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Author Topic: Should I tell him?
wooooh!!!
Neophyte
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Hi, I haven't posted on here in years but I read a lot of stuff on the message boards and was hoping I could get some opinions/perspective on my current situation.

I am in a relationship with a man that I really love. It's different to all my past relationships, I have never felt this strongly about anyone and I admire and respect my boyfriend so much. I would never want to hurt him, but I also feel it's so important for me to be honest with him because he deserves honesty, and because I want him to know me.

I have never cheated on him in any way, but I have been with a lot of people before I was with him. I'm ashamed of some parts of my sexual past. This is not because I think there is something objectively wrong about any of the things that I did, just because they weren't a good fit for me, and I seem to have changed a lot since then and it's just not me anymore. I can deal with these things, but I know that my boyfriend is a bit insecure or it just makes him sad to think of (this is because I have told him a little bit of it - he has never been judgemental and has always been accepting, but it's understandable he wouldn't want to think of his girlfriend with other people).

Anyway, I can deal with that aspect, because it's just a part of my life that is over now. However, I was sexually with three guys in the months leading up to my relationship beginning with my current boyfriend. The thing that I feel so terrible about is that while my boyfriend and I were talking and getting to know each other and starting to really like each other, I had sexual contact with three other people, which I think might really hurt him if he knew. At the time, my boyfriend and I had not said we were exclusive, this only came afterwards, and I have been completely faithful to him since any talk of that kind of thing.

I'm wondering whether I should tell him about this? I don't want to keep things from him but I'm worried it will upset him and potentially ruin things between us. I feel so guilty about it because it feels like I've tarnished the beginning of our relationship or something. I just wish I had never been with those other people because I didn't even really care about them, but I love and care for my boyfriend so much.

I'm sorry this is long, thanks very much to anyone who replies. I'm just looking for some advice and opinion really. I know I 'technically' haven't done anything wrong, but I also know it would hurt him and it's making me feel so guilty.

I just want to add that it is not a case of me needing to inform my partner about these other partners for reasons relating to his health - I do not have any STIs, I have been tested and so has my boyfriend.

Thanks for reading.

Posts: 19 | From: Ireland | Registered: Jan 2006  |  IP: Logged | Report this post to a Moderator
Heather
Executive Director & Founder
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Hello again. [Smile]

Maybe the best place to start with this is to talk about a) what you WANT to do in terms of disclosure or nondisclosure with the dating at the start of your relationship, and b) what you think HE would want?

--------------------
Heather Corinna, Executive Director & Founder, Scarleteen
About Me • Get our book!
Never doubt that a small group of thoughtful, committed citizens can change the world. Indeed, it is the only thing that ever has. - Margaret Mead

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wooooh!!!
Neophyte
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Hi, thanks for your reply [Smile]

(a) I'm not really sure. I wouldn't mind my boyfriend actually knowing the information. He knows who the people I have been with are, he just doesn't know that it was right before he and I started officially going out together. So I suppose what I want to do in terms of disclosure or non-disclosure depends on what he would want. But I can't really directly ask him that without disclosing, haha.

(b) I'm not sure whether he would want me to disclose it or not. I know he really appreciates honesty and I am honest with him, about everything but this, which is why this is making me feel so guilty, I think. When I've spoken about past partners before he hasn't wanted me to go into a huge amount of detail or anything like that, because it just makes him a bit sad or something. Not in a judgemental way. I would be sad to think of him with other girls also, it's just not pleasant to imagine like.

I guess I kind of already told him. Like for ages he had been under the impression that I hadn't been with someone since the summer (we started going out officially in February). In reality, I was with the three guys between September and January. A few times I told my boyfriend that I had feelings of guilt about my past sexual life and he always comforted me and told me that I didn't have to feel guilty because the only thing he cares about is that I have been faithful to him since we've been together and I assured him that I always have been. During one of those conversations I said "and I was with people after the summer...." and he just said "oh really?" in a kind of surprised tone. But then he kept on comforting me and saying it was ok. I mean, by 'together', he could mean all the time we've been officially together but also a bit before that - like when we were spending almost all our time together, and had told each other we liked each other and were just generally involved in ways like that.

I don't know whether to take his acceptance of my past, and his "oh really?" and lack of further questioning to be a sign of him not wanting to know anymore details, or whether he's just afraid to ask in case he doesn't like the answer.

In sum, what I want depends on what he wants. But, I really don't know what he wants. I just really don't want to hurt or upset him or make him think that I value our relationship less than he currently thinks.

I'm really sorry about the length of this post, just it's been bothering me for a while and I usually talk to my boyfriend about stuff that bothers me but I can't really do that this time.

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Heather
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No need to be sorry.

The impression I'm getting then, reading this post, is that you really have already told him, but what you're struggling with here are your own feelings of guilt or shame you want to find a way to resolve.

In other words, that talking to him about this again really wouldn't be for him or about giving him information he doesn't already have, but that it'd be about trying to help yourself feel better. Does that sound right?

--------------------
Heather Corinna, Executive Director & Founder, Scarleteen
About Me • Get our book!
Never doubt that a small group of thoughtful, committed citizens can change the world. Indeed, it is the only thing that ever has. - Margaret Mead

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wooooh!!!
Neophyte
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Well that is definitely a reason I want to tell him - to try and relieve my guilt. Because it has been bothering me for a while.

But it's not the only reason. It's not like I'm just using him as a means to the end of me feeling better. Rather, the reason I have guilt I want to relieve in the first place is because I know how much he values honesty, and we have always spoken about just how important it is in our relationship.

I have been in relationships before where there hasn't been so much emphasis on honesty and in those cases I didn't feel guilty about not telling them every detail of my sexual past. It didn't bother me at all. It's just that my current boyfriend is so special to me and I honestly would just hate to keep something from him that he could potentially want to know.

Of course, I'm not saying that I think I would have to tell him every detail of my past for us to have an honest relationship or anything. The information I have shared has been completely up to me, it has been me bringing it up (also, we were friends for a long time before we started going out so he kind of knew who I had been with from that anyway). He never pressures me to reveal anything I don't want to, and lets me know that I don't have to share everything with him and that it's ok for me to have my own personal information that I don't share.

And I know that myself too, and I've known the same in all my past relationships but it's just different with him because I just love him so much. I don't exactly know why I feel so differently about disclosure with him than I did in my other relationships.

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Heather
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I wasn't suggesting you were using him in any way or looking to do that, no worries.

I think I hear where you're comiong from here. Maybe we could talk about what you haven't told him about this then, that is something you'd want to share?

In other words, it sounds to me like so far you have told him about this for the most part, to the degree you two tend to be comfortable sharing this stuff with each other details-wise. What additional information would you be wanting to disclose?

Might it also make sense to think /talk here a little about perhaps an additional conversation just about generally feeling guilty about previous sexual partners, why you feel that way, and how to make some peace with those feelings?

--------------------
Heather Corinna, Executive Director & Founder, Scarleteen
About Me • Get our book!
Never doubt that a small group of thoughtful, committed citizens can change the world. Indeed, it is the only thing that ever has. - Margaret Mead

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wooooh!!!
Neophyte
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Well if I were to tell him 'the whole truth', it would be something along the lines of "you and I got together in February officially, but I was still sexually involved with other people up until January, even though you and I were very close then".

Like, he even knows what sexual activity it actually was. Well, he knows that I've only had sex with one woman and one man (using my own conception of sex here - I know it varies from person to person). He knows who those people are. Then he knows that I've engaged in other kinds of sexual activity with the rest of the people I've been with.

It's like I've told him everything except the actual dates in question. Which I feel could be important to him. Although, what if it makes him think that he didn't mean anything to me at the beginning of our relationship? Because that's not true at all. And that perception could really upset him, so telling him seems pointless. But then again, I don't want to keep things from him just because I think they might upset him - if it was something he'd actually want to know, that is.

I'd like to make peace with some feelings of guilt in relation to these. I don't know why I feel them. It's strange for me because I haven't felt this before. I've always been comfortable with my sexuality and have never had any religious belief that sex was bad or negative in any way. I have had both long term relationships, and casual sexual activity with people before. And throughout all of this, I haven't felt guilt. And now I do. I can't work out why. Any ideas? I know that you can't speak for me personally, but could you give possible triggers for sexual guilt or something? Thanks.

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Heather
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Well, you can certainly tell him that the fact that you were seeing those people doesn't say anything about the import of your relationship to you then or at the time. You could say that flat-out, or, you could say that if he suggests it did.

I almost wonder, though, if opening a conversation with what strikes me as the bigger issue here -- which is YOU feeling guilt about all of this, and YOU feeling like the fact you were engaging in sex with others might make it appear this relationship didn't mean as much to you -- might make the most sense. After all, it really sounds like these are the big issues here and what's motivating you to want to talk more about things he effectively already knows.

Is it possible that *you* think -- it sure sounds like it to me -- that having sexual relationships with others at the time you start6 dating someone else means that someone else is less meaningful or important?

--------------------
Heather Corinna, Executive Director & Founder, Scarleteen
About Me • Get our book!
Never doubt that a small group of thoughtful, committed citizens can change the world. Indeed, it is the only thing that ever has. - Margaret Mead

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wooooh!!!
Neophyte
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Well I didn't think that I did feel that way. I have done this before and honestly have not felt that it changed how meaningful or important any relationship is. I've even been in a polyamorous relationship and firmly disputed (and still do!) that being in a relationship with more than one person at once does not lessen or invalidate any others.

Clearly I haven't felt this way before, but it does feel that because my current boyfriend has become so important to me now, that I just wish I hadn't so that it was just him and I. Or that while he and I were getting to know each other and becoming really close that I should have been with just him. It's like I want that to be the case, looking back at the beginning of my relationship. I don't know, it's really confusing.

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Heather
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Might it help, do you think, to talk about the realities of dating versus ideals?

In other words, it's fairly common -- especially when we talk about decades, not just now - for people to be dating, in earnest, which can mean casually seeing more than one person at a time in order to seek out more serious partnership, when one falls upon a person they want to become exclusive with and get involved with seriously, ending dating others.

And when people are adults or starting to become adults, it's common for that dating to include sexual activity.

However, a lot of people, I'd say, especially younger people, have this idea that with a "perfect" romantic relationship, what happens is that it starts as the whole world being only about that one person and stays that way. While I certainly have my own opinions about the sense that things going that way versus the other doesn't make something any less "perfect," or romantic or meaningful, that doesn't mean that plenty of folks don't struggle with the idea of that ideal.

And sometimes, that is how it happens for people, but when it does, it's usually less about perfect romance and more about the luck that is timing and/or about what opportunities people have with sex and dating.

You say you wish you hadn't been with others when you started dating: maybe it'd he;p to talk about why. What do you think that took away from this that it wouldn't have had you not been engaging in sex with others? What do you think would be different, because these feelings of guilt?

--------------------
Heather Corinna, Executive Director & Founder, Scarleteen
About Me • Get our book!
Never doubt that a small group of thoughtful, committed citizens can change the world. Indeed, it is the only thing that ever has. - Margaret Mead

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wooooh!!!
Neophyte
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I understand that people do hold certain views about ideals of relationships. I have always been willing to accept 'imperfect' stuff like this before. I just didn't think I was the type of person who got caught up in relationship ideals. I'm a realist, I suppose. Or at least I used to be.... I know my relationship with my boyfriend now isn't perfect. We have fights and we have issues, like in any relationship. We are far from walking on eggshells around each other or anything like that. I am comfortable in being myself around him and I believe he is too. And I'm happy with our relationship. It's not perfect, and I know that, but I'm ok with it. I prefer it better this way anyway.... I'm not even sure what a 'perfect relationship' would look like.

Anyway, just wanted to say that because I don't think it's me being a relationship perfectionist or idealist or anything like that.

I really don't know if much at all would be different if I hadn't been engaging with sexual activity with other people. I dunno if my boyfriend would have gotten involved with me. Because I know he doesn't like to get involved with people who are already involved in some way with other people. I don't know.

I read over some old texts from that time, and from the way we spoke to each other it was actually explicitly clear that we weren't exclusive. Like he said things along the lines of 'I wouldn't be particularly happy if you were with other people right now, but I wouldn't be angry or anything, I know it would be none of my business', etc. Like as a hypothetical situation.

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Heather
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It sounds to me like this is something that -- for whatever reason -- is so big for you that you need to get it off your chest. And who knows: maybe what you need to really resolve it is to do just that, and also to have whatever conversations with him about both of your feelings around this?

--------------------
Heather Corinna, Executive Director & Founder, Scarleteen
About Me • Get our book!
Never doubt that a small group of thoughtful, committed citizens can change the world. Indeed, it is the only thing that ever has. - Margaret Mead

Posts: 68237 | From: An island near Seattle | Registered: May 2000  |  IP: Logged | Report this post to a Moderator
wooooh!!!
Neophyte
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Yeah, you might be right. I'll have to keep thinking about it and see if a suitable opportunity comes up for me to talk about it with him. Or I may still decide to not say anything more than I already have, this talk has kind of made me reconsider the situation seeing as you got me to lay out the information I actually have told him (which does seem like a lot).

From the information I've given you here, do you think I'm being deceptive to him in some way? Or do you think I'm withholding information that he deserves to know? I know that different people would have different perspectives on those questions, but I was just wondering what your opinion was, if you are able to give me that. I really take note of a lot of what is said by you and others on these boards and the main website and I view the contributors as reasonable, fair and well-informed in matters like this, so that's why I'm asking.

Thanks.

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Heather
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It certainly doesn't sound to me like you are being nor have been deceptive. It sounds like you've been very straightforward, honestly, only m=omitting details you've gotten clear messages or cues he isn't interested in.

I still feel unclear about what he doesn't actually know here: I hear you saying there are some things, but then I also hear you saying you've already told him you were not exclusive when you started dating, and that he knows the people who were your sexual partners have been your sexual partners. So, it sounds to me like you have already disclosed the information to him, but like what you have not disclosed are your feelings of conflict around all of this.

But it's possible I may be missing something here.

--------------------
Heather Corinna, Executive Director & Founder, Scarleteen
About Me • Get our book!
Never doubt that a small group of thoughtful, committed citizens can change the world. Indeed, it is the only thing that ever has. - Margaret Mead

Posts: 68237 | From: An island near Seattle | Registered: May 2000  |  IP: Logged | Report this post to a Moderator
wooooh!!!
Neophyte
Member # 27052

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Basically the only information I haven't disclosed is when exactly I was with the other people - and how close it was to the beginning of our relationship it actually was. I have alluded to it once, but I don't know if he really took up on it. He may have and, as you said, may just not want to know anything further.

That's a relief that you don't feel I've been deceptive. I'm probably just freaking out about this for no reason. And everything with him is going great so I really don't know where this is coming from.

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Heather
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Well, I don't know about you, but sometimes, it's exactly when things seem to be going great that we can suffer some of the biggest anxiety. It can be like we're waiting for the other shoe to drop.

--------------------
Heather Corinna, Executive Director & Founder, Scarleteen
About Me • Get our book!
Never doubt that a small group of thoughtful, committed citizens can change the world. Indeed, it is the only thing that ever has. - Margaret Mead

Posts: 68237 | From: An island near Seattle | Registered: May 2000  |  IP: Logged | Report this post to a Moderator
wooooh!!!
Neophyte
Member # 27052

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Ok, so I told my boyfriend. He was so understanding and lovely and told me that it was all fine and that nothing has changed between us and that I haven't done anything wrong. I'm so glad he feels that way about it. I'm very relieved, but still feeling a bit of anxiety, which leads me to believe that it is just my own guilt issue that has come from somewhere that I'll have to get over somehow. Thanks for your help.
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Heather
Executive Director & Founder
Member # 3

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Oh, yay. [Smile]

I'm so glad you were able to talk about this with him and verify that.

--------------------
Heather Corinna, Executive Director & Founder, Scarleteen
About Me • Get our book!
Never doubt that a small group of thoughtful, committed citizens can change the world. Indeed, it is the only thing that ever has. - Margaret Mead

Posts: 68237 | From: An island near Seattle | Registered: May 2000  |  IP: Logged | Report this post to a Moderator
   

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