Dear Wendy
Dear Wendy

“My Wife Lied About Her Sexual History”

canstockphoto14666930

My wife and I have been together for twenty years, married going on seventeen years. We have a good marriage and two beautiful kids. When began dating, she was always open about her sexual past as was I about mine. We work in an environment where she knew that is was inevitable that I would meet someone with whom she had been intimate, so she told me about those relationships and I respected her for that.

Last night, I inadvertently overheard a conversation between her and some girlfriends over some drinks. They were talking about life before marriage, and my wife went into more detail about her sex life before me. She explained to her friends that she had always been upfront with me about the men she had been with and how the odds were that I would find out through the grapevine anyway. I got the impression from her conversation that there were WAY MORE men than she had told me about. She went on to say that she had lost count of all the men she had been with and that, if she had been pregnant every time she had been with someone, she would have more kids than she could count. I also got the feeling that she really enjoyed and missed that time of her life.

I am feeling like I don’t know her and am confused about whether I should let this go or how I should deal with this. — Feeling Lied To

What is it exactly that you aren’t sure whether to “let go” of? That your wife has a personal history of which you aren’t privy to every detail? That she apparently has shared more with girlfriends about her sexual past than she has with you? That she led you to believe she was less sexually experienced than she was? Or that, after twenty years together, enough monotony has set in in your relationship that sexual escapades from over two decades ago — that, let’s be honest here, may or may not have actually happened — seem to excite your wife?

Of everything listed above, the only point that is relevant to you and your life together — the only one that is any of your business — is the latter. Assuming you love your wife (and you don’t mention that you do in the letter and I wonder if you ever tell her in person), you have to accept that her whole personal history made her the woman she is today. You shouldn’t want to change anything about her past because doing so could change the woman she is now. But if what you’re feeling is betrayal that your wife led you to believe something that you now have reason to think might not be true, there are lots of good reasons that she may not have shared that she slept with half the town before dating you: 1) because she didn’t (did it occur to you that she was exaggerating her sexual history to her friends because she was drunk and showing off?); 2) because she didn’t want you to judge her; 3) because she knew you’d feel inferior and less experienced and that your ego would be hurt thinking that she had more sexual partners than you’ve had; 4) because the details of her sexual past weren’t and are’t your business.

What is your business is your wife’s feelings about the life you share together now. You seem to think she misses the life and sex she had before you. Is that because you think your life and sex together is stale? Or could it be that life with two kids and the responsibilities and physical changes and loss that one accrues over a twenty-year span takes a toll and often lacks the excitement and the built-in escapes that being young and untethered provide? Life’s challenges, as hard and frequent as they may be the older you get and the deeper into marriage you wade, aren’t insurmountable. Rather than pulling you apart, they can be opportunities to get closer. But you have to talk about them. You have to first admit to yourself what you’re really worried, upset, and hurt about, and then discuss it with your wife in a non-confrontational, non-accusatory way:

The other day, I heard you talking with your friends and, when I realized the conversation was personal, I should have stopped listening. But I didn’t, and I think one of the reasons I didn’t is because I’ve felt like we haven’t been as close lately as we could be and I wondered what you might be sharing with your friends that you aren’t sharing with me or that might give me insight into how you’re feeling. I realize now I should have just asked you. And so I’m asking you now, and I hope you’ll forgive me for not asking you sooner and for invading your privacy by eavesdropping on your conversation. It surprised me to hear things about your past that you’d never divulged to me and it highlighted what, for me, has felt like distance between us. I wonder if you’ve felt it, too.

Thus begins a conversation that will hopefully begin to bring you closer. Because this isn’t about the past. This is very much about the present. And about how your relationship has changed, and about how to reconnect and feel intimate with each other again. And that, more than anything, is not something you should “let go” of.

***************

Follow along on Facebook, and Instagram.

If you have a relationship/dating question I can help answer, you can send me your letters at wendy@dearwendy.com.

23 comments… add one
  • avatar

    Anon April 11, 2016, 9:47 am

    It sounds to me like you’re confusing hyperbole with lying. Your wife told her friends she’d always been upfront with you. I’d bet a lot that if that’s what she’s saying to her closest friends when she thinks you’re not listening, it’s true. Saying, “Oh, I’d have more kids than I could count” is the kind of exaggerated hyperbole people engage in when they’re having a raunchy conversation over drinks. It’s not literally true. It’s a way of talking to your best girlfriends. Your wife said nothing whatsoever to make you think she hasn’t been honest with you, and in fact confirmed that she has.
    .
    Consider looking at this as confirmation of the honest truth she has always given you. Because that’s what she said. Believe her.

    Reply Link
  • juliecatharine

    juliecatharine April 11, 2016, 9:58 am

    Your wife has always been up front with you. WTF more do you want buddy? Video of every encounter she had and a journal entry of her feelings afterward? How much did YOU disclose to her? Have YOU ever thought/fantasized about something that happened in the past? Unless she has plans to step out (and you don’t even indicate that as a concern) of your marriage what exactly is the problem? Follow Wendy’s advice. Yeesh. Marrying someone doesn’t make you the owner of their past.

    Reply Link
  • avatar

    Napoleon1066 April 11, 2016, 10:04 am

    You’ve been married for 17 years… if it hasn’t come up as a problem by now, it probably isn’t one.

    Reply Link
    • avatar

      dinoceros April 11, 2016, 10:31 am

      Yeah, if this is the biggest problem you have after 17 years of marriage, you should probably count your blessings.

      Reply Link
  • Monkeysmommy

    Monkeysmommy April 11, 2016, 10:05 am

    This dude needs to grow up. I am a firm believer that unless it impacts the health and well being of a partner (like an STD that could be transmitted), sexual history is OFF the table. This guy is a prime example of why. Your wife being with one man or 80 men doesn’t change who she is. I also suspect the whole “missing her past” thing is in your head. A woman can talk about about the past without longing for it! Personally, I would advise you to keep your mouth shut and say nothing. You’ll just look insecure and also like you are invading her privacy (you didnt inadvertently hear that much- you knowlingly listened in after you heard how juicy the convo was). Why would you want to do that to an otherwise happy marriage?

    Reply Link
  • avatar

    jlyfsh April 11, 2016, 10:17 am

    Isn’t it good that she enjoyed that part of her life? Maybe there are brief moments when life gets hectic that she does miss that single life. But, it doesn’t mean she doesn’t love you, love her kids and love the life she has now. I can only compare to the times I have spent over drinks with friends reminiscing about the past. And it’s the past it always looks great from this side. It doesn’t mean it was actually as perfect as she was describing it.

    I agree with Wendy that if the real issue is that you feel some sort of disconnect with your wife in general I would talk to her. But, focus on strengthening your marriage now and reconnecting.

    Reply Link
  • avatar

    keyblade April 11, 2016, 10:18 am

    What a great response from Wendy. So you listened in on your wife’s girl talk over drinks? And you heard her say she was always upfront with you? What is the big bomb, here?

    Reply Link
  • Diablo

    Diablo April 11, 2016, 10:18 am

    What is this letter even about? Why do you care what happened before your wife was with you? My wife has a lot more sexual history than I do, because she’s four years older, started younger, and I met her when I was 22, so i didn’t have a huge amount of experience. She has alluded to it here and there but has also said that she doesn’t want to talk about it much. What would I want to know about this? The only fact I care about is that it was the 80s the last time she was with someone other than me. Story over. Maybe this is about what stories she can share with her girlfriends. On the rare occasion i talk about my “exploits” with my guy friends, I am always talking about something over 27 years ago, because i don’t tell my friends, especially people my wife knows, about OUR sex life, becuz duh! I suppose my friends should infer that I find nothing of any interest in my current sex life and long to return to that adolescent past because I never have anything specific to say about the sexual inclinations of my wife, their friend.

    Reply Link
  • avatar

    wobster109 April 11, 2016, 10:30 am

    Hmm, at first read the letter sounds abrasive, but I wonder if the difference is entirely communication style. I can see how a person, especially an older man who is not used to expressing emotions(to strangers, may not want to declare love in an internet letter. I think it’s encouraging that he’s wondering how she feels, thinking about whether she enjoys and misses, and wishing they were closer. It sounds like he’ll be open to trying what she wants, whether it’s different kinds of sex or date nights or whatever else.

    LW, you do need to let go of the sexual history thing though. You married someone who likes sex! That’s not such a bad fate.

    Reply Link
  • avatar

    dinoceros April 11, 2016, 10:30 am

    Nobody owes their partner an extensive description of their dating history. The fact that she has provided you with so much info already is going above and beyond. I think you should just let it go, but if you’re not the type of person who can do that without holding a grudge, then I suppose you should talk with her. But please don’t frame it as though she did something wrong, because she didn’t.
    .
    Also, I feel like you’re projecting this idea that she misses her old life. Tons of people have lots of sex prior to getting married. It doesn’t mean they all miss it. And reminiscing doesn’t mean that either. I talk with my friends about how we used to go out and stay out late. Does that mean I miss it? No, I’m plenty happy now because I grew up and have different priorities. Honestly, I think if you have a conversation with her about it, the sole purpose is going to be seeking reassurance that she loves you and loves her life, even though you should simply believe that because you have no reason to think otherwise.

    Reply Link
  • avatar

    RedRoverRedRover April 11, 2016, 10:37 am

    I miss my single days, who doesn’t? Being free to do whatever you want, with very little responsibility? Yeah, it was fun! Would I trade what I have right now, my husband and family, to get that back? Hell no! Just because someone enjoyed a part of their life and reminisces fondly about it, doesn’t mean they regret not having it anymore or would prefer going back to it. All that really matters is if she’s happy in her life now. You can find that out just be talking to her.

    Reply Link
  • Addie Pray

    Addie Pray April 11, 2016, 10:53 am

    I’m really interested in how the LW overheard this. Did he walk by and catch a snippet of it? Was he hiding behind a door and listening to the whole conversation? If the latter, then that’s kind of … creepy, and might be the real issue here, why you felt the need to spy. Just trying to imagine how this actually happened. If I had to guess, LW just heard a snippet here and there and missed the whole conversation and probably took things out of context.

    Reply Link
    • Dear Wendy

      Dear Wendy April 11, 2016, 11:34 am

      I was wondering and thinking the same thing.

      Reply Link
    • avatar

      dinoceros April 11, 2016, 3:05 pm

      And the whole comment about if she was pregnant every time she had been with someone…like isn’t that true for almost everyone? It makes me wonder if she was trying to make some kind of a point in an unrelated discussion. Like I could see someone saying that if they were talking about current issues like sex ed or abortion or something…

      Reply Link
  • avatar

    Nicole April 11, 2016, 11:15 am

    He sounds like a jerk to me.
    I’ve had boyfriends like that.
    I didn’t stick around.

    Reply Link
  • avatar

    va-in-ny April 11, 2016, 11:39 am

    You’ve been together 20 years (married for 17). The time to be confused about “whether [you] should let this go” or not, was 20 years ago.

    Sounds like you’re trying to create an issue where there isn’t one. Is there something else bothering you? Something where you would be looking for a “reason” to be mad at your wife?

    Reply Link
  • avatar

    Ron April 11, 2016, 11:47 am

    Why are you dwelling upon things which happened over 20 years ago. If your experiences with your wife over two decades aren’t adequate to convince you that you know what you need to know about her, … well, really that’s kind of pathetic and sounds like you are going out of your way to find trouble. I just don’t see what possible significance there would be today between the sexual history your wife gave you and what you now suspect might be the actual reality. She told you that you weren’t the first, or the second, or the third, so if you were taking some super-religous view on female sexuality, you never would have married her. Twenty years later, even if you were right about what you think you heard and even if she wasn’t just bragging beyond her history for the sake of a good laugh with her gfs, what realistic difference would it make if you were actually #15 instead of #5.

    Reply Link
  • avatar

    T April 11, 2016, 11:52 am

    I think the key here is: “We work in an environment where she knew that it was inevitable that I would meet someone with whom she had been intimate with so she told me about those relationships and I respected her for that.” LW could be worried that guys he interacts with on a daily basis have slept with his wife, but he is left the fool as the only one who doesn’t know. I think in this situation he does have a right to know, and the general policing “you have no right to know about her past” doesn’t apply as clearly.
    .
    But, I don’t think the LW has anything to worry about. Even to her friends, she said that she was open with her husband. She told him about every relationship he needed to know about because of the work issue. With her friends she was either bragging, or maybe she hadn’t told him about some conquests that involved people he would never run into.
    .
    I also think “none of your business” does not need to be the rule for every relationship. If both partners want to know and can handle knowing and agree to share, then I can see feeling betrayed if a partner was not honest. But here I don’t think the LW can truly handle knowing. If he’s torturing himself that his wife may have slept with a couple extra people he didn’t know about 20+ years ago, then he would do best to just assume he knows what he needs to, and try to ignore this.

    Reply Link
  • avatar

    MissAnneThrope April 11, 2016, 12:14 pm

    To be honest, I think everyone is being a little harsh to the LW here. For starters, with the 20 year relationship, I’d say he’s around his 40s, give or take. I think that fact alone is important, so I’m going to go out on a limb here and say this guy isn’t exactly Wendy’s “target reader.” So, even if it was as simple as “googling” advice columns, the LW is making an effort to find a solution to a marital communication problem. And he did it by what I’m guessing is reaching outside of his comfort zone. AND as far as we can tell, he didn’t immediately confront his wife. So kuddos to you LW, for acting like a mature adult who knows they have an insecurity about something that maybe he or she shouldn’t.

    Secondly, as Wendy started out, take some time to figure out what aspects of this are upsetting to you. Is it that your wife may have lied to you? Are you upset that at some point she didn’t feel like she could trust you 100%? Those are valid concerns.

    If this is a one time thing, then yes, let it go. If its a lack of communication and trust between you two, this can’t be the only example. Work on yourself, and then with your wife, to figure how to communicate better.

    Reply Link
  • Skyblossom

    Skyblossom April 11, 2016, 3:33 pm

    I don’t think that this is specifically about the number of sex partners but more that she lied about them. He felt that they were both open and honest about their past and he was accepting of whatever she told him and then he finds out much later that she probably wasn’t honest. Maybe he’s wondering if she lied about other things.

    LW Have there been times when someone made a comment that didn’t match what your wife had said and you assumed the other person was wrong? Are you now running through little incidents and wondering if there is a pattern of dishonesty?

    Are you shocked that you were open, trusting and accepting of her past and then find out that she still felt the need to lie to you? Trust is critical to a good relationship and lack of trust is destructive. Do you have any other reason to believe she might not be honest? If not I would let it go. It could be as simple as feeling that no one could accept her if they knew how many partners she really had. Society can be harsh when judging women over their number of sexual partners. If you do have other reasons then you need to start delving into issues. If you do have other things that concern you then you would probably benefit from counseling or at least trying to research how to talk to someone about honesty.

    Reply Link
  • avatar

    cyndi April 11, 2016, 5:17 pm

    oh dude- let it go. We all have secrets. The best thing my hubby ever did was not dwell on the past. Let it go!

    Reply Link
  • kare

    kare April 11, 2016, 5:19 pm

    I think most people would have more kids than they could take care of if they had a pregnancy from each sexual encounter. Why do you think the Duggars enlist their older daughters to take care of the younger children?

    Seriously, if someone had one sexual partner before marriage, dated them for say a year and a half and waited six months to have sex, that’s still 104 kids if they had sex twice a week.

    Now if the LW and hi wife are strictly sex for procreation only, I could understand why this revelation is so shocking – it might mean there’s a core difference in fundamental beliefs. But my theory is that the LW is projecting some of his fears about their marriage or his own interest in what else is out there onto his wife.

    Reply Link
  • avatar

    Anon March 18, 2017, 11:37 am

    Agree with you totally Skyblossom. This has nothing to do with sex or jealousy. It’s 100% about being lied to and broken trust. No more, no less.

    Reply Link

Leave a Comment

Next Post: Previous Post: