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How to Deal with Sex Problems/Dealing w/ Girlfriend's Past Promiscuity

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Hi, I don't know quite how to describe the problem I'm having. Last year, I met a woman in school that I am absolutely crazy about. She is about 25 years my senior (I'm 29), but she looks a lot younger and is in great health. But what really clicked were our personalities. I thought she was maybe 10 years older than me when we first met, and she thought I was about 9-10 years older than I was due to my personality. Basically, we're probably closer to the same "age" intellectually. She has gone back to school to earn a training certificate in a specialized field - the same field as my first major - while I earn my AA. We both have a love for philosophy, spirituality, sociology, law, etc. We also have very similar tastes in food, books, films, sports cars, even colors! We both care immensely about people and plan to work together in law and politics for social justice and civil rights. Other than our age difference, we seem to be a great match.

Here's the problem - I knew that she has been married twice. The first one ended in divorce, the second one is technically not over - her husband is dying and, sorry to say, he's not a very nice individual and she told me they hadn't been intimate for about a decade. She thought about leaving him but stayed because of their daughter. He's terminally ill and only has months left to live. I know that she was in two steady, long-term relationships before her first marriage, and she had no relationships between the two marriages. This does not bother me at all. We started having sex after knowing each other for about 5 months. Before that, we limited our contact to occasional hand-holding, hugs, and kissing. We were trying to show respect for her dying husband, even though she doesn't have very strong feelings for him anymore. After about 5 months though, we couldn't take it anymore. We had already spent several nights together, but never had sex until maybe the third time. It was wonderful and amazing. I never thought I could love someone this much and feel so close and intimate.

The trouble started after we had been having sex for a little over a month - we met uptown to study for our classes and she was in a really strange mood. She was fixed up nicer than I'd ever seen her, with her hair done, nice clothes, she's a very pretty lady. And then, for some reason, she dropped a huge bomb on me; basically, she starts telling me all about her past sex life, and it turns out that she was somewhat of a slut! She lost her virginity to her cousin when she was 18, and while in college, she engaged in a threesome with a guy and another girl, she confessed to me that she'd had "a few one-night stands with people she worked with and still respected them afterward" - one was her (married) boss, when she was 23 - she engaged in another threesome with her boss and another girl. There are other incidents, apparently, that I don't know all the details of (and I'm not sure I want to!). All in all, after I counted all the stories that she told me, plus her two steady boyfriends, and her two husbands, she has had sex with at least 11 other people, which makes me "#12," at least! And that's only the people she say's she "had intercourse" with, it doesn't include people she's had "sexual contact" with. Now, most of this happened about 30 years ago, before I was even born, before her first marriage.

I don't even know how to reconcile all of this in my mind. I've had a lot of girlfriends, but I've only had sex with two other women before her. By choice. I've never been the kind of person to hop into bed with someone I barely know, and when I do take that plunge, it's because it's someone I have very deep feelings for; love and respect. The two girlfriends of which I speak also had fewer than two partners before me (one was even a virgin!). My current girlfriend isn't like that anymore, now she thinks more like I do, that sex is something serious and almost spiritual, something you want to share with someone you have deep and intense feelings for. But her past really bothers me.

I have even felt (and tried) to break up with her several times. I resent her for being so frivolous and promiscuous. Every time we kiss, my mind flashes images, wondering how many mens' or womens' tongues and genitals she has had in her mouth. I used to love performing oral sex on her, but now it just makes me sick. She loved doing the same for me, but it also makes me sick now. I can't even have vaginal intercourse with her. It all makes me sick, sick, sick, sick...I even lose erections and tense up when we are trying to make love. She thinks it's "just stress." But the truth is that I'm haunted by her promiscuous past. And I'm constantly afraid she will cheat on me - with her boss, with a friend, with a stranger, with another woman??? I'm afraid she would also keep it a secret from me. She say's she would never do that, and that she feels exactly the same way I do about sex; she say's that is all in her past and that it was due to her having a weak father figure and low self-esteem. She say's she's ashamed of it and doesn't like to think about it. She considers herself "rehabilitated." She say's she loves me more than anyone else she has ever known in her life, that she never believed she could love someone this much, that it's indescribable - the feelings she has for me. She say's she doesn't compare me to past experiences, that she "only loves me, and only wants me." We think so much alike that it's almost like we can read each others' thoughts. I feel so deeply for this woman, I love her with all my heart. I never knew what love was until I knew her. She's so brilliantly intelligent, wise, nurturing, loving...I can't say enough for her. I respect her deeply. Except for her past. I don't mean to judge her, and I believe in "rehabilitation" as she calls it; I believe in forgiveness. I mean, she hasn't technically wronged me, it was all before I was even born! But it still bothers me. And it makes her less appealing to me in terms of sexuality and intimacy.

If I can't get over this, then I'm afraid our relationship is doomed. I just don't know what to do. I love her so much, but I'm haunted by her past. It's like an evil circus-clown in my head, taunting me, teasing me, telling me that half of the Los Angeles area has had the woman of my dreams before me; treated her like a toy and then threw her away like garbage...I'm open to any advice or analysis. Please help...I'm in tears...

Answer
Twelve is really not so many sex partners for a woman at age 54.  Her mistake might be that she told you the details of her past sexual encounters.  I think it's more important that she wants to be with only you now.  Can you assess how likely it is that she'll be faithful to you?  There is nothing you can do to change the past.

How to Deal with Sex Problems

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Doug Adams, Ph.D.

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