Social Question

drdoombot's avatar

How do you deal with a partner who has had many previous sexual partners?

Asked by drdoombot (8135points) April 27th, 2012

After being off the meat market for a very, very long time, I met someone recently and we’ve had something of a whirlwind relationship. We clicked very quickly and I find her to be one of more interesting women I’ve ever met (and also pretty damn close to having the things I want in a long term partner).

But, and I hate that I seem to be bothered by this, I think I’m a little disturbed by her past. She’s several years younger than me and has been with more sexual partners than I have by a factor of 20.

I know I shouldn’t be, but I find myself intimidated. We both come from a culture where unmarried non-virgins (women) are considered promiscuous. I find the notion ridiculous, but… well, I was expecting a number larger than my own, but not by that much.

I am aware that there is a difference between sex and love, but I still feel that at her age (23) to have had that many partners… Something doesn’t add up. She has admitted to being a very “sexual” person, but it still seems kinda high. I don’t want to be judgmental and criticize someone for how she used her body and lived her life: that was her choice and she was right to do what she wanted. But I wonder if my simply considering whether or not I can live with her past is an act of judgment on her in itself… Am I betraying my own beliefs that a person should be a bit more modest in their sexual encounters by accepting her contrary lifestyle?

Should I be bothered by this? How does one get over something like this?

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23 Answers

Blackberry's avatar

This is like getting mad at someone for traveling to Rome when they never knew you. People don’t sit in their houses and wait for you to come along, they have no idea you exist, so they go on with their lives as so.

nikipedia's avatar

I may be mistaken here, but I think you already know the answer to this, and you know that it has nothing to do with your cultural expectations that you have rejected, or this idea of “something doesn’t add up.”

It is pretty normal for people to feel threatened by their partners’ history. I don’t think it’s productive to do any “should“ing. It doesn’t matter if you “should” be bothered, you are bothered.

But I think you need to dig a little deeper and think about why it bothers you. Do you feel like you can’t live up to what came before you? Do you feel like it diminishes your sexual relationship with her? What is the real issue? None of us can figure that out for you.

Personally, I would not make the choice to throw away a relationship that has everything else going for it over a colorful sexual history. (If anything, I would think of it as a positive—someone who is more experienced knows what they like, and has probably picked up a few good tricks along the way.) But none of us can tell you what you “should” do. This is a great opportunity for you to think about what you actually believe and value rather than what you think you’re supposed to believe and value.

Coloma's avatar

What she ^ said. Yes, really, this is your issue, about your beliefs and programming rather than her sexual encounters. is also possible this woman uses sexuality to meet her own needs for care and attention and/or derives some sort of self esteem in her seductive powers. My advice would be to take things slow, you mention a “whirlwind” evolution, did this whirlwind include becoming quickly sexually involved already?
The hotter the fire the quicker it can burn out.

I’d say investigate your feelings but take things slow. Is she willing to put a hold on becoming sexually involved with you for awhile, or, if you are already involved do you feel the sexuality is one of the main focuses rather than a genuine enjoyment of each others company? Does she seem to be “performing,” working hard to sexually blow your mind or does it feel like a natural unfolding of her affections?

Regardless of her sexual past I think taking it slow is very important in new relationships, I wouldn’t move in together or make any big commitments for the first 2 years.
It takes this long, minimum to really get a feel for a person and most issues that may be problematic arise after the whirlwind, read: sex and romance phase begins to quiet down.
If you can sustain things for 2 years and see how she shows up in many different situations, how she ( and you ) handle conflict, communicate, make decisions together, THIS will be the true test of her ability to sustain a relationship regardless of her sexual past.

If she is a romance junkie you’ll know soon enough because she will lose interest relatively quickly, and feel the need to move on in search of new excitement.
I would also observe her in her interactions with other men, does she seem to be always looking, flirting? Do you notice her needing and trying to extract attention from other men in obvious ways?

Just take things slow and observe, observe, observe. This is sound adice for anyone in a new relationship, male or female. Good luck!

deni's avatar

Maybe, since you really like her, you should just talk to her about it. I’m sure it’s not what either of you wanna discuss early on in a relationship, but it’s clearly bothering you. So, either realize all these men have nothing to do with her present affection for you, or bring it up. It does feel good to get something thats bothering you out in the open so….it would probably be worth the awkwardness.

And by the way, I don’t think you’re crazy for being bothered by this. You never said her number but if it’s super super high, yeah, I agree, it just sets off a tiny, tiny alarm. That’s all.

Coloma's avatar

Well…one very positive thing is that she has been honest with you about her past. Honesty is everything, and she does not OWE anyone a explanation of her past, so, that is a good sign that she has integrity and even though she doesn’t owe you her sexual history she has volunteered it willingly.

john65pennington's avatar

The fact that you have asked this question suggests that you are really concerned. If she has ridden the train that many times, at her age, what makes you believe she will stop, just by being with you?

Only you know what you can live with.

LuckyGuy's avatar

Welcome to the real world where there are consequences for our actions.
Doing the math, that you intentionally and wisely kept nebulous, it appears that she had many partners – averaging at least a new one a month right up until you met.
Here’s how I look at it. The high number of partners means one of three things:
1) The encounters were so meaningless and emotionally unencumbered to her, she was willing to do it with casual acquaintances and multiple overlapping partners.
2) She quickly gets bored with a guy and moves on.
3) Guys quickly get bored with her and move on.
Which of the three do you prefer?

If this will bother you, recognize and acknowledge the feeling now. Try sticking with her for a couple of months and see if you can beat the odds.
If both of you are happy and comfortable at 6 months then call the past the past.
But make sure to have a pre-nup in place.

chyna's avatar

I think it was great that she was honest with you. What I wonder though, is did you ask her about STD or getting checked for them? It is not an insult, but a precaution. Anyone that has multiple sex partners probably hasn’t been 100% safe. Condoms do break.
If it bothers you about the number of sex partners she has had, then so be it. That is how you feel, we can’t change that. As @LuckyGuy says, give it a couple of months and see how you feel then, see if you can get around her past. If not, you really haven’t lost anything.

LuckyGuy's avatar

I give her some credit for telling you but in all likelihood you would have found out soon enough.
Just for the record, I would answer and feel the same way if the OP was a woman asking about a man.

@chyna brought up a good point: STDs. I’d want to make sure the person I was seriously considering as a life partner was disease free. According to one of my friends with an “active” past, one of the biggest incentives for him to settle down was his diagnosis of Hep C.

marinelife's avatar

The problem is within you not her. Think about yourself. Do you bring less to her because of your past sexual experiences? No? Then why would she?

Do your past sexual experiences influence your feelings for her? No? Then why would hers?

As for your culture’s beliefs. Do you accept them? Do you think the culture’s beliefs about women are fair or reasonable? How would you feel if the culture esposed similar beliefs about men?

You might benefit by talking to a professional therapist about resolving your feelings.

What you should not do is discuss them with your lady. With her, focus on the present and the future. About the only question you have a right to ask is does she feel that she can be sexual with only you and faithful to you while you two are together.

mothermayi's avatar

You either accept it or you move on.

CWOTUS's avatar

Just as she seems to have been honest with you about her past, you probably need to be honest with her now about your present: You’re disturbed. Have you told her yet?

You’re right, there is a difference between sex and love. So… what did she feel then? What do you do if she tells you that she loved every one of her partners? Presumably she tells you that she loves you now. What then?

On a more practical side, has she been tested lately for STDs?

ucme's avatar

I simply say to her, “you’ve had the rest, now get ready for the best”

wundayatta's avatar

What is the significance of a large number of sexual partners? Well, there could be many reasons. Some are ridiculous or scary. Others might be more on target. She could be a call girl. She could be a sex addict. She could be using sex as a way to bolster her self-esteem.

Or maybe she doesn’t have hangups about sex being so special, and is willing to have sex with friends. Maybe sex doesn’t mean much to her.

Or there could be other reasons.

The thing is, unless you talk to her, you’re not going to figure out the meaning of these sexual partners in her life.

Aethelflaed's avatar

There’s no way for you have a problem with this and not be judging her. Sorry. But if it’s really bothering you, and you can’t get over it, it’s ok to leave. I promise you, she doesn’t want a relationship with someone who thinks less of her because of this.

PurpleClouds's avatar

You don’t have to apologize for being bothered by a 23 year old having over 20 sex partners. Did you have her decontaminated before touching her?

Get off of the judging thing. Of course we use our “judgment” all of the time about people; it is how we form opinions. I’m sick of hearing people talking about being judged by someone. It’s what we do and there’s nothing wrong with being discriminating. I sure as hell am.

nikipedia's avatar

eye roll.

funkdaddy's avatar

The start of your question stood out to me.

I met someone recently and we’ve had something of a whirlwind relationship. We clicked very quickly and I find her to be one of more interesting women I’ve ever met (and also pretty damn close to having the things I want in a long term partner).

How do you think she got so interesting?

My guess would be: By living a varied life, filled with varied people who value experiences, and doing interesting things.

None of that implies limiting herself to someone else’s expectations. It does give you a window into what she values though. If that lines up with what’s important to you, is the number really that important?

Do you value new experiences over control? Are other people’s expectations important to you? Do you enjoy having flexibility and freedom (and the uncertainty that can come with it) in your life or is a plan important? Why are you thinking of her as a long term partner already?

Only you know the answers. Figure out what’s right for you. If you need assurances, ask for them.

Right now it seems you’re using what you know to explore what could go wrong instead of living in the moment with someone new, wonderful, and interesting.

tinyfaery's avatar

Double standard bullshit. Some women like sex. Not because they are damaged, or dirty or have daddy issues. If you must het a test. Maybe you’ve picked up disease in a public bathroom or from a bar.

Judging people because they satisfy a bodily need is akin to faulting people for pissing when they need to.

SavoirFaire's avatar

You deal with it by rejoicing. Absent prudishness—which is ridiculous—why should sex be the only exception to experience being a good thing?

linguaphile's avatar

What if it’s the guy with over 100 sexual partners, and the woman with just 5?

augustlan's avatar

It can be hard to overcome cultural messages, but you must try if you want to make your own decisions about important things, including sex. I agree with @nikipedia, that you have to determine why this bothers you, and if you can get to that point, you’ll have a better shot at being rational about it.

blueiiznh's avatar

You need to live in the moment.

Anything else like this from the past is somewhat meaningless in the big picture. It sounds like you are looking for something wrong. Enjoy the fact that you are together now and what was in the past is in the past.
It is interesting (and a good thing) that you have had this conversation, but like any conversation or question you have, be prepared to handle the answer or don’t ask it at all.

If you keep looking over your shoulder, let alone over her shoulder, you will need to prepare to see her in your past also.

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