Her Past Isn't Over
Q: My wife and I dated for several years before getting married. During that time we broke up and dated other people several times. We finally realized that we wanted to be together and were married 12 years ago. Early on, and occasionally since then, we discussed what happened in our past relationships. The odd thing is that her story constantly changes. In our last discussion she says she can't remember the name of the first person she had sex with (or the names of any of her previous lovers). She told me in detail about sex on a boat with a guy named Frank but then later says she never had sex with Frank. I realize that the past is the past. I would never be angry or hold the past against her. I just don't understand why she doesn't trust me enough to be completely honest with me about the past. My concern is that if you'll lie about something that insignificant from the past, you'll damn sure lie about the present. I just don't feel that we should have any secrets. I know I should just drop it but it is really bothering me. -- Larry, 41
Dr. Susan: All couples have secrets. Perhaps your wife was more open about her past relationships when you first got back together, and has since decided that she wants to put all that behind her. Unless you have reason to believe she's being dishonest about anything in the present, you really ought to try to let go of all that ancient history. I doubt she's forgotten every lover, as she claims to, but she may wish she could forget the past, especially since it seems to bug you so much. I suspect she doesn't entirely believe you that you won't hold the past against her. Just by bringing this subject up repeatedly you are showing it retains a hold on your imagination, and not in a good way. So how about you tell her what's really bothering you, which is that you believe she is capable of playing fast and loose with the truth, and that this makes you suspicious of her in the present. Honesty is much more important to some individuals than to others (I think it's utterly crucial!), so the two of you need to talk about that, not the distant past.
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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.