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Can my girlfriend really love me if she lost her virginity to someone else?

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Ronnie asks:

I'm afraid my girlfriend may still be loving her ex-boyfriend who broke her virginity. She has always proved that she loves me but I'm not convinced, even though she says she doesn't have feelings for him anymore. Is it true that ladies always have permanent feelings for men they first had sex with?

Heather Corinna replies:

No, it isn't. It's not always true for men either, nor is there a sound reason why it would be more true for women than it would be for men. As well, if women have a female first sex partner, or men a male first sex partner, there also is no golden rule or given about if any of us will have long-lasting feelings of any kind for that person or not.

Let me clarify that: any of us, whether we have sex with someone we dated or not, whether if we did that was our first partner or not, may still have feelings for an ex in some way. We may even develop a new kind of relationship with that person and become platonic friends, instead.

For instance, I'm friends with many of my exes where relationships were serious or longer-term (and also with some people I saw very briefly, but where we determined early that while dating wasn't a good fit for us, friendship was), and while those feelings aren't romantic anymore for us, we value the new kind of relationship we have. We want to know, now and then -- and sometimes regularly, like you would with other friends -- how both of us are doing, what's new in our lives, and that we're both doing well because we care about one another. On the other hand, I have no idea what became of my first sexual partner for intercourse, and I have to say that I don't even think about him all that often: maybe once every few years at a maximum. That's not because I didn't care about that person, but rather because our relationship wasn't that long-lasting and we didn't really create the kind of bond in other areas of our relationship that tend to result in a sustained love, romantic or otherwise. The fact that that was also around 25 years ago is a factor, too: I know young people have the idea memories of sex and relationships will always stay fresh, but time and age tend to make a whole lot of memories get mighty fuzzy.

Having intercourse for the first time together alone -- or at any time, with anyone -- can't magically create a bond all by itself. The bonds we make with people really aren't about our bodies, but about our hearts and minds. Sex is one way to express our feelings physically while sharing pleasure, and can be one way to express or deepen our emotional intimacy, but it's still not the sex itself that creates an emotional bond. Sure, we might look back at certain sexual relationships or sex with other partners and remember that sex fondly (or not-so-fondly). We might even file times with someone else in our mental best-sex-so-far files. But that doesn't make sex after that with others somehow less important or rewarding, nor does it mean that we can't have sexual relationships afterwards which are of equal or greater importance.

Some of what you're thinking comes from the idea that first intercourse or any intercourse is The Big Deal for women (and not for men). By all means, sometimes it is...but just as often, it isn't, for men and women alike. And don't forget that for a majority of women, vaginal intercourse, the first time or the 301st time, often isn't very satisfying all by itself, physically or emotionally. We can pretty safely say, looking at history, that most of the people who propagated the idea that vaginal intercourse or first-time intercourse IS a huge deal for women and women alone have not even been women, but men, and not men making any effort to accurately represent women, either. In many cases, spreading that idea around was motivated by some pretty cruddy stuff, like a desire to claim ownership of women or our bodies, or a want for women to feel like a sexual activity which men more often enjoy than we do HAD to be something equally important to us so that we'd be more willing to do it with them or only within the structures and conditions men wanted (and sometimes still want) us to have intercourse in.

If you want to know how women feel about something, ask women. And if you want to know how one woman feels, ask her.

You already have a woman telling you, with her own words, how she feels. What she has to say about it should take precedence over what you suspect or what anyone else -- including me -- would tell you. She's the expert here, and she's telling you she doesn't have feelings for this guy anymore and that she loves you. To really love her back, you've got to accept that love, trust her and you've also got to have what she expresses to you about her feelings be meaningful without second-guessing her based on what I suspect, are probably your own insecurities and your own lack of trust. In other words, it sounds like her previous partner isn't someone she still has strong feelings for or about: you're the one with all the investment in this guy.

It might also be helpful if you try not to think of her virginity as being "broken." Having any kind of sex doesn't break us in any way. If we choose to share sex with someone, we're choosing to share sex with someone, not passively giving them some gift, some part of ourselves we can never reclaim, or allowing them some kind of way of marking us or having ownership of us or our sexuality by "breaking" our bodies. You might even consider if thinking about things this way is really all that loving or respectful when it comes to women, and consider adjusting your thinking so that you and your girlfriend can experience love and sex together in a way that's most healthy and more loving than you have so far.

How important the relationship the two of you have is is about the two of you and the quality of that relationship. It's not about anyone's past relationships, nor is it about the sex either of you may have had in the past. It's about what you and she make and have together, right now. If you've got something good here, I'd encourage you to do yourself a favor and focus on the present, rather than dwelling on the past. If you invest your time and energy in who she was with before sexually, instead of cherishing the fact that this girl loves you right now and really loving her back, it might not be the ex that causes you both to miss out on some real, big love, but your own choice not to trust it and let this relationship -- not her previous one -- be the one that's important for you both now.

I'm tossing you a few links which I hope can help you resolve this so that you can move on from her previous relationship in the same way it seems she already has.

written 17 May 2008 . updated 21 Jan 2014

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