Home » Ask the Therapist » How to Deal with Baggage?

How to Deal with Baggage?

Asked by on with 1 answer:

So, my girlfriend recently shared with me that she’s been intimate with 4 other people before we were together. On one hand, I am okay with that because we all have baggage and I love this girl, so I can get over it. But on the other hand, I’ve begun playing the comparison game in my head, and I can’t help but feel like maybe I’ll be missing something for her. I am still a virgin, so if we have sex it’ll be my first time, but she’s already been there before. Now, I can’t help but think about her past partners and just get frustrated. It is getting in the way of our intimacy now, and that’s not ideal. It’s not really my place to forgive her because she didn’t hurt me, but now this is a part of our relationship. How do I move on/cope/forgive her for this?

How to Deal with Baggage?

Answered by on -


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,
Dr. Dan
Proof Positive Blog @ PsychCentral

How to Deal with Baggage?

Therapists live, online right now, from BetterHelp:

Daniel J. Tomasulo, PhD, TEP, MFA, MAPP

Dan Tomasulo Ph.D., TEP, MFA, MAPP teaches Positive Psychology in the graduate program of Counseling and Clinical Psychology at Columbia University, Teachers College and works with Martin Seligman, the Father of Positive Psychology in the Masters of Applied Positive Psychology (MAPP) program at the University of Pennsylvania. He is Director of the New York Certification in Positive Psychology for the Open Center in New York City and on faculty at New Jersey City University. Sharecare has honored him as one of the top 10 online influencers on the topic of depression. For more information go to: He also writes for Psych Central's Ask the Therapist column and the Proof Positive blog.

APA Reference
Tomasulo, D. (2020). How to Deal with Baggage?. Psych Central. Retrieved on November 27, 2020, from
Scientifically Reviewed
Last updated: 12 May 2020 (Originally: 12 May 2020)
Last reviewed: By a member of our scientific advisory board on 12 May 2020
Published on Psych All rights reserved.