Her Boyfriend Can't Get Over Her Dating History

Ms. Vicki
Ms. Vicki

Dear Ms. Vicki,

I have been dating my boyfriend for about four years now. We are both 22 and have been together since high school. He is in the Marine Corps and is currently on his first deployment

Caleb and I have a very special relationship. We have been discussing the possibility of getting engaged after his deployment, and both sets of our parents love the idea. Caleb and I get along great, but there is one thing that has been causing issues for a while, and seems to have gotten worse since he deployed.

Long before Caleb and I met, I was involved with a physically, verbally and emotionally abusive guy who I stupidly gave my virginity to. This guy had me under the belief that in order to be loved, I had to be submissive and give myself away physically. My involvement with this guy and the things that happened between us are the biggest regrets of my entire life.

A long time ago, I told Caleb about what happened to me before I met him because I wanted to be transparent with him from the beginning. Caleb has always been bothered by the fact that I have previously been with another person sexually, and he does not like that I allowed myself to be treated that way.

Normally, Caleb is very open with me, but with this he just bottles it all up and lets it bother him and control his thoughts. Since he deployed, Caleb has mentioned to me at some point in every conversation that he is "given too much time to think" and "doesn't know how to let it go." Now, I'm kind of out of things to say to him, and my feelings are starting to get hurt. 

I have no idea what it's like to be in his shoes, and I don't know what he goes through on a regular basis while he's working. All I want is to be supportive of him. I have even suggested that we go to couple's therapy when he comes home to see if that might help him let it go, but he doesn't want to do that. I'm doing my best to stay positive, but my fear is that, despite my best efforts, Caleb is going to continue to let this be an issue and allow it to drive a wedge between us.  

Do you have any advice on what I should say to him or do when he brings this up to me the next time? And if therapy is the best option here, what approach should I try when suggesting it, since he has been so reluctant to try it? 

I want him to be happy and think happier thoughts about me. I hate seeing him struggle with this and feel guilty for putting him through it.

-- Cindy

Dear Cindy,

Thank you for writing to me. Please know that every letter is very important to me, especially yours. I appreciate you for being so transparent about what happened in your past, so please allow me to give you some quick advice for a problem you've been dealing with for quite a while.

I really admire you for leaving the abusive relationship. You had to be around 17 or so at the time. Anyone can find themselves in an abusive relationship; it doesn't have an age, a gender, a race or ethnicity or a socio-economic status. It can happen to anyone. Again, I'm just glad you got out and left this guy alone.

I have to say that I don't like the way Caleb is handling this because he is acting like you are used goods, and this is not true. His behavior is keeping your guilt paramount, and it's decreasing your self-esteem.

Caleb may not like it, but many people have sex before they are married, and they have sexual relationships with people that don't last. He can't say he loves you and then badger you about the previous boyfriend.

If he is truly your friend, then he should appreciate your honesty and resolve to help you forgive yourself for being in a relationship with an abusive guy. Yes, Caleb is 22 years old, but maybe he's not ready for a sexual relationship yet.

I am happy that he is deployed in that you both need time to resolve some of these feelings -- especially you, Cindy. I wouldn't say couples counseling is necessary just yet because I think this is more about you than it is Caleb.

Trust me -- yes, you were very young in that previous relationship, but you have to discover why you chose to be with that abusive guy. Why didn't you run the other way at the first signs of abuse? I'm not blaming you, but you have to figure this out. If you don't, you could find yourself in another relationship with another abuser.

In many ways, Caleb's behavior resembles that of an emotional abuser. He's pouting, sulking and giving you the silent treatment because he's not the man who "took your virginity." This makes you second-guess yourself and decreases your self-esteem.

Moreover, his behavior is increasing the guilt you have about what happened in your past. You are more than your virginity. That is only one aspect of who you are.

What I do recommend is that YOU see a therapist on your own to help you resolve your guilt over this issue. I have a feeling there is more beneath the surface about your guilt. In the meantime, you don't owe anyone any explanations about your past. Stop looking for their acceptance.

People who have never been in your situation may not understand, and they won't give you the support you need. At any rate, I'm proud of you and I'm here for you. Keep in touch, and let me know what you decide to do.

-- Ms. Vicki

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