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My girlfriend and I have shared an apartment together for several months now. We get along great for the most part, however, there are things about her past that I find concerning.

Early on in our relationship, she told me too much about the numerous one night stands that she had while in college. I know that this type of behavior is common for many college students, but the amount of these encounters that she had is troubling.

Initially these stories didn't bother me, but the thought of them started to weigh on my mind as our relationship grew. In my mind, this reflects poorly on her character. The details of these encounters has made trusting her difficult, as I see that she would be more likely to cheat in a relationship. I have never felt this way in any other relationship.

We have tried to talk about her past several times, but each time, she becomes emotional, and my concerns go unaddressed, mostly because she thinks that I want to leave her because of her past.

I don't explicitly tell her that I have trust issues. Instead, I talk about how much the thought of these encounters weigh on my mind. These conversations have done nothing but cause additional stress for the both of us. Although she says that she regrets the things she did in the past, she continues to bring these events up from time to time despite the way they make me feel.

I love her and want to work through these problems, but I just can't help feel that she is not the person who I think she is.

My question is:

  • How can I bring about a serious conversation about her past, and communicate to her that bringing up these experiences from her past makes me uncomfortable, without her becoming emotional, and leaving my concerns unaddressed?

Edit: I appreciate the time and effort everyone has put into helping me deal with this issue. I now regret asking this question in such a public space. Several of you have helped me see how foolish this concern really is. I will come to terms with this on my own and never bother her with it again. I care too much for her to let this small matter stand in the way.

Thank you for taking the time to talk some sense into me.

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    "Is this justified" seems pretty opinion-based, but I think we could help with a strategy for talking to her about it, given some more details. When you say "she becomes emotional" do you mean angry, sad, something else? Could you give an example? How long have you been together overall? What sort of things does she bring up about these one night stands? – Em C Feb 21 '18 at 20:56
  • Sorry, this is my first time asking a question on Stack Exchange. I can see how this all seems opinion-based, but I'm mostly looking for ways to cope. @Tinkeringbell I have edited out the opinion based aspect of this post. – Niemand1400 Feb 21 '18 at 21:07
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    As others have said, we can't give you open ended advice... However, from my own experience, it might be helpful if you can both seek counseling and have a third party mediate these conversations. You have a right to voice your concerns, but her being emotional about it means she doesn't feel safe talking about it (for whatever reason), so having a professional mediate those talks and teach you both how to communicate might be a better answer than any single thing you could tell her or ask of her. – Jess K. Feb 21 '18 at 21:10
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    @Tinkeringbell Yes, that is much better than the way I worded it originally. :) – Niemand1400 Feb 21 '18 at 21:29
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    To me it seems like there are conflicting things in your request. It's as though you want to know more about her past, but at the same time don't want to know more details than you already know. What do you want to achieve exactly? Do you want a conversation about what she was like back then, about how you feel about her past, about how you feel about her currently, about what you believe is right/wrong about her and her past? And the outcome? To build more trust, to solidify your current views, to understand her better, or to justify your trust issues and address the relationship's future? – HugoBDesigner Feb 22 '18 at 0:23
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I was in the same situation as you in the past, and unfortunately we didn't continue together...

First, you are asking the wrong question, or you wrongly described the problem. Here the question is (paraphrased)

What do I do about the fact that I’m grossed out by my new girlfriend’s sexual history?

Or

How can I stop picturing her having sex with others?

Essentially,

What do I do with my jealousy?

Well, I think you should just get over it. Seriously. Suck it up and move on.

You wouldn’t want to be judged based on your sexual history, would you? Like, picture meeting the love of your life, the first person who really made you excited about being a person — and then imagine how you would feel if she dumped you after finding out you had a threesome with two strangers at a trashy party one time. Wouldn’t that feel like kind of a disproportionate reaction? Yeah, it would. It would be totally unreasonable. So don’t do that to her.

It's best not to dwell on the past openly, if you're gonna dwell at least do it alone and don't bring it up to her because it seems like when you do bring it up to her, you gonna lose her.
Listen, you said she has told you she regrets it. You bringing it up and handling it the way you do only makes it worse for her. If you keep treating her that way, she will leave. It happened to me.
Just realize what you got such as I did. I love my girlfriend so much, and I hope you love yours. With that being said, don't let the negative thoughts take over your life or ruin a beautiful thing. You have that gold medal that the last guys failed to get.

  • Written in a totally unprofessional/unstackexchange way, bit i like the message +1 – MansNotHot Feb 22 '18 at 12:49
  • Sorry for used words, I couldn't describe it in another way. Please if you have another way, don't hesitate to edit the answer.. – Moslem Ch Feb 22 '18 at 13:01
  • @MosCh You are exactly right. Coming to terms with this on my own and moving on is best. I feel foolish for asking this question here. I tried to remove the question, but I couldn't. – Niemand1400 Feb 22 '18 at 13:52
  • aber gerne doch ;) You can't remove a question was answered ;) – Moslem Ch Feb 22 '18 at 14:02
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First, few separate questions that I see here. I don't think that they will make good separate IPS@StackExchange questions, but just trying to unwrap.

  1. "she continues to bring these events up from time to time despite the way they make me feel" -- How to tell partner i don't want to hear about her past sexual life anymore?
  2. "I don't explicitly tell her that I have trust issues. Instead, I talk about how much the thought of these encounters weigh on my mind." -- How to communicate my worries to partner without being explicit?
  3. "In my mind, this reflects poorly on her character. The details of these encounters has made trusting her difficult" -- I worry that partner with rich sex past will cheat on me

I suggest you think about these as separate issues, as some of them are actually interpersonal problems (1&2) while other (3) might be your personal problem.

Starting with (3). You should figure for yourself whether this is rational worry or not. If your partner told you many stories about cheating in committed relationships, then your concern might be well-founded. If you equate having multiple partners with proclivity to infidelity, then you might be wrong in your assumptions. Maybe what you are really concerned with is "her experience" with other people, that she might perhaps compare them to you. That is a separate problem.

Number (2) is also solvable. You cannot expect partner to understand you when you are not being open. You have to use careful words and tell how you feel, in order to communicate properly. @sphennings addressed this point in other answer.

Same goes to (1). Follow good advice of @sphennings and be straight:

I am really bothered by you bringing your past life for no particular reason. I an really interested in us and what is happening right now.

On the other hand, maybe there is a reason, your partner tells you about her past. This might be important to her, as she is trying to communicate something else. You should listen carefully and without judgement to figure that out. Maybe she is comparing you to previous partners, trying to change your life. Then you might add:

You can tell me if there is something you'd like to change in our relationship, but please don't use your previous partners as examples that makes me really uncomfortable.

4

I'm pretty sure that your girlfriend is aware that you are uncomfortable when she brings up her sexual history. This seems like a conversation you've had many times before unproductively.

To be able to talk about insecurities with a partner you need to know what you are actually trying to say. Ask yourself are you asking for a change in their behavior, are you wanting them to acknowledge the validity of your feelings, or are you just wanting them to give you space to vent. Remember that your insecurities are your problem. Your partner isn't responsible for making you feel better.

Use non accusatory language when talking about your concerns. I statements are a powerful tool here. In a nutshell they are statements of the form:

I feel X, when Y. I would like Z.

These statements place the responsibility of your feelings on yourself instead of placing your girlfriend on the defensive. In your case this would look something like:

I feel insecure, when you talk about your sexual history. I would like it if you talked about it less.

It's highly probable that part of the reason your girlfriend is so defensive about having these conversations is because they have gone so poorly in the past. It's probably a good idea to acknowledge this at the start. If you have a goal going into the conversation it will be easier to keep the conversation from getting derailed.

3

Anxiety doesn't have to be rational. Even if there's no objective basis for mistrust, based on current behavior, you might still feel anxious that she might be unfaithful.

Similarly, even if there are no objective grounds for her to be afraid that you might end the relationship, nevertheless, she might feel anxious about this.

Often, the key to these sorts of stalemates is for each party to understand that the other person is feeling anxious.

Some ideas that might help you get a bit unstuck:

  • Try writing a letter to get the conversation started
  • Use I-messages, e.g., "I feel anxious. I value our relationship and I'm terrified of losing it. I don't know what I would do if you were to lose interest in me. I suffer from irrational fears about you and other men."
  • Perhaps invite a close friend that both of you trust to model active listening (this might help your partner hold it together)
  • Try varying the location of your tête-à-têtes (but bring plenty of kleenex, and a piece of fruit as a pick-me-up towards the end of the conversation)
  • You could try to brainstorm to see if there are any concrete things she could do to help you manage your anxiety -- and vice versa
  • Try using a friend as a confidante, and experiment with the idea that not all thoughts and feelings need to be shared with the partner
  • Try different self-care ideas to see what helps you manage your anxiety (exercise? yoga? reading a potboiler?)

There can be some lack of confidence in just how long-term the relationship will be, in situations where the arrangement is a bit loosely defined (e.g. "moving in together"). On the other hand, having a more formal agreement in place, recognized by family and society, doesn't necessarily remove the anxiety.

If you two are able to achieve empathy for each other's anxiety by talking to each other on your own, great. You could try listening to Esther Perel -- she's got a book and a podcast and she's been interviewed on Fresh Air and elsewhere.

If you are still stuck and find that you need a third party who can help both parties hear what the other is saying, you would not be unusual.

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