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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.
If you have a relationship/dating question I can help answer, you can send me your letters at firstname.lastname@example.org.