Relationship Connection: My wife’s past haunts me

Question

My wife and I met and married within a year. It was only after we became engaged that my wife told me that she had been sexually active with multiple partners from her early teens right up until just before we started dating. My gut instinct was to break off the engagement. However, I felt that the right thing to do would be to forgive and move on.

I certainly had made some sexual mistakes prior to our meeting, but the duration and intensity of her past caused me great concern. We were married not long afterwards and, immediately, my wife’s past caused issues in our relationship, both physically and emotionally. We are overcoming these and I feel we have a good relationship, but I am still haunted by thoughts of her past.

I know her experiences must affect how she views me. I fear that if I ever fail to satisfy her sexually she will soon seek out satisfaction from other people. What can I do to overcome these issues? I do not want these thoughts to ruin our marriage. I want to forgive and forget. How can I make sure my wife’s past experiences (and my thoughts regarding them) do not impact our future family?

Answer

The key issue here is that you are anxious about your own inadequacy compared to her previous lovers. Your wife has owned her story. Now, it’s time for you to own your story about how insecure you feel.

It’s been my observation that men are anxious about their “performance” in the bedroom instead of focusing on the complete experience of the sexual and emotional relationship. Because you have reduced the sexual act down to the performance of a set of techniques, you will imagine in your mind that you are doing it worse than these other performers. You will be constantly tied up in your own inadequacy and self-judgment.

You have no competition. You have a loving, willing and committed wife right in front of you who wants to build an intimate bond with you. These other experiences are no comparison to what you can offer your wife. She didn’t ultimately commit to spend the rest of her life with them. She offered that to you.

My guess is that your wife isn’t interested in you performing for her. She most likely wants you to be present with her instead of obsessing in your brain about how you’re not measuring up. Don’t leave her alone in the bedroom while you’re judging yourself harshly against some unattainable standard.

Instead of focusing on technique and performance, slow down and focus on how she’s right there with you in the moment. Talk to her, make eye contact, and spend less time focusing on erogenous zones. Make sure you spend adequate time with nonsexual touch to let your body and heart know without doubt that she is there with you.

Your anxiety will lie to you and tell you that she would rather be with someone else doing something else. Your wife has not betrayed you or given you a reason to doubt her commitment to you or her faithfulness to your marriage. It’s your job to keep looking for evidence that she wants to be with you. You run the risk of pushing her away out of your own shame when she is, in fact, trying to get closer to you.

It’s normal to have questions about our partner’s stories and wonder why they made certain choices. Learn as much as you can about her and let her learn about you and your past. This will deepen your appreciation of each other as flawed individuals who are choosing to build a close bond with one another. The more familiar and free you are with each other, the closer you’ll feel to each other.

You have a chance to build real intimacy with your wife. Don’t reduce intimacy down to a performance in the bedroom and live beneath the privilege that is right in front of you. You are both imperfect people who found each other and can build something more beautiful than either of you could create on your own. Don’t bring these other guys along with you. She left them behind to choose you. Now, it’s your chance to leave them behind as well.  

 

Stay connected!

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

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Copyright St. George News, SaintGeorgeUtah.com LLC, 2016, all rights reserved.

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5 Comments

  • Bob June 29, 2016 at 1:52 pm

    The question is how many sexual partners did she have? If she’s a party girl or former party girl that’s not an easy habit for a woman to break (first hand experience here). A lot of women who have had many many sexual partners keep this mentality of ‘the grass is always greener’, and are always seeking to trade up, whether it be one night stands or longer term setups. If your wife is addicted or spends great amounts of time on social media I’d be very worried. good luck

  • .... June 30, 2016 at 6:41 am

    LMAO ! dumbob the Zionist expert is even a marriage counselor. ! Isn’t he amazing ? LOL ! maybe he can share his knowledge of the Land Rover with them LOL !

  • ladybugavenger June 30, 2016 at 9:39 am

    Your wife was a whore, get past it (which I think your ego won’t let you) or divorce her. you feel inadequate- you might be the thay cheats to make yourself feel better. Ahhhhhh just divorce her

    • Bob June 30, 2016 at 7:56 pm

      haha. i wonder if she itemized a list of things the other guys did better than her husbund and handed him a copy. ahahaha, or maybe she just casually brought up the other 50 or so guys she slept with in small talk…

  • Bob June 30, 2016 at 7:57 pm

    either way, this guy will have to man up or end it, cuz like u said, he married a … ahahahah

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