I have been dating Jack for about two years. Recently, we have been discussing marriage, but there is an issue and I don’t know how to resolve it. I have been in two other long term relationships before Jack: one was for a year in high school and the other was for two and a half years in college. I had sex in both. Jack dated, but was never in a committed relationship nor did he ever have sex. Jack believes that this makes us unequal and makes him insecure about our relationship. He brought this up, after having discussed and resolved this almost a year ago. I want to make sure that he knows I sympathize with his insecurities but at the same time I cannot handle it when he attacks the fact I was with others before him. Nothing I say to him makes things better and he thinks that I’m not listening to him. In the same respect, I feel as though he isn’t listening to me and it hurts me deeply when he comments negatively on my past. I thought I was in love with those people and they hurt me very deeply. I don’t appreciate him bringing up my past as if it were bad. Being in those relationships made me understand myself much better, learn what love should be, and learn how to stick up for my feelings. Every time I think this issue is resolved, he brings it back up. He also recently cheated on me (grinded with another woman at a bar). He apologized and I forgave him. It’s not something I hold against him. But how am I supposed to be with someone who cheated on me and I forgave him, when he can’t forgive my past — something that shouldn’t even need to be forgiven? I wanted to marry this man, but now I am not sure. I can’t change my past. I can’t change his past. I have listened to him say terrible things about me and my past and I’m not sure how to get through to him. I think it is impossible for us to be equal in love. I am never going to find someone who has had the same love life as me and he is never going to find someone with the same love life as him. These are not things that are equal. Please help, I’m not sure what to do to fix this.
A: I’m not sure you can fix this, unless you are willing to wait for your boyfriend to mature into a secure adult … and there’s no guarantee that he will. I agree with you that couples are rarely “equal” in number of past relationships or sexual partners, but most folks figure out a way to handle it. I can understand that your current boyfriend is a little insecure that you have more experience than him, but that does not give him a right to say hurtful things to you. It’s his issue, not yours. I can also understand that he may feel that grinding with someone in a bar is not the same thing as knowing you loved someone and were intimate with someone before you met him. But again, it’s his issue to get over.
I think your reservations about marriage are warranted. He needs time to grow up. Maybe if you leave him and he realizes that he will be hard pressed to find someone who meets all his criteria, it may speed up his learning curve. In the meantime, stop trying to justify the fact that you have loved before. It happens. It helps us grow. It helps us know what we want in a lifetime partner. Is this what you want?
All the best,
Dr. Holly Counts
Counts, H. (2014). Relationship Issue. Psych Central. Retrieved on February 3, 2016, from http://psychcentral.com/ask-the-therapist/2014/08/30/relationship-issue-3/