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I Obsess Over Girlfriend’s Past Relationships

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From the U.S.: My girlfriend and I have been in a rocky two-year relationship. She is amazing and my best friend. We are engaged now. We have many external stressors (my med school, her being in a city she hates, money), but also both have respective insecurities, anxiety, depression, and trust issues. I’ve come to realize that many of the problems I bring to the relationship are tied to insecurities and low self esteem. Thus, I tend to use her as a litmus test for my self-worth.

One big, consistent issue is her past relationships. At first, I avoided the conversation of our pasts every time she brought it up. Still, during this time I learned of and sometimes obsessed over some of these relationships. Since that time, we had one very emotional encounter when I basically admitted that these feelings were eating me up sometimes and I thought it was tied to the fact that I was a virgin when I began dating my last serious girlfriend, who had been with several people before me. I was secure in this 7-year relationship, but she ended up meeting up with men from her past and cheating.

That day she shared the number of her past sexual partners with me. That whole conversation seemed to help for a while. More recently, I asked her to tell me who they were. She told me, and not only was the number slightly higher, but she couldn’t remember one guy’s name. She has dated famous athletes and world-travelers. Still,rationally, none of this bothers me. I have had only slightly less encounters than her, including flings, and I have two children — plenty of my own baggage, but my irrational mind still obsesses over it.

Subconsciously, I feel both she and these men, are better than me, that there is no way she could be satisfied with me long-term, and that our physical intimacy means so little to her that she may find it easy to cheat on me. She has reassured me that she has never loved anyone more, has never been more physically satisfied, finds me attractive, and wants me to fix my insecurities. I plan on going to individual therapy to work on this. I believe these issues don’t have anything to do with her and should be left out of our couples therapy. I want to know what are some things I can do now to decrease the anxiety and compulsive thoughts?

I Obsess Over Girlfriend’s Past Relationships

Answered by on -


I think you are doing it. You wrote a thoughtful and insightful letter. You are an intelligent man who knows rationally that you are unfairly reacting to your girlfriend’s history; especially since you have a relationship history of your own that includes breaking up with the mother of your children. You already know that the problem lies in your insecurities.

I don’t know why you are only “planning” on going to individual therapy. You’ve tried your best to quiet your anxieties. Your girlfriend has done the best she can to help you. In spite of your best efforts, the two of you haven’t been able to help you come to terms with yourself. Therapy, then, is the sensible thing to do and may be the only way that you will be able to save what sounds like a very promising relationship.

I wish you well.
Dr. Marie

I Obsess Over Girlfriend’s Past Relationships

Therapists live, online right now, from BetterHelp:

Dr. Marie Hartwell-Walker

Dr. Marie is licensed as both a psychologist and marriage and family counselor. She specializes in couples and family therapy and parent education. Follow her on Facebook or Twitter.

APA Reference
Hartwell-Walker, D. (2018). I Obsess Over Girlfriend’s Past Relationships. Psych Central. Retrieved on November 25, 2020, from
Scientifically Reviewed
Last updated: 8 May 2018 (Originally: 1 Sep 2015)
Last reviewed: By a member of our scientific advisory board on 8 May 2018
Published on Psych All rights reserved.