The 7 Emotions You Feel When You Discover Your Partner’s Sexual PastJuly 25th, 2011 by Mike
Here’s the situation: You’re dating somebody that you really, really like. In fact, you just might love them. But there’s a problem: They’ve got a sexual history, and it’s eating you alive. As a virgin who is waiting till marriage, dealing with a partner’s sexual past is one of the greatest and most painful challenges you’ll face in romantic relationships.
Sometimes the pain is immediate: You’ve been in love with your partner for a while, and then one day you discover the sordid details of their sexual past and it wrecks you.
Sometimes it creeps up on you: You’ve known about their history from the beginning, but it didn’t really bother you until now. And now all of a sudden, it’s like you can’t stop thinking about it and torturing yourself with mental pictures. This has gone from a minor annoyance to a major and central problem in your relationship.
You’re being assaulted by a swarm of horrible feelings, and I know they all feel jumbled together, but it’s important to pull them apart and give them names. The more you can identify and understand the nature of your own feelings, the easier it will be for you to process and act on them in a healthy way.
1. Moral Outrage and Disgust
Their sexual past goes against all of your deeply held values about the way people should conduct themselves, what is good, what is proper, and what is right. How could they just throw away their virginity like it was nothing? How could they have sex with that brain-dead skank/douchebag? They must not have any values. Nobody has any values anymore. They just threw their body away and never thought twice.
How to get over it
The important thing to remember here is that their choices probably weren’t wrong, bad, evil, or immoral; they were probably just different from the ones you made. Even if there are universally bad deeds in their past, it will be more useful for you to view their past decisions as differences rather than as indiscretions.
If you look at their past choices as errors, then it becomes a matter of damnation or forgiveness. But by seeing their choices for what they are (differences between you and them), you can use the knowledge to adjust your understanding of your partner.
What do those choices really say about them? Where did their choices come from (psychologically)? Would they makes those choices again? Were their decisions a fluke of youth, or a part of their current character? How has their sexual past shaped their attitudes today? What does that mean for your compatibility in the future?
Those are useful and revealing questions, and it’s important that you answer them for yourself soberly. You may conclude that your partner’s past does not actually have a hell of a lot of bearing on who they are now or who they will likely be in 10 years.
People can change for the better, and kids do stupid things. They might feel as bad (or worse) about the events in their past as you do. Make sure you don’t damn them for something they’ve already moved very far past.
But don’t kid yourself. It’s crucial that you go through this analysis, because you need to be acutely aware of differences in their mentality, especially when you’re a waiter dating a non-waiter. Sometimes a person’s past can represent permanent differences in character that will make it nearly impossible for you to have a happy long-term relationship with them.
So in summary: Get off your high horse, but keep your ears perked.
2. Wounded Pride
In effect, you just found out that your girlfriend (or boyfriend) is less yours. They physically have already given a big piece of themselves to somebody else.
Maybe it was to someone they loved; Or worse, someone they didn’t. Or maybe they’re so spread around that practically everybody has had a piece of them. That makes your piece pretty worthless. And it makes it an unfair trade for you to give so much of yourself for that thing everybody else just took for nothing.
But you already traded, and now you feel ripped off in a very bitter way. What a fool you are to have cared about them and built them up to be this great thing, when they were just like everybody else. What a fool you are to have thought you had something special and unique. It’s not that they’ve been knocked off their pedestal; it’s that they’re still on the pedestal but they’ve let other people have sex with them who didn’t appreciate their value like you do.
How to get over it
There are many ways to possess someone, besides just physically. It is possible to give more of your heart to someone than you’ve given to anybody else. Sustainable marriage between non-waiters wouldn’t exist without a kind of emotional possession that goes beyond the physical.
Of course, the problem is that for 50% of marriages, sustainable marriage doesn’t exist — the emotional ownership alone isn’t quite strong enough to last a lifetime in many cases.
As someone who is waiting till marriage, you are hoping to be owned physically by your spouse by giving them your virginity (and thus your only full-body commitment) and taking theirs in return. You no doubt think (and rightly so) that this increased physical ownership between the two of you will multiply the emotional ownership, and contribute to a deeper, more lasting marriage. When you find out that your girlfiriend/boyfriend won’t be able to participate in this mutual physical ownership, you’ve got two problems…
- It’s not as easy for you to own them completely
- There will be a mismatch. Because you waited, they will own you completely while they won’t offer you the same ownership in return.
There is only one way to fix this: You have to make damn sure that you have extra emotional ownership to compensate for the lack of extra physical possession. There is such a thing as a person out there who will be so crazy in love with you, and feel so compatible with you, that they will commit to you with the same finality as a virgin would (if not more). Find that person. Adjust your expectations so that you’ll be happy with complete emotional ownership, and try your damnedest not to accept anything less. And if you find it, virgin or no, don’t be afraid to run with it and see where it takes you.
They were supposed to save themselves for you, and they went and gave it up to somebody else. You were supposed to be their first and only, and now you’re just another one in a long line. That was supposed to be your special moment, but they gave it away to others instead. You thought they made emotional commitments to you, but those commitments are clearly shallow and meaningless compared to your own.
How to get over it
Even though it feels like it, they didn’t actually betray you. They didn’t even know you back then. You can’t damn them for something they didn’t even know they were doing. They’re here with you now. And if you ask them, you might discover that they’d rather have saved it for you, and might even be pretty upset and self-conscious about it. Or they might be fine with their past (really depends on the person). In any case, give them credit for the things they do now to be true to you, in the ways that they can.
If you were having sex with them, the fact that they’ve had sex before would not bother you nearly as much. But right now they’ve done things with somebody else that they’re not doing with you, and that stings like hell. Somebody else got to experience more of your partner than you can. You wish you could have been that other person…you wish you could have had that experience. You can’t stand the idea of your partner experiencing all those things with some other person.
How to get over it
Jealousy is a function of insecurity. The more insecure you are, the more jealous you will feel. And conversely, the less insecure you are, the less jealous you feel. There is also the possession factor: Your partner’s ex owns a piece of them that you can’t own (at least, that’s how it feels).
This is an amplified, more painful version of what you feel when you see somebody with the newest iPhone, if that iPhone represented all your hopes and dreams.
The ultimate cure for jealousy is to have the same (or better) experiences with your partner as they had with their ex(es). Their past will largely stop bothering you the instant you share the same experience with them (i.e., when you get married and have sex).
The problem is, because you’re waiting, you can’t share the same experiences with them right now. That’s why sexual jealousy can become so pronounced in relationships where one person is waiting.
Since you can’t just have sex with them and ease your jealousy of the sex they’ve had with their ex(s), you need to get comfortable with two scenarios: Either you are going to marry this person, in which case you will have far more and freakier sex with them than they ever had with any ex. Or you’re not going to marry them and this doesn’t matter because you’re going to end up happier with somebody else.
Here’s one final tip on jealousy. Ask yourself: What does your significant other’s ex have to be jealous of you about? Don’t forget who’s winning the day right now. You are the one that has earned their modern affections. You are the one they love now. You are the one their more mature self has chosen. And you are the one they choose to be with over their ex.
Do they still think of their ex? Are they satisfied with you? Won’t they be thinking of all their past encounters while they’re with you? What if you don’t stack up? What if you get married and you still can’t overcome what he felt with his ex? What if she is thinking about sex with her other partners more than she thinks about sex with you? What if his ex was more experienced and made him feel better than you can? What if he’ll never commit to you physically because you’re new at this unlike his more experienced exes?
How to get over it
Your imagination is your own worst enemy here. In your mind, your partner’s past is the most painful and insecurity-inducing version you can picture. But the reality is often much more boring than that. As crazy as it sounds, sometimes it helps to meet their exes. There’s a reason why they’re with you not and not with the ex, and you can often see that reason much more clearly when you meet the ex.
Do what you can to throw cold facts on your hellish imagination, and it will calm the inflammation a little.
Also, focus on being really, really good at all the things you do with your partner, both physically and otherwise. Make it your mission in life to rock their world in all the ways that you can. Sex is like driving in that everybody things they’re good at it automatically. Use that to your advantage. Actually put thought and effort into learning how to be good, and you’ll likely surpass most of their exes easily. More importantly, you’ll be boosting your own sense of self-efficacy along the way (you’ll prove to yourself that you can get better and make them increasingly happy).
6. Violated ideals/Shattered fantasy
You wanted to marry another virgin so it would be perfect. You wanted the perfect relationship, the perfect love, and the perfect marriage. And now you’ve found a person that you’re crazy about and it would be perfect if only they hadn’t ruined it by tossing away their virginity like it was nothing, and now it’s all wrong. Not like you had pictured at all.
How to get over it
Your original fantasy was a lasting marriage with a wonderful person who you adore and who adores you back. Never forget that.
All of the above pains are feelings that come along with being emotionally invested in somebody. If you didn’t feel anything for your partner and if you don’t see a future with them, then their past might bother you intellectually, but it’s not going to keep you up nights. It’s only the people you really care about — the ones you want to own — that will be able to hurt you with their past.
This is where people usually get into trouble. See, you don’t always realize right away that these bad emotions (anger/outrage, jealousy, insecurity, etc.) are byproducts of a good emotion (love). And by the time you feel all the bad emotions, they cloud you so badly that they overshadow the lovey feelings that lead to them.
It’s kind of a weird thing. If your partner did something current, like cheated on you, you would go through many of the same emotions, and after fighting about it your partner might wonder if you were going to break up with them. And maybe you would. But when you fight about the past it goes a bit differently.
When you’re upset about a sexual past, you’ll scream and yell and hurt your partner. But you don’t want them to go. You don’t want to break up. It’s because you want to be with them that their past bothers you. But try telling them that after you’ve ripped them to shreds over a hurt that they they never intentionally caused you.
How to get over it
Never forget how rare it is to find somebody who you love enough to be vulnerable to. In your life you will date so many people who you could take or leave regardless of what their past looks like. When you find somebody that really ignites your heart, don’t take that opportunity for granted by fighting about things that happened before you met. This doesn’t mean you can’t talk about it; but don’t go for blood. Remember who’s blood you’d be drawing: somebody you want to be with.
Here are some more articles that might help…
- Jennifer’s Sexual Jealousy FAQ (aka How to Get Over Your Partner’s Past)
- How I Got Over My Fiance’s Sexual Past (by Jennifer)
- Book: The Waiting Til Marriage Survival Guide (contains an extensive chapter on sexual jealousy, with new insights from both Mike and Jennifer)