Adapted from a recent online discussion, and continued from Tuesday's column.
Dear Carolyn: The how or why [of someone's sexual history] should not be asked if the partner does not want to talk about her past. Maybe she is confident in herself now, but wasn't then. Her sexual preference may not have been accepted by her family. She may have been mixed up and not sure who she was.
To yesterday's letter-writer: Let her come to you and talk about her past. If you feel you may come to hate her experience, then you have the problem, not her.
Wait a minute - how do you know whether the partner wants to talk about it if you don't ask?
Certainly it's wrong to badger someone for the answer you want to hear. Otherwise, though, emotional partners have a right to explore each other's beliefs, and as long as you are a safe place for your partner to share her truth, there's nothing wrong with asking.
I do agree that if you've made up your mind there's no answer that makes her past OK, then it is your problem and you need to break up.
Re: Sexual history: My husband and I are each other's first and only; I'm very proud of that, and it was the way both of us were raised. I would never have allowed my hormones to rule my head, and I have nothing in my past to regret.
Sex, to me, is an act of love, not an indoor sport. What is with people nowadays?
- I'm aghast
What is with the judging? People aren't different "nowadays"; just as there have been people successfully mastering their urges since the beginning of humanity, the urges have also claimed victories since the beginning as well; society is just less hypocritical about that now. (Though I do think there's some failure to distinguish between "not shaming" and "misguidedly celebrating.")
You live by your values, as you're entitled to do, just as others are entitled to live by theirs. That's why it's so important for people to choose partners according to values.
Re: Sexual history: Why would a high number (of past partners) make someone more likely to cheat? Perhaps a lower number would make someone likely to question whether they'd sown enough wild oats and, therefore, to cheat. All people who generalize are wrong!
- Anonymous 2
Re: History: You've mentioned before that having the "numbers" discussion is rarely good, but having the WHY is good, and I agree wholeheartedly. I have a larger number than my husband, probably for all of the examples you gave - I was angry, looking for validation, and looking to just enjoy myself. Sometimes all at the same time.
I think if I had to give my husband a number, and try to explain it, I would feel like I was making excuses (even though I am certain he wouldn't judge me). However, having not traded numbers, he understands my past, and loves and gets me for me.
- Anonymous 3
People need either to accept their partner's history and stay or to not accept it and go - and a specific number contributes nothing to this essential reckoning of "loves and gets me for me." Thanks for the elegant farewell to this thread.