Relationship Connection: I feel inferior to women in my husband’s past

Question

I have been married for 20 years. When my husband was a teenager he slept with lots of girls. As he grew up he changed and now is a great man that loves me. However, I still feel inferior to his girlfriends, like I wasn’t worth waiting for and never will be able to measure up. How do I get over these feelings?

Answer

It is painful to feel compared, even in your own mind, to others. That really crowds the sacred space that should only be shared between you and your husband. Thankfully, you’re taking responsibility for the feelings you’re experiencing instead of blaming your husband for his past behaviors.

Please know that you’re not alone in feeling insecure and compared to some fictional ideal. In fact, many women (and some men, for that matter) compare themselves to unrealistic standards of beauty and sexuality found in popular culture. Even though your comparisons are from the ghosts of girlfriends past, the comparisons are tragic and unnecessary.

Even though your heart tells you the truth about your husband and your relationship, your brain keeps tricking you into believing something else. The false beliefs can be challenged and overcome so you aren’t held hostage by something that isn’t even real.

First, notice when you are most likely to obsess about these thoughts. Are your energy levels low? Are you tired? Are you feeling distant from your husband? Sometimes we are overcome with irrational thoughts when we’re at our lowest physically and emotionally. Once we get our levels balanced back out, we can see the absurdity of our thoughts and feelings. Staying tuned into your body and emotions can help you avoid subsequent spirals.

Next, take honest inventory of your own insecurities and how those get projected onto other people, even people you haven’t met. For example, if you wish you were more comfortable initiating touch, you might believe that these other girls were so much better at it than you that with them your husband was getting all of his needs met, and so on and so forth. This spiral could continue down until you believe that you’re worthless and not that interesting to him. I imagine you can see the problem with this approach.

Instead, I want you to embrace the truth that no other woman can take your place. You are the real thing. You have built a deep intimacy and safety with your husband that no adolescent fling can touch. Do not reduce your intimacy down to a one-dimensional sexual act or performance that you believe other women can do better than you.

Sexual intimacy, especially the deep intimacy found in your committed 20-year marriage, is a rich multidimensional mosaic of emotional, spiritual, physical, intellectual, and relational elements that can’t be compared to the flimsy and unstable teenage sexual lust.

There is nothing wrong with occasionally asking your husband to reassure you of what you mean to him. We all need that from time to time, especially when we are reminded of our shortcomings. You have built something beautiful. Don’t let these fraudulent messages tell you anything different.

Stay connected!

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Geoff Steurer is a licensed marriage and family therapist in private practice in St. George, Utah. He specializes in working with couples in all stages of their relationships. The opinions stated in this article are solely his and not those of St. George News.

Have a relationship question for Geoff to answer? Submit to:

Email: geoff@lovingmarriage.com

Twitter: @geoffsteurer

Facebook: facebook.com/GeoffSteurerMFT

Copyright St. George News, SaintGeorgeUtah.com LLC, 2014, all rights reserved.

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12 Comments

  • Koolaid December 10, 2014 at 12:42 pm

    Depending on the number of women (and their ages), maybe he’s a prophet???

  • Joe Smith December 10, 2014 at 12:57 pm

    What she’s really asking: “I think my husband is bored with our marriage and is messing around with other women. Even though he’s cheating I’d like to keep the marriage together so I can keep up appearances in church. How do I do this?”

  • haatalii December 10, 2014 at 12:58 pm

    Two words. GROW UP!

  • Brian December 10, 2014 at 3:15 pm

    Step 1) Ignore HAATALII. Step 2) Search for “Tapping” videos on YouTube (videos by ” The Tapping Solution” / Nick Ortner are good, and “Tapping for Weight Loss and Body Confidence” may be specific to your situation). Step 3) Actually do the tapping and keep doing it for a few weeks, using various phrases (the point of the phrases is to stir up the feelings you want to get rid of). Don’t overlook Tapping due to the simplicity of it (like the serpent on the staff). Tapping cured me after 20+ years of depression. Give it a try and keep your chin up.

    • UH-O December 10, 2014 at 6:32 pm

      Looks like somebody fell off the Prozac wagon today.

  • Dana December 10, 2014 at 3:36 pm

    You feel inferior because your husband was a male slut? In the words of the wise Haatalii, GROW UP.

  • modigliani December 10, 2014 at 5:36 pm

    A question – are any of these teen-age girlfriends still around or does he mention them? Some men enjoy keeping a “slow simmer” going by casual mentions of former girlfriends when they know it shakes the confidence of the wife. And sometimes those old girlfriends are still around and drop by now and then. There could me more to this story.

    • Herd December 11, 2014 at 2:18 pm

      How many of those teenage girlfriends share with their current boyfriends/husbands their past experiences with this guy? Maybe everyone should get together for the holidays to reminisce those good ole times.

  • The Rest Of The Story December 10, 2014 at 8:05 pm

    Think about this. You are obsessed feeling inferior to the girlfriends your husband had over 20 years ago.

    If you cannot see the ridiculousness of this, then I’m afraid you need a lot more than just a write-in session from a tabloid shrink.

    • Dana December 11, 2014 at 5:36 am

      Excellent title..”The Tabloid Shrink” indeed.

  • Herd December 11, 2014 at 2:32 am

    If he likes talking about former girlfriends I think the next time he goes hunting, you ought to join him

  • Wy guy December 12, 2014 at 7:34 am

    Next time he goes on a huuuuuunt get closer to his numbers, know what I’m saying?;-)

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