She Wasn't a Virgin
Q: I met my wife in college, and we had a two-year courtship. After college, I contemplated the seminary and, prior to marriage, I wanted to know who she really was and if we were compatible. I asked questions and I got what I thought were favorable answers, so I proceeded. We were morally and ethically in synch, I thought. We never lived together prior to marriage so my exposure to her tendencies were few. Shortly after marriage, she divulged that she lost her virginity to a roommate. When she told me this, she felt remorse. Now she laughs about the issue, but it's not funny to me and I've told her! What else has she lied about? Should I get AIDS-tested? If she did this with this guy, how many others? To forgive is divine, I know, but this is pushing the limits of human forgiveness. Should I divorce, and if not, how do I wipe this from my mind? -- Bob, 26
Dr. Susan: Divorce?! No, of course not. Did you expect forgiveness to be easy, as in, "You stepped on my toe, but I forgive you"? No, unfortunately, the only time forgiveness comes up as an issue is when you're hurting intensely. Now, that said, think about what you're implying: that she's spoiled goods, and that you didn't get what you bargained for in this marriage. That's such a primitive attitude. I don't deny that retroactive jealousy is real and painful. It's too bad she didn't have the courage to admit her past before you got married so that you could factor that into your equation of how worthy she was. But she didn't. I can only assume she suspected you were the judgmental type and wouldn't be accepting of her earlier behavior.
One of my concerns is that your wife laughs about something that upsets you, and another is that you no longer trust her. Those two things go together. First, I suggest that you both get an AIDS test for your own peace of mind. Then sit down and have a heart-to-heart talk. She needs to know that you're having trouble accepting her past, and that you need to know everything there is to know, once and for all. Only then can you begin to rebuild the lost trust. Don't expect to wipe this from your mind easily. It takes time to integrate unexpected information. It takes creating a life together that is worth more than any individual experience she had before she met you. Now you'll have to decide if her other good qualities are worth the effort of taking on this challenge. And Bob: Are you perfect?
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Advice for Her
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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.