Andrew

Accepting the past: Discussion/Suggestions/Advice

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Hi everyone. My name is Andrew and I'm new here. My story is very, very long and I'd like to share it all at some point, but for the purposes of this topic I'll give the short version.

 I was married for 13 years and very recently became separated (the divorce will be final in a matter of days). I was a waiter when I met my wife; I was 19 and out of choice had never been physical with a girl, no kissing, no nothing aside from basically hugging. My wife was a virgin until just before meeting me. She had a one night stand with somebody weeks before we met. I was able to accept it initially, but as time moved on it bothered me more and more. There are many factors that contributed to our marriage falling apart, too many to list here, and my inability to accept this part of her past didn't help. After our relationship ended it felt like I had ruined my chance to have a "one and only." I lifted my sex embargo because I thought it was blinding me to experiences that would let me get over my insecurities. It didn't help. Over a year I dated a small number of people, relationships that became sexual. While I still think I learned something from my experiences with people since her, I regret it at the same time. I wish I could have learned what I learned without having had sex with them. Being a waiter was a tremendous part of me before I was married, and it has caused my mind to think in paradoxes; when I break it down, I understand that waiting and virginity are superficial things we invented as people to assign arbitrary value to sexuality in order to compensate for our insecurities about it, and I wish I could let go of it, but at the same time I don't want to. I liked being a waiter. I admire waiters and think they're more beautiful for it. I liked how special it made me feel, even if it was kinda made up. It made me feel like the unicorn so many people thought I was. I wanted to share my life with my own unicorn who was just like me.

Now I'm with someone new, someone I'm very in love with who might be the one, and I'm encountering the same problem again. It's harder this time because her sexual past is even more complicated than anyone I've been with. I thought I could overcome my ex's past because of how brief and minimal it was, like it "didn't count." I swore I'd never hurt anyone like that again, but when I search myself and I'm completely honest about it, I know I'm doing the same thing with my current partner, and I'm ashamed to admit it. I get wrapped up in the acute details and numbers, I ask too many questions because I'm trying to find a way to look at her purely, and I've convinced myself that if the numbers are low enough or the acts are grey enough that they "won't count" and it can really feel like I'm her first. And I'm guilty of doing the same thing to myself, which makes me avoid talking about things I'm not proud of, like a "relationship" I recently had with someone that resembles a one night stand more than an actual relationship, and I wish I could take it back. I don't want it to count because I want a new beginning. I desperately want us to be each others' one and only. But more than that, I desperately want us to stay together. I have moments of lucidity where I can handle it and it doesn't bother me, and I feel like the good, caring, understanding partner she deserves. But then I have other moments where I break down and go in circles and obsess over her past and feel like I can't overcome it. She's open to talking about it and tries to understand, and we've talked about it at length, but I know she can only endure so much, and talking about it inadvertently hurts her, and I feel like such a hypocrite because I'm certainly not a virgin anymore, and it's not fair for me to have that expectation of someone. I don't want her to feel guilty, but I don't know how to talk about what I'm feeling without hurting her. I don't want to wreck something good. She is a very good person and very kind, and I love being with her, and she wouldn't be who she is today without those experiences. 

I am trying new ways to be mindful about this, and I'm in therapy too, and I do believe that it's within me to overcome these feelings. But I feel alone because when I try to talk to people about it I get the same cocked eyes and uncomfortable silences that waiters are used to when they tell people they're a virgin, the ones I would get from people even after I was married and revealed that my wife was the only person I was ever with.

Has anyone gone through something similar? Does anyone understand what I'm feeling? Do any of you out there want to talk about it or share your experiences, or have suggestions for overcoming it? I'd love to talk about this with people who understand where I'm coming from.

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Hey Andrew. I can really empathize with what you're going through. Hopefully I'm not responding too late to help.

I'm coming out of a situation in which I couldn't handle my ex's complicated past. I'll summarize for you, but if you want the whole story, you can read it here (and I wouldn't mind having your thoughts on my situation). When I met my ex my physical experience with women was very minimal; I was about as virginal as it gets. She, on the other hand, had a few experiences with one guy that really blurred the lines between sex and rape, as well as a pattern of other things that made me uncomfortable. I thought I could handle it, and for three months I did. And during that time our relationship became sexual (manual-genital stimulation).

But after three months, I began to obsess over her past, much like you described. I constantly agonized over the sex/rape situation for a few months, picking apart detail after detail, interrogating her for information that might somehow minimize what happened or vindicate her. Otherwise, our relationship was fantastic. I have so many great memories. But in the end this issue overshadowed the rest, I hurt both of us a lot, and we broke up about two months ago.

Is your sexual experience comparable to hers? If so, that might be a way for you to rationalize it. Your pasts could effectively cancel each other out and you could give each other a "new beginning." I now have some sexual experience. It was with one person (the aforementioned ex), in the context of a committed relationship, and we didn't go "all the way" (we stuck to manual stimulation). I could see myself getting over a girl's past fairly easily if it were comparable to mine. My problem was that my ex's experience was with a few guys, not all in the context of committed relationships, and she went "all the way" with one of them. Even our experience with kissing was vastly different – I'd only kissed one girl before her, while she'd kissed nine guys before me. I know her experience is not that bad compared to most out there, but I felt like my mole hill couldn't compare to her small mountain and we were coming at the issue from very different perspectives. And because of that, our views on sexuality were very different. I gave her a lot of firsts, which she didn't really value or appreciate in the same way I did.

My situation really sucks because we complemented each other so well, she was my best friend, and I miss her unbearably; but I couldn't seem to get over that issue. If you seriously believe there is hope for you to get over the issue, then I encourage you to try to stick with it. But if you find there is an incompatibility in sexual values and/or you can't come to grips with her past, then breaking up or even just separating for a while would be the right move. Being apart may provide some clarity. Whenever I was with my ex, I couldn't imagine being without her, but our time apart gave us the opportunity to think with a clearer head. It's good you're in therapy; stick with it. I'm seeing a psychologist for my OCD/anxiety and I'm seeing some small changes.

I really wish I could give you more hope and provide a tangible solution, but unfortunately the solution for this sort of thing is a bit ambiguous. It really is a shame to let go of an otherwise great partner because of a past she cannot change, but it is also not right to cause yourself and your partner undue distress if you can't overlook her past. To prevent this from happening again, I've decided to be upfront about my past and my views on sexuality with future girls, and to ask them to do the same, before we commit to a relationship.

By the way, while you can't reclaim your virginity or your firsts, you can decide to wait again (if you haven't already) and reclaim that part of your identity. While I've made mistakes, I've decided not to share myself sexually again until I'm married, so here I am.

P.S. Watch the movie "Chasing Amy." It may help, or at the very least be something you can relate to.

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One thing my dad told me when I was heart broken about a guy I was dating not being a virgin was that it was honestly none of my business. The older I get, the more right I think he is. I know if a guy is good or not without knowing if he has had sex. How he talks to me, how polite he is, if he shares my same values. My advice would be to stop asking about people's sexual past. It will only make you jealous. Focus on the present. Live in the moment. Other than that, if you are religious, realize that God puts different struggles in front of all of us and use this as an opportunity to grow and learn forgiveness. A lot of the time, our issue with virginity isn't the other person's actions, it is how we are framing it to ourselves. This is the stuff that has helped me. Everyone is different, but I hope it can help you too:)

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I disagree. I think it absolutely is your business. All morality, emotions, and feelings aside; there are other components that cannot be overlooked. There is always the concern of venereal diseases or children they might have. There are a number of guys who are surprised years later when they find out they fathered an out of wedlock child.

People can change, though most don't change for the better. Someone may have genuinely changed for the better, but this does not alter some circumstances or realities.

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On 12/10/2016 at 3:13 PM, SamWise said:

One thing my dad told me when I was heart broken about a guy I was dating not being a virgin was that it was honestly none of my business. The older I get, the more right I think he is. I know if a guy is good or not without knowing if he has had sex. How he talks to me, how polite he is, if he shares my same values. My advice would be to stop asking about people's sexual past. It will only make you jealous. Focus on the present. Live in the moment. Other than that, if you are religious, realize that God puts different struggles in front of all of us and use this as an opportunity to grow and learn forgiveness. A lot of the time, our issue with virginity isn't the other person's actions, it is how we are framing it to ourselves. This is the stuff that has helped me. Everyone is different, but I hope it can help you too:)

44 minutes ago, Syzygy said:

I disagree. I think it absolutely is your business. All morality, emotions, and feelings aside; there are other components that cannot be overlooked. There is always the concern of venereal diseases or children they might have. There are a number of guys who are surprised years later when they find out they fathered an out of wedlock child.

People can change, though most don't change for the better. Someone may have genuinely changed for the better, but this does not alter some circumstances or realities.

I'm somewhere between both of you. First, I do agree with SZ that your SO's past is your business just as your past is his when you decide to commit to each other. In a Christian marriage, you two become "one flesh." Once married, their past becomes your past, your burdens become their burdens, etc. Every major choice you have made will affect your relationship and vice versa. This isn't limited to a sexual past either. It could be a past full of prison time, drug and alcohol addiction, surviving abuse etc. These are all things that can have profound consequences on a marriage. We cannot pretend otherwise. It is important to know as much about the person you hope to marry as much as possible in order to know what you are getting into.

Now that being said, I agree with SamWise that in some instances, an issue may be a bigger in our minds than it actually is. I'm not diminishing what has been done in the past, but some hang ups we have about someone may not ultimately matter a whole lot in the grand scheme of things. Sometimes things are only an issue if we allow it to be. In the case of a sexual past, let's assume babies and diseases aren't present. Yes, that person may have experienced something so intimately with another and it may always be a part of them. But does it change the fact that they are a good spouse to you or parent to your kids? Does it change the fact that this person loves you with all their heart and wants to spend the rest of their life with you? No it doesn't, not to me anyways. For some people who have thought long and hard and still find it a deal breaker, that's totally your choice and I respect that. For those who are on the fence, I think you owe it to yourselves to give it your best effort to try to look past someone's sexual baggage. It would be a shame to miss out on a really great match over something that really doesn't matter too much in the grand scheme of things. I know I would personally take a non-virgin woman who is otherwise so compatible with me over a virgin woman whom I have only a decent relationship with any day of the week.

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I disagree with all of you. I believe that people are allowed to care about what they want to care about and not care about things they don't.

its up to each person to make up their mind about whether or not the past matters to them.  If you want the past to matter it will matter, but while there are rules to how people tend to behave from the past actions I know for a fact that there will always be exceptions.

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I expect anyone seriously interested in me to inquire into my "sexual history," even if they don't intend to make any decisions based on my answer. It would be strange not to. To not discuss it would make me wonder why they are intentionally avoiding a topic I consider imperative to the process of getting to know someone romantically. They have a right to this knowledge about me, at least in a general or vague sense not involving unnecessary detail. I hope they would be invested in my life as well as my past. I likewise intend to express my interest by asking similar questions.

 

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I kind of can relate to your "problem" but in other ways I can't.

I'm right there with you on your first wife. I've saved myself for my wife and I only get involved with ladies who are also waiting. It is a deal breaker issue. I don't think I'd be able to handle my wife having already given herself away and I don't want to put myself through that. You sound as if you were in that boat yourself and you couldn't handle it and you chose poorly by marrying someone you weren't compatible with. You settled and let yourself get deeply involved with someone who didn't wait and you probably resented her and it bothered you throughout your marriage.

It sounds like you weren't true to yourself and didn't follow the hardwired needs you had for a marriage relationship and you kept pursuing someone who wasn't what you wanted. You chose poorly and you got burned.

Well that ship has sailed. Your an ex-husband now who's had sex with lots of people and your potential dating partners are all going to have sexual pasts now and probably their own ex-husbands or deceased husbands.

I don't really understand why it bothers you now. You've had sex, why do you still focus on this new girl's past? You've got your own past. I mean, I guess you can still want someone  who has only been intimate with her serious, long-term boyfriends, not a porn star but still. Is she a porn star? Your at a different stage of life now and you've got your own baggage, ex-wife, ex-lovers so I'm not sure why this is a problem now. Unless she has just been so, so promiscuous and has had so much casual sex and one night stands that it is off the chart than what's wrong? If she's been so promiscuous that it still bothers than learn from experiences with your first wife and STOP dating her and find someone else.

You've been a husband and you admitted to having sex after the divorce with other ladies so why are sexual pasts bothering you still? I understand it with your wife when you were a virgin. I wouldn't have dated her and based on how you admitted feeling about it you shouldn't have either. I just don't understand why this is a problem now when you aren't a virgin and have had multiple partners. If the number of partners she's had bothers you (because there are so many...many more than you) then just learn from your past and only date the ladies whose sexual pasts are more in tune with what you desire. If you've had only 5 partners and you only want to be with someone else who has had five or less than don't date someone who's had 25 if it bothers you. Be more picky if you need be.

You seem to keep picking ladies you really, deep down don't want but you choose to make yourself miserable. You've got ONE life. Just pursue what you want. If this lady isn't it than stop and find someone you do want. Don't make yourself miserable again, change course and go after what you want and don't settle for what you don't want.

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8 hours ago, redgrapes said:

I expect anyone seriously interested in me to inquire into my "sexual history," even if they don't intend to make any decisions based on my answer. It would be strange not to. To not discuss it would make me wonder why they are intentionally avoiding a topic I consider imperative to the process of getting to know someone romantically. They have a right to this knowledge about me, at least in a general or vague sense not involving unnecessary detail. I hope they would be invested in my life as well as my past. I likewise intend to express my interest by asking similar questions.

 

That just sounds like sour grapes :)

 

I'm sorry I couldn't resist.

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On 12/11/2016 at 7:10 PM, Syzygy said:

I disagree. I think it absolutely is your business. All morality, emotions, and feelings aside; there are other components that cannot be overlooked. There is always the concern of venereal diseases or children they might have. There are a number of guys who are surprised years later when they find out they fathered an out of wedlock child.

People can change, though most don't change for the better. Someone may have genuinely changed for the better, but this does not alter some circumstances or realities.

 

On 12/10/2016 at 4:13 PM, SamWise said:

One thing my dad told me when I was heart broken about a guy I was dating not being a virgin was that it was honestly none of my business. The older I get, the more right I think he is. I know if a guy is good or not without knowing if he has had sex. How he talks to me, how polite he is, if he shares my same values. My advice would be to stop asking about people's sexual past. It will only make you jealous. Focus on the present. Live in the moment. Other than that, if you are religious, realize that God puts different struggles in front of all of us and use this as an opportunity to grow and learn forgiveness. A lot of the time, our issue with virginity isn't the other person's actions, it is how we are framing it to ourselves. This is the stuff that has helped me. Everyone is different, but I hope it can help you too:)

There is a time and place for everything. 

Maturity and wisdom will help you know when and where. 

The time for the past not to matter. When just friends someones past isn't really your business. The present time of someone else's life is only as much your business as they let it be. In friendships for the most part it is the present time that affects them. How much that other person's life is your business is determined by how close the two of you are. 

The past matters. In marriage even between non religious people. It is the joining of two lives. Personal life, social, love and even work life will affect a marriage. My past affects me and my choices every day. From caring for pets to financial debt.  My SO should know my past so she can understand why I make the choices I do.  As well as I want to know her past so I can better understand why she makes the choices she does. 

You can figure out where something is going and how far by looking at where it has been and how far it has traveled already.  So to me by getting to know where she is in her life now and where she has been I can tell if we are heading in the same direction. 

I said to a girl once after she told me a stumbling block from her past. 

"You are a beautiful sculpture, a stunning work of art really. I am thankful that you are showing me the tools that were used to make you the beautiful person you are today."

The most important thing to me is that me and her should be in the same place in life. I'm not overly concerned about what it took to get her here... Because she is here. I went through some junk... That could have avoided.  I'm sure she will as well, and that is okay. 

 

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