My Girlfriend Has Had Too Many Partners

A man asks Eli and Josie how to deal with the fact that his girlfriend has had one-night stands and too many partners in the past.

Originally appeared at She Said He Said

Dear Sexes: I have feel very bad about my girlfriend’s past, I dont mind about the 2 boyfriends but I can’t understand the fact that she had a couple of one night stands, she’s had around 10 guys that she told me, and this bothers me a lot, I think it is very disgusting to have sex with someone that you don’t even know. We are from different countries, I’m from Brazil and she is from Denmark, so we are very different, I love her and know that she enjoy our sex, I just feel very disgusting about this, what should I do?

She Said: First, her sex life before the two of you committed to one another is not about you. It has nothing to do with you. Leave her alone about it.

I want to be compassionate toward you about this, because I can hear that you are feeling really bad about it. But it’s hard for me to do that because this seems really controlling. She is her own person, completely separate from you, and I hate the thought that you’re making her feel bad about sex she had before you were even in the picture. Sure you can ask her why she did it, you can try to figure out what was happening in her psychology when she chose to have some one-night stands, but why does it matter if she’s true to you and good to you now that she’s with you?

The only thing that matters is that you both honor your commitments to one another while you’re together. Get the rest out of your mind, or break up with her and move on. You aren’t doing anyone any good wishing her past were different than it is. Then she can find a truly accepting, loving guy and you can find a girl whose past is more to your liking.

He Said: Do you have a magic eraser by chance?  If you do, you can erase your girlfriend’s past, along with her one night stands you don’t approve of.  If you don’t have such an eraser, you’re going to just have to accept her for who she is NOW.  If she’s a good girlfriend to you, isn’t that the most important thing?

If she’s loving, loyal, and committed to you, isn’t that all you can ask for?  Everyone has a past. And most everyone has made decisions they’ve regretted, at some point (I’m not saying your girlfriend should regret her past decisions, but it sounds like you regret them for her). Who knows, if your girlfriend knew everything about your past, she might be disappointed by some of YOUR history. If you’re concerned about the amount of men she’s slept with, then that’s a different conversation, but one you certainly can have. And if you’re so disgusted with her past, practice safe sex (we here at She Said He Said advocate sex safe anyhow).

If you’re interested to know WHY your girlfriend made those decisions, it’s certainly your prerogative to discuss it with her. But if she’s good to you, and you love her, I would try to distract yourself from that part of her past, and focus on (current) issues you can actually fix today. And remember, nobody’s perfect!

Got a question for Eli and Josie? Ask it here!

 

Photo of counting on a blackboard courtesy of Shutterstock

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About She Said He Said

Eli and Josie, friends since college, realized how lucky they were to have one another—an honest friend of the opposite sex who tells it like it is. They wanted to share that with the world and so www.shesaidhesaid.me was born.

Comments

  1. your all missing the point says:

    People don’t care about sex what they care about is the TRUST between two people. When someone cheats its not that sex, its the break in trust that hurts. Thats why people look at cheating and swinging as different things. Its like telling a lie. My girlfriend had a fling with a guy as like a fuck buddy before we met. I really dont care but what I do care is that she waited several years to tell me. It still bugs me. Though I’ll probably let it slide. My point is things like that define your character. Its like your GPA.

    • Nick, mostly says:

      She probably didn’t tell you because she was worried you’d be a judgmental asshole. You have another chance to show her that you’re not an asshole by “letting it slide” and never bringing it up again.

      What exactly does my GPA say about anything? There is a difference between failing gym but receiving all As in your other classes, and receiving all Bs, yet they result in the same GPA. The first says I’m an ‘A’ student academically but perhaps not so coordinated. The second says I’m a ‘B’ student academically and athletically. Context matters, just as whether she had sex with those guys BEFORE she met you or AFTER she met you is the more salient point than the number of guys.

    • What ever happened to people learning past experiences or mistakes? (if she believes they were mistakes). It often takes people a while to learn from experiences. Making a mistake the first time and learning straight away does not always happen. In my case I feel that I have had too many sexual partners from casual hook ups. I do regret not stopping my ‘habit’ sooner. Not everyone will feel the same about their past. There is some merit in ‘past behaviour is the best predictor of the future’ but it is not the ONLY predictor.

  2. i might have the same problem… can someone tell me how I should approach this open discussion everybody keeps talking about. (whether I should accept or whether she agrees with my viewpoint) Also, Im scared that if I break up with her for whatever reason, Ill regret it because I really can’t know a good thing until its gone, and itll be too late. Background: I love her and we’re really great for each other, she’s caring and I am too. But the problem still remains…

    • Why is it a problem? Who is it a problem for? Just you? Determine that, the reasons you consider it a problem (the beliefs behind it, and values) and then maybe that will provide more clarity. It sounds like you love her very much and that you have a good relationship that you don’t want to lose. So why is her partner count a problem?

      • its a problem because
        1. 10 other guys have been there, done that ( seen my gf naked, penetrated my gf ), theres a lack of accomplishment, for example, oh Ive been dating you for 3 months and I finally feel like I can give you all of me
        2. It makes it seem like shes easy, which makes it seem like theres no real way she can be soooo into me when shes been into 10 guys enough to let them in.
        3. It makes it seem like ” ohhh Ive had my fun now its time to find a good guy who will care about me and treat me well” Im sorry please if this is offensive im super sorry and apologize in advance. I mean, it might not even make sense.
        4. I kinda wanted to share it with someone who would also be sharing the experience with me

        pleasseeeeee tell me what my problem is

        • 1. Why the need for a sense of accomplishment (in that sense at least)? Yes while it is true that other guys have seen her naked and have had sex with her the part that matters is that (assuming this an exclusive relationship between the two of you and she is not cheating on you) right now you are the one that is seeing her naked and you are the one that is having sex with her. That lack of accomplishment may be some unconsious desire to hold her sexual past against her. That’s not cool at all.

          2. Bear in mind that just like most people she is trying to make her way through the world of relationships and dating and sex. There are a lot of people out there that have had sex with people that they didn’t “live happily every after” with. Don’t take those past 10 guys as a sign she is easy, perhaps take them as a sign that she just hasn’t found what she is looking for yet.

          Flip if around for a moment if you will. I don’t know your history in dating/relationships/sex but if you have had many partners in the past would it be right for your current girlfriend to wonder if those past partners meant you were easy? Or if you have only had a few (or none) how would you feel if she were to hold that against you in the form of having a problem with a guy that doesn’t have much experience or not wanting to waste time on a fresh guy or something like that? (I’ve met women that have actively said they don’t want to waste time on an inexperienced guy because in the bedroom, and i quote, “He should already know what to do, I shouldn’t have to tell him”.)

          3. No it makes sense. I think it makes sense to think that being with a person who has had a lot of partners in their past means being with a person that is trying to have their fun for as long as they can and then find one to settle down with. But as I said in response to your point two it doesn’t necessarily mean that she is just about looking to have fun. She could be looking for a guy to go long term with but she hasn’t found him yet. Who knows she might be thinking that you are the one she wants to go long term with. Please don’t let your fears based on her past mess that up for you.

          4. This is understandable as well. I’ll admit that I was kinda of the same way but to me I concluded this was ultimately limiting my possiblities of finding something to connect with. It’s understandable to want to find someone who is in a similar position as yourself so that the two of you can “embark on a journey” so to speak. Wanting to be with someone that would be sharing the experience with you is no more inherently wrong than a Christian wanting to find a Christian or something like that.

          But with that said please don’t let your preference for finding someone in a similar state as yourself cloud your vision and prevent you from missing out something that could be great.

          • Hey Danny,

            I have no idea who you are. You have no idea who I am but I owe it to you to thank you kindly. I want you to know that your perspective to my problem has enlightened me to see my relationship very differently. Please know that a truly beautiful relationship has been saved partly from what you’ve taken the time to write here today. Thank you so much for taking the time out of your day to answer my problem. Thank you

            • No problem.

              We are all just trying to make our way through this world. Two other things.

              1. Something else I wanted to warn you against was the idea that as a man it is somehow your duty to give an inexperienced woman some sort of first time mind blowing experience and failure to do so means you are less of a man. There are a lot of unrealistic expectactions heaped on women when it comes to sex and I think it’s worth mentioning that while those expectations must be challenged and done away with there are also unrealistic expectations that are heaped on men that must be done away with as well.

              I bring this up in case you were thinking something to the effect of thinking that it is your job to guide her through the world of sex.

              2. Take Julie up on her offer. She is quite able to help people in an indirect manner (I can personally testify to this) so I wager that if she were to actually focus on someone with the direct intent of helping them, it will do wonders.

              She already offers the insight that you seem to be trying to reconcile what you want in a relationship with what you think you are supposed to want in a relationship as a man. That “what you think you are supposed to want” is coming from an old and heavily gendered way that relationships were forged in. Those ways are changing as people are now speaking up about what they want and allowing themselves to feel what they want instead of just abiding by the old ways.

              Thing is the old ways did work to an extent and when compared to the uncertainty of the way things are changing now there is an understandable desire to just go with the old ways based on a fear of the uncertainty of not finding a fitting relationship by taking a chance of going for what you want and going for what you feel (or at least taking your feelings into account).

        • Feel free to email me at [email protected]. This is too long of a conversation to have here. For now, I’m a fan of this article on different models of looking at sex. There can be competitive models, as you are looking at it now (being first, “proof” of some kind of special things) and then there are more collaborative models.
          http://ducttapedance.wordpress.com/2011/05/01/toward-a-performance-model-of-sex-by-thomas-macaulay-millar/.

          This is about you and your framing of how sex is supposed to work and the cognitive dissonance you are feeling because you truly care for someone deeply who isn’t meeting your pre conceived narrative of “how things should be.” the answer is, in short, can you let go of that original model to let a relationship blossom into something new and original with you and she at the center, or will you hold this old model over her head and allow it, not you and her, to direct how you have a relationship.

          I’ve got lots of things to add but would be more comfortable in a dialogue offline.

          I know a lot of people who had 10-20 partners prior to marriage and then have had 20 year long marriages with lots of joy, pleasure and fun. The last partner was the last partner.

        • Anonymous says:

          totally agree

      • its not sacred :(

        • “1. 10 other guys have been there, done that ( seen my gf naked, penetrated my gf ), theres a lack of accomplishment, for example, oh Ive been dating you for 3 months and I finally feel like I can give you all of me”
          What is there to accomplish? I think you see sex as sacred between lovers but only one partner in their sex life, or very few. The only real concern should be STI’s, for which you can both be tested for but even people with only 1 partner get STI’s.

          “2. It makes it seem like shes easy, which makes it seem like theres no real way she can be soooo into me when shes been into 10 guys enough to let them in.”
          How old is she? If she’s 30, it could be 1 partner per year, not exactly a lot. If she’s 17 and had 10 guys you may feel differently. What is it about sex that taints her? Furthermore, what is she like NOW as a person, is she a great woman? Is it really worth throwing away this relationship because 10 other guys had sex with her?

          “3. It makes it seem like ” ohhh Ive had my fun now its time to find a good guy who will care about me and treat me well” Im sorry please if this is offensive im super sorry and apologize in advance. I mean, it might not even make sense.”
          Did she have sex with 10 guys in a short period of time, or was it just randomly spread out? You’re also shooting yourself in the foot here, who says it isn’t special with you?

          “4. I kinda wanted to share it with someone who would also be sharing the experience with me”
          Were you a virgin? I was a virgin, I slept with a virgin, it was awkward as hell and not like super duper mindblowingly special. It would have been special still if she had 5 or 10 partners, and the sex probably would have been better since only one of us would be inexperienced vs both.

          It’s not like her vagina is now flogged out and destroyed is it? She’s not used goods, she’s just a human who had human experiences. Why can’t it be that she has found this wonderful guy she truly is into, you’ll both fall in love, and have kids n live happily ever after? Sex is still going to be special because it’s shared between you both, the previous partner count doesn’t make it less special, the only thing it really does is introduce risk of STI’s but that risk can still happen with 1 partner.

          Get tested, put your mind at ease, and enjoy your relationship. MAKE your relationship sacred.

  3. I am in a similar position as the guy who wrote the letter. I am thinking of just letting go and moving on. I do not think it gets better. We all have preconceived notions of what we are looking for. My views are not better than or worse than others, they are simply mine and I do not want to be with a woman that believes sex is a sport. If she made mistakes in her past, that is one thing, but if she believes what she did was OK, then she does not have views similar to mine on this issue, and this is a big issue for me. To me, a woman who has had one night stands is not promiscuous but one who believes this is acceptable and sees this as fine, she is promiscuous. And a woman with a formed habit of promiscuity to me is the definition of a slut. And this is not what I want for myself. This is something I would never express in general because I think I would make some women feel bad and it is not my intent to hurt anyone — it is my intent to find what I am looking for, however.

    I have many female friends who are promiscuous and I have no problem with that. I can be friends with people of very differing beliefs, but for something more serious on this matter, no thanks.

    I am certain others will disparage my own viewpoint. To them I say: why is my viewpoint not OK for me to personally have, provided I do not externalize it to any women that may feel bad about it? Why do I have to conform to your set of beliefs? You marry a promiscuous woman if you want, but why do you want me to do it? To each his own.

    • Seriously? “why is my viewpoint not OK for me to personally have, provided I do not externalize it to any women that may feel bad about it?”

      You just said women who enjoy consensual sex, as much consensual, non-committal sex that they want are sluts. That’s why your viewpoint is not okay.

      It’s okay to say “I do not wish to be with a woman who views sexual encounters differently than I do.” That’s fine. Nobody is going to bemoan you that. It’s good to be with people with similar values and belief systems. It makes relationships easier when we have similar views. It is not, however, okay, to say that someone who has different viewpoints from you is a ‘slut’. I love one night stands. I have them as often as I please. This does not make me a slut. It makes me someone who has different views on sex than you do. And how dare you make value statements about my choices?

      Otherwise, I’d agree with you – if you’re really that judgmental of your significant other because she’s treated sex casually or has been promiscuous, then perhaps it’s better for you to be with someone whose values align more closely with your own. That’s your call. And perhaps she’d be better off with someone who values her judgments about what to do with her own body. I know I wouldn’t waste a minute of my time on someone who doesn’t appreciate my sexual agency.

    • Nick, mostly says:

      And a woman with a formed habit of promiscuity to me is the definition of a slut.

      I have many female friends who are promiscuous and I have no problem with that.

      Yeah, but I’d bet they’d have a problem with you if they knew you were calling them sluts. How noble of you to hide your disparaging opinions of them to protect them from feeling bad.

      I am certain others will disparage my own viewpoint. To them I say: why is my viewpoint not OK for me to personally have, provided I do not externalize it to any women that may feel bad about it?

      Because not all opinions are created equal. No one is forcing you to conform, but instead calling you out on your misguided thinking. When a viewpoint is laced with misogyny I think it not only fair to call it out, but that it is our duty to challenge it at every turn.

      And really, reread what you wrote there. If I had asked why it’s not okay for me to think blacks were inferior and better off as slaves, but I don’t “externalize” it to any negroes that “may feel bad about it” you’d really be okay with that?

      I think you should tell your slutty friends how you truly feel about them.
      I have more respect for a man who lets me know where he stands, even if he’s wrong, than the one who comes up like an angel and is nothing but a devil. – Malcolm X

  4. She called me and came over and we spoke. I spoke about our differences in values, no set of beliefs better than the other, just different etc…reading this page helped me with word choice. I really did not want to hurt her. She insisted that her views had changed etc.. I know better from conversations and told her she should be true to herself just as I intended to be true to myself. I told her that I was sad to learn of our differences in perspectives on the matter and that it was a big deal for me; that if I felt I could learn to not be sad or bothered by this, that I would let her know but that if I couldn’t, it was better to find out now.

    We had sex. Afterwards, she told me it was the first time she felt I did not want to kiss her during sex and that it was a good idea for her to go home. I did not stop her; walked her to her car and said good night. She told me she would give me space until I knew it I could live with it.

    I feel a sense of loss, she is a good person, I find her very attractive, we have very good communication but it is not fair to either one to go forward if I will hold this against her or if she will not feel trusted. Frankly, I do not want a future spouse who feels its fine for an attractive stranger to stick his thing in her if we ever have a downturn or in general.

    PS – Nick: race is not a moral value, it is happenstance and as such says nothing about the character of a person.

    • I had a feeling that that might be where it was coming from – a place of insecurity. Somebody who enjoys casual sex, one night stands, or is ‘promiscuous’ is not necessarily going to let a stranger stick his penis in her just because you’re having relationship troubles. I was with my ex for nearly seven years. I have a very casual attitude toward sex (as long as all adults are consenting, I say go for it). I love one night stands. But I did not one time, no matter how bad things go, ‘let a stranger stick his penis in me’. Not one time. The ironic thing? At that point in my life, I had had 3.5 times as many sexual partners as he’d had, and HE – the one who did not believe in such ‘promiscuity’ – was the one who cheated. You cannot equate an appreciation of casual sex with cheating. I may enjoy casual encounters but it doesn’t mean that I can’t/won’t commit. You could find the most chaste woman in the world, someone who reviles casual sex, and it doesn’t mean she won’t cheat.

    • Nick, mostly says:

      Explain to me how the number of partners someone has is a moral value. I don’t think you understand what “morality” actually means. You’re saying that casual sex is a sign of bad character (and yet, you still fucked her even as you held her in low esteem). Why is having casual sex morally bad. What ethical precept is violated, what harm is done, in having had casual partners in the past? She’s not cheating on you, right? Has she said she believes it’s okay to cheat on you, or given you an indication that she’s willing to cheat on you? In neither your story nor the original article have the women suggested that they don’t intend to honor monogamous commitments they’ve made; instead it’s about past consensual sexual behavior.

      Many people couch insecurity, bigotry, and tribalism in the language of “morality.” I don’t buy it. It never stands up to critique; the beliefs always retreat to fuzzy thinking and conceptual vagaries. The beliefs continue to be strongly held while the supporting structure of those beliefs shift and wobble about underneath.

      So, why exactly is having had consensual, casual sexual partners in the past without regret a “bad” thing? What exactly does that say negatively about their character?

  5. @Rick … you have every right to feel as you do. It’s who you are and no one should tell you you’re wrong for feeling the way you do. I can’t believe some of the responses making you look as though you’re not being fair. Who is anyone to say you’re right or wrong?

    I commend you for your showing compassion for her and not wanting to hurt her but when all is said and done, this is your life and accordingly, you have the right to feel as you do.

  6. It seems like some people view this more as a political/philosophical issue rather than what I mean it as: I am a man who really likes a woman, wants to be with her but cannot get comfortable with her past — more specifically with her “casual sex”. I wish I did not feel this way but I do. I wish I could make it go away but I cannot. I wish I could just get over it but I am having a very hard time. I do not want to end this, but I see no clear solution: if I end the relation, I know there is light at the end of the tunnel though a vey painful process, but if I stick it out, it seems like I will be upset forever. This sucks! It is not about me versus her either. I wish she would have never told me..but she did. I asked her not to tell me stuff about her past….but I think she felt a need, and in doing so made it my issue too.

    I am a man who does not want to hurt her, but is hurting. I think it may be more difficult for many of us men to accept promiscuity from our girlfriends than vice versa. I wish it was not so.

  7. Just by way of update; I broke up with her a few days following the last post. Though sad, I knew of no other way to resolve this. I also realized that although her past bothered me (and probably in and of itself wnough for her not to be the one), the fact that her present views were not very different was more problematic going forward. I think it is difficult to understand for women that for some men, this is a no-go and nothing you can do about it.

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