His Wife's Past

Q: I recently found out my wife has had 12 sexual partners in her past. This bothers me quite a bit and has affected the way I feel about her. I myself have had fewer partners and was more of a relationship-based dater. She explains that after a 6-year relationship she dated quite a bit in the two years before we met. To me it calculates to a new guy every two months until we met. I feel now like just another guy. I never wanted to be the guy who had the girl that many others had. Not sure what the next move is . . . . Any advice would help. — John, 37

Dr. Susan: I feel for your discomfort, but I feel for your wife's even more. I want to say, "Been there, done that." After a long marriage or relationship, it's not unusual for a woman or man to want to explore their sensual side and take advantage of their new freedom. After all, they're not cheating anyone. It's impossible to think of the man who they'll eventually marry as being hurt in the future by this behavior. I bet some of her partners in the past were quickies with no emotional involvement, but with you, apparently, she found it all: love, intimacy, happiness. It would be a shame if you got all cave man on her now. So she doesn't fit your youthful outdated stereotype of the virginal or near-virginal female. Whatever you fell in love with about her is still there. You're not in competition with those between-relationship episodes. My advice would be to talk this over with a therapist so you can get over your retroactive jealousy (a common thing). Maybe you can come to perceive that your fewer, but more emotional, relationships somehow equal her shorter, more meaningless ones. It's time to clear the slate and accept that, as her husband, you are indeed very special to her and not at all comparable to anyone else.

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