I’m glad you caught yourself saying that this isn’t a forgiveness opportunity. The issue has nothing to do with her whatsoever. This is entirely on your side of the fence, and I admire the courage you have shown and the persistence in facing the issue.
Of the three options move on/cope/forgive, we can immediately remove the forgiving one. The “move on” option is equally flawed as the chances are VERY good that you would simply experience the same concerns with the next person and the next. Moving on implies that there is something wrong with the relationship and someone better. Neither of these things seems likely. You say you are in love with her and that is a rare enough phenomenon that you won’t want to let go of something you are sure about for something that may be more of a fantasy. Additionally, finding a young woman who doesn’t have a history may be challenging, and not a good enough criteria for you to love her.
That leads to coping. Two type of coping are regressive and transformational. In regressive coping, you simply try to avoid the issue as much as you can. While this strategy often works in the short run — it becomes debilitating in the long run because it depletes your self-esteem. You know you’ve never adequately dealt with the issue. The way to deal more effectively is to move toward the conflict.
Transformational coping gives you the sense that there is something difficult and restrictive, uncertain, and negative that is in your life that needs to evolve. I’d recommend you begin coping by recognizing this is entirely yours to deal with, not hers in any way, and taking responsibility for the comparisons and feelings you are having. This way the struggle stays on your side of the fence and doesn’t migrate as an issue she feels has to try to fix.
At its core the issue of comparison is a type of avoidance. By comparing yourself to ghosts that you are imagining you can never give yourself a sense that you’ll be okay with her, which then makes you feel inadequate enough to block your feelings of intimacy. You are taking yourself out of the game before you’ve had a chance to participate. My best guess is that this is a way to avoid dealing with the genuine fears of performance and adequacy associate with your first sexual experience.
The more direct way is to begin talking with your girlfriend about your own concerns not the comparisons, but the concerns about making her feel good, and wanting some direction or guidance from her. This is real intimacy — the conversation. In approaching this directly is a way for you to cope by moving toward the conflict, not avoid it by generating fantasies of inadequacy against ghost lovers.
Of course, if this seems like too much of a leap you may want to have some individual therapy. You university can offer this or the find help tab at the top of the page can help you find someone in your area.
Wishing you patience and peace,
Proof Positive Blog @ PsychCentral