cheap youth hockey jerseys ‘I’ve slept with so many guys and am terrified my partner will find out’
In my teens and early twenties I had a lot of sexual partners. I a bit older now and I met a wonderful man but I am so ashamed of my past. I afraid if he finds out how many people I slept with he leave me and I am terrified of him learning the truth about how bad I used to be. Must I tell him of my past or can I lie about it?
I sorry this is making you feel so anxious. Can we start with why you feel Having many sexual partners, if the experience was consensual and enjoyable, is nothing to be ashamed of. Even if past experiences were negative or upsetting you should not feel shame for having had sex with different people.
Of course it easy for me to say this. I know in reality it isn easy to escape such feelings. Culturally we still judge those who have many sexual partners (particularly women) very negatively. Telling you just to stop feeling a particular way isn much practical help. Knowing it unreasonable for others to judge you, however, can sometimes give you enough confidence to ignore negative views.
Imagine if a friend or loved one was in the same situation as you. Would you tell her she ought to be ashamed of herself? Might you, instead, ask her to think about why she feels so sad and guilty and encourage her to seek help with that instead?Can you shift from blaming yourself to looking at these past relationships and reflect on any good things you got from them? Perhaps they taught you patience, love, friendship, or to explore different experiences and pleasure? If they were negative perhaps you learned more about your limits and how to walk away.
Asking for extra help
There can be reasons that cause us to regret sexual experiences in the past. Particularly if experiences were exploitative, abusive or felt outside your control, in which case the following organisations could assist:
If you are concerned your past experiences might have resulted in a sexually transmitted infection (STI) being tested may be reassuring. NHS clinics are free, confidential and will help you talking to your partner if it turns out you do have an infection requiring treatment.
If your feelings of anxiety are getting in the way of your daily life you can ask in confidence for your GP to refer you to a counsellor. This is free on the NHS although waiting lists and service availability vary. If you are at college you could get confidential help from counselling services there. Or refer yourself (paid for).
If your concerns are more about general confidence issues rather than deep seated worries then it might help to reading up on confidence and assertiveness.
What is he like?
Have your worries about your past come from things he has said? Does he appear to have strong views about sexual behaviour, perhaps influenced by faith or political values?
If he has never expressed any opinion it may be that he be less bothered by this than you anticipating. Or not bothered at all. He might find your past experiences exciting. Or feel they your business, not his. He could feel threatened or worried that he may not be as good a lover as someone in your past or be less experienced than you. Which you can reassure him he doesn need to be upset about.
You could sound him out with general discussions about people sexual lives. Although it worth remembering even strong views we may hold about general topics may change when it concerns a person close to us.
It may also help to reflect on why you feel you do need to talk to him about this, to check you not framing any conversations as if you are in the wrong, and consider why you see not telling him about your past as rather than you deciding how much detail you feel comfortable sharing.
To tell or not?
Complete disclosure about all past sexual experiences was very much part of advice giving in the past, and still is within some areas of sexual health care.
However not everyone agrees with this as it isn always necessary, nor what new partners want to hear. The exception of course is if there is a risk of STIs (see above). But even here it is your choice how much to disclose about your past sexual experiences to a current partner.
It isn clear if you feel you have to tell because if not someone else might. If you feel trapped in such a situation it may make you feel more in control to talk to him first (or write to him if preferred). You don need to defend or excuse yourself, but could focus there on how other people want to take away from your relationship and how you don want this to happen.
If he is likely to judge you then you may want to consider if a relationship with him is right. Holding negative attitudes about your partners past or using those to control or belittle is a relationship red flag that shouldn be ignored. If disclosing your past is likely to put you in danger you would be safer looking to end the relationship but to say nothing about your previous relationships.
If you do decide to talk to him about your past I consider it purely in the context of how it benefits you, brings you closer and adds to your relationship.
Remember, you are the one who decides how much you want to disclose and when.
Petra Boynton is a social psychologist and sex researcher working in International Health Care and studying sex and relationships. She is The Telegraph agony aunt. Please note that by submitting your question to Petra, you are giving your permission for her to use your question as the basis of her column, published online at Wonder Women.