lovin'. I think you are being kind to call his conquests "relationships". What is his longest relationship? That will give you some vital insight. Good luck.
posted by 45moore45 at 6:45 PM on January 29, 2008 [2 favorites]

Yeah, that double standard makes me pause too, unless he was just saying it to make you feel better.

I agree with 45moore45 that there is an element of fear in there--that he can't just appreciate you, he's judging you against all the other fucks he's had. All I can say is if you really want to be with him, you have to trust there's a reason he's with you. He's got you over all the other girls, so don't feel like you have to live up to some invisible standard.

I don't think discussing previous relationships is necessarily a bad thing, as long as you know, for absolutely sure, that you are not viewing them through jealous or catty eyes. This is very hard to do, so most of the time it's better to just not do it and pretend that this is the first relationship either of you have had. Not that you approach it immaturely, but that you just not compare your partner to anyone before (and assume you're not being compared, either).

I just gotta say, though. I have male friends around that age. The ones who have racked up more partners (15-20+) are usually the ones who are least likely to want to hold out for a long-term, stable, sane relationship. Come back 10 years later and it can be different, though.
posted by schroedinger at 6:56 PM on January 29, 2008

Or maybe I'm just jealous because he is a guy and as a guy he can have that amount of sexual partners without the feelings that I get when I have sex with someone?

First off, Anonymous, please change your way of thinking about this. There are many, many men out there who will not sleep with someone they don't have strong feelings for, and there are many, many women out there who sleep with men just because they like sex. Neither way is wrong or right (provided that no one gets physically or emotionally hurt), and once you stop thinking in terms of “guys are like this about sex, and girls are like this,” it’ll be easier for you to figure out your own attitudes (and to call out your boyfriend on what does indeed sound like an asshole dealbreaker double-standard).

At any rate, I am guessing that your jealousy is not due to the fact that he’s had more sex than you, it’s that something you see as valuable and precious seems like it might not be as big of a deal to him. You may think that he doesn’t value sex with you as much as you value sex with him, or you may think that he valued sex with the other 15 women just as much as he values sex with you. Of course I don’t know him and can’t say for sure, but if he is a good guy and if he truly cares about you and is serious about you, neither of these are true. A one-night stand with who-the-heck-ever is just not the same as a long-term relationship in which there is frequent, emotionally connected, and ever-improving sex… as well as all of the other wonderful qualities a serious relationship can offer.

He is with just you, right now, and unless you have any evidence that he’s cheating, he isn’t with any other person. As long as he is with you and wants to be with you, you are more important to him than any of those other fifteen. He’s not thinking about those other fifteen women. If any of them were that great, he’d be with them instead.

And if your jealousy is just about him having had more fun than you… do you genuinely wish you had as many notches in your bedpost? Or is this a case of being happy with your ice cream cone… until you see that the next kid got an extra scoop and jimmies? I generally believe that most people are good about regulating their own sex lives, i.e. you’ve probably had sex with about as many people as you wanted to. If you want to have sex with a dozen more people, take a year off of relationships and hang out in a lot of bars. It sounds flip, but it’s true. Bear in mind that having slept with dozens of people does not necessarily make you a better lover, nor does it reflect on your desirability or your skill in bed, nor does it mean the quality of the sex was that much better. Dollars to donuts at least a few of your beau’s hookups were duds.

Or are you worried, perhaps, that since he’s been with so many other women, that he’s not capable of staying monogamous? The number of people someone’s slept with has absolutely no bearing on their fidelity. None. There are other things you should look out for, some of which do indeed correlate with a full scorecard, but simply having been in so many women’s beds in the past does not mean he’s going to jump into any beds besides yours from now on.


does this mean i'm in love with him? ahhhh. questions I can't answer myself.

Generally, if you don’t know whether you’re in love, you probably aren’t. You’re feeling a lot of strong emotions right now… just breathe! Whether or not you’re ready to use the L word will come on its own.

That was a lot longer than I’d intended it to be, and it may not be all 100% true for you (and I apologize for writing this like you’re already sleeping with him when in fact you may not be). Anyway, the Cliffs Notes version of all of this is that your reaction is normal. It’s okay to feel jealous about this, but having had lots of partners doesn’t mean he’s sexually better off than you in any way, nor does it mean you’re less important to him in any way. Relax, and don’t jump to any conclusions based on his past encounters. Instead, use his present actions to gauge how worthwhile this relationship will be (e.g. his unwillingness to date someone with comparable experience is a pretty big flag).

You’ll be fine. Even if this relationship goes down in flames, you’ll learn from it and you’ll be fine. Good luck!
posted by Metroid Baby at 6:59 PM on January 29, 2008 [5 favorites]

There is a wide variation among levels of sexual experience, and sheer numbers are only one small part of the equation. As others have suggested, the number he identifies may mean that he is very attractive to the opposite sex, or it may mean that he is not very discriminating. Or both.

It is impossible to figure out all the permutations, so the best thing to do is focus on the present. I'm all for open discussion about these things; it means that the relationship is strong and healthy. It also means that you won't secretly obsess about these issues.
posted by megatherium at 8:16 PM on January 29, 2008

Both of you should take STD tests, just in case.
posted by BeaverTerror at 9:04 PM on January 29, 2008

I used to care about this stuff a lot. I'd really like to think it was from a non-jealous perspective, more like a natural curiosity, but really what does it matter?

For many years I dated men and found I was really happy with those that were willing to discuss and talk about their past relationship history and sex experiences. It was comforting to know that they were like me in their "openness". I took it as a positive sign–as if not "hiding" things was a marker of our ability to communicate. And that did help me understand things about the world and where people come from and how they arrived at the places they are now.

I'm not sure what it was (maybe higher self-esteem), but I got to a point where I'd dated enough people, heard enough stories, got enough answers, and...I just didn't care anymore. That kind of data just became boring. I found that I could make it work with people who had wildly different (and not necessarily admirable) pasts; I could feel comfortable with people who's experience levels were similar to mine. But in the end, all of those relationships failed one way or another, and had nothing to do with how many lovers they'd had or how many people they'd lived with, or what kind of psycho drama they'd been through. IT JUST DIDN'T MATTER.

What did matter was how their emotional, conversational, and expressive styles blended with mine. Compatibility between you and your man has little to do with statistics about his past.

If you must constantly evaluate and analyze the relationship, do so by the real world, personal, verifiable information you have at hand. Put the focus back on you and remove outside influence. How do you two interact together? What happens behind closed doors? Do you like the person you are with him? How do you two handle issues that arise? Are you happy?

The answers to these questions are infinitely more worthy of your worry than "What was the dynamic between my man and so-and-so" or "Why hasn't he had a serious relationship?" Let those questions crop up when yellow or red flags wave in front of you. Try to focus on the good qualities about him. If it doesn't work out, you'll be happy that you at least let yourself enjoy as much of the good parts about him. And if it does work out, you'll be even happier that you focused on the positive, the here and the now, and not the past that didn't even include you and is just a memory.
posted by iamkimiam at 9:19 PM on January 29, 2008 [7 favorites]

I had told him it didn't bother me when we first met, but now it does, and I don't know why and if it should be bothering me at all.

It is because you love him. You are human. These thoughts come to you. Accept your feelings and hope he shares them.
posted by Ironmouth at 10:33 PM on January 29, 2008 [2 favorites]

If you think that he would reject you if you had had an equal number of partners (as in, you too had slept with 15+ people), then I would seriously consider not continuing the relationship. That is an indication of a nasty double standard that I personally would not put up with, and who knows, it might mean that he has other sexist expectations that you haven't uncovered yet. That's up to you.

Interestingly, I have had about exactly opposite the experience of iamkimiam, maybe because the tables for me were often turned and *I* was the one with a wild and crazy past. I eventually came to feel that talking about my disease status (free of it! thanks!) was about as much as I was willing to do. My past is my past; the person I'm with (married to) is my present and my future. I don't believe that every single guy that I've ever slept with has somehow immutably changed my life. The ones that did, I'm sure I've talked about in conversations with people who knew both of us, as most of my friends did, and I do not eschew these conversations around my husband. But I've never assigned a number to my sexual encounters, frankly because I do not care. I've assumed the same attitude w/r/t my spouse's past, and I'm fine with that. It's working for me, which I why I suggest it for you.
posted by Medieval Maven at 4:55 AM on January 30, 2008

I'm in the opposite situation, except that my boyfriend doesn't give a shit, and is glad I'm with him. He likes to joke about me being a slut before he came around and straightened me out. It's all in good fun.

I bet the reason he isn't so interested in talking about it, probably, is because he's bored of sleeping around. It's honestly that not great or interesting. You have too many drinks or something and start hitting it off with a cutie, and the next morning you're like "oh shit, I hope they don't want me to call them back." Just standard stuff you may or may not be ashamed of. The past is past and he's not like that anymore, you know?

That being said if this really bugs you there is nothing wrong with seeing a professional privately.
posted by herbaliser at 10:02 AM on January 30, 2008 [1 favorite]

It is because you love him.

You say this to someone who has been dating for only 2 months, someone who talks about the other person in a way that suggests insecurity and some real anxieties about social conventions for sexual behavior?

I'm in the camp that would keep an eye out for anything associated with the claim "he said he doesn't want to be with someone who has had many sexual partners." If it was just to make you feel better, he's not a great communicator. (Something like "the number doesn't matter, it's how we are together that matters" is probably a better sign. It's always better if your partner can offer reassurance that is about YOU being wonderful, rather than about other people being no good.) If it was because he truly thinks gals shouldn't be roaming as much as guys, well, just make sure you buy into those gender expectations before you make a commitment. This is the kind of area where the people in the relationship should be on the same page.

This to me is a warning sign: I had told him it didn't bother me when we first met, but now it does, and I don't know why and if it should be bothering me at all.

Often when we are getting the feeling that the connection isn't right, we start having [sometimes over-]reactions to things that may or may not be significant in themselves. I don't think this is therapy territory, but I think you've said more than enough to indicate that you don't feel especially cherished here, and that you would like to feel that. Be honest with yourself about whether you are getting the kind of interaction you want - you deserve to hold out for someone with whom you feel safe, cared for, delighted, and all those other wonderful things.
posted by caitlinb at 10:36 AM on January 30, 2008 [2 favorites]

What you should focus on is quality, not quantity. What was the quality, the nature, the meanings, and the meaningfulness of the sex that each of you has had? I'd compare it on that level, if you compare it at all.
posted by salvia at 12:07 AM on January 31, 2008

Or maybe I'm just jealous because he is a guy and as a guy he can have that amount of sexual partners without the feelings that I get when I have sex with someone?

Wait, you're jealous that he could have sex without feelings? Feelings are good. Unless you're afraid that he could be having sex with YOU without having feelings for you, without having the same feelings you're having for him.
posted by salvia at 12:16 AM on January 31, 2008

I kind of feel like I have to be at his level for some reason

it sounds like he's created a situation where you feel you've been reduced in value somehow and its created a subconscious conflict in your mind via his emphasis on sexual partners. You dont see how numbers matter but for some reason it does to him.

I'd question him further over why its important. specifically if this relationship would even exist if you'd had as many as him.
posted by browolf at 7:57 AM on February 16, 2008

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