Intimidated by fiancé's past
My fiancé and I have been together over a year but have been friends for a year before that. I have had several past sexual relationships but sex was rarely ever the center of my relationships. My fiancé on the other hand has had very many sexual relationships that I have learned about that have just centered around sex. She is 7 years older than I am and has been married once very briefly. After her marriage ended she engaged in nothing but sexual relationships for about 2 years. I feel that I am a very sexual person but I feel intimidated by her because of the amount of men she has been with for the few years before she and I met. When we are together I am not bothered by this knowledge, but when we are apart I often think of all the men she has slept with. I know she loves me very much and I feel the same way about her. I know she had a rough time emotionally after her marriage ended and I feel that she was trying to gain some kind of comfort from these men without getting too close to them emotionally. It bothers me to think of all the men she has been with when we are only 6 months from our wedding.
What can I do so that I don't feel so intimidated by my fiancé's past and all the men who have slept with her?
All of this information about the many past sexual experiences your fiancé has had seems to cause you to feel insecure (sexually) in your relationship with her. Most persons would probably feel threatened by this type of detailed disclosure, although it does seem likely that the statement, "she engaged in nothing but sexual relationships for about 2 years," is an overstatement. (Two solid years of sex, hmm . . . is that possible?
What has it felt like for you to hear about your fiancé's sexual past? My guess is that it has felt pretty uncomfortable to get this information, and yet some part of you also wanted to know the details (or you would've said, "I don't want to know this. Please don't tell me.") My sense is that this ambivalence represents a conflict within you, about you.
Your impending wedding may have a lot to do with this, in that you may have some doubts about yourself making the commitment to the shared goals and dreams of a marriage. Or, you may doubt your ability to maintain your own personhood - with your own goals and dreams - within the marriage.
When we have doubts about ourselves, our lives reflect back to us all sorts of manifestations of these doubts. Sexual conflicts are not fundamentally different from any other problems, in that they also are, basically, reflections of our internalized conflict and doubt. So, while this may appear to be a sexual issue, my sense is that this is really a self-esteem issue. How did you feel (about you) in the other relationships you've had? What's your history of relating to others (in general)?
You may have had difficulties with setting limits and boundaries in the past. (Responding to your fiancé with, "I'd rather not hear about your sexual experiences," would have been an example of setting a boundary.) If this has been a problem for you, then your task will be to focus on your own self-care and emotional growth, within the relationship. Prioritize your own needs, while being sensitive and responsive to the needs of your fiancé.
This is no small job. You (unconsciously) knew this, since you wrote for help with your problem. Time's ticking! (You've got six months.) You must grow up - take responsibility for yourself and your actions, and be responsible to yourself and your needs, before you can be capable of truly giving (and loving) to another.
Margaret "Peg" Burr, MA, MFT
This question was answered by Margaret "Peg" Burr. She is a California Licensed Marriage and Family Therapist (MFC34374) with a private practice in Santa Clarita (near Los Angeles). She performs psychodynamic psychotherapy with individual adult clients as well as couples, teens, and families. She also runs groups for adults and adolescents. Her specialty area is Object Relations Systems Theory. This branch of psychodynamic psychotherapy uses a client's interpersonal relationships as windows into his or her intrapsychic structure.For more information visit: http://www.pegburr.com/