Her Past Makes Him Sick
Q: I am 37 and my girlfriend is 36. We are both divorced, and she has custody of her three kids and I have custody of my two. We've been dating for a couple of months. She is very sweet to me and very shy and reserved. We laugh a lot together.
We went to the same high school for one year but didn't know each other then. Recently I remembered her high school ex-boyfriend, and I wish I hadn't. Her ex was a very aggressive obnoxious person. In gym class he used to talk about how he had sex with her and that she is a big slut. His talk was graphic, mean, and disrespectful toward her. He would say all sorts of things that they "did." It made me sick then and it makes me sicker now. The other day we were looking through her old yearbook and I pointed to his picture and asked if she knew him. She stuttered and said kinda and changed the subject.
Do I tell her what I know to be true? This is really bothering me because I was a lot more sexually shy than she was. In other words, she's been around the block more than a few times and more than me, which now makes me scared to know her past. The memory is starting to change how I act around her. -- Scott
Dr. Susan: You're blaming your girlfriend for something she may have done half a lifetime ago? While I don't doubt that she's had more experience than you, you shouldn't take what an obnoxious high school bully once said about her with too much seriousness. He could have made up or exaggerated quite a bit of it. The word "slut" is tossed around routinely in high school anyway, sometimes just out of meanness. But even if it were all true, and she has participated in a variety of sexual activities in the distant past, she sounds like a very different person now. Some people really do change and try very hard to overcome their foolish high school hijinks. Still, if this troubling secret memory is driving you apart, give her a chance to speak for herself. Let her know you suddenly remembered this nasty guy, and that thinking about her with him, assuming what he said was true, is upsetting you. She probably won't have much she can say, and no matter what she says, it's really up to you to be mature enough to let the past stay in the past. If you find that you can't overcome these feelings, you ought to be seeking an unmarried virgin, not a 36-year-old with three kids. I understand that actually seeing this guy in your mind makes it harder. But high school? C'mon. That's ancient history.
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Advice for Her
Advice for Him
Susan K. Perry, Ph.D.
Susan K. Perry, Ph.D., is a social psychologist, relationship expert, and bestselling and award-winning author. Her books include Loving in Flow: How the Happiest Couples Get and Stay That Way, and Kylie's Heel, a novel for adults.
Pamela G. Chollet, Ph.D.
Dr. Pamela Chollet has a Ph.D. in clinical psychology and Master degrees in educational psychology and fine arts. Her passion has been helping people face and get through those times when they feel trapped and unable to move forward.
Anna Charbonneau, Ph.D.
Anna Charbonneau, Ph.D., is a clinical psychologist, stress management expert, and author. If you're feeling overwhelmed, stressed out, or struggling to make changes in your life, Anna can help.