Partner's Promiscuous Past

Archived Q&A and Reviews

Related page: Advice about Infidelity

April 2004

My husband's promiscuous past is still troubling me, even though it is his past (and thankfully not his present).

By the age of 25, he had slept with about 30 women. However, when we met, he told me he had only been with 2 other people! He continued to lie to me about his past for quite a while. It took about a year full of truths coming out filled with more lies, until finally the lies ceased and only the truth was left -- lots of womanizing, pornography, and drug use. He is totally ashamed of his past, and says that is why he lied about it. He doesn't associate with anyone from those days, and doesn't like to talk about it.

The problem is that it still bothers me, not only that he lied to me, but that he actually did those things. He is a wonderful father and a loving husband. But, since he was capable of doing those things before, does that mean he is still capable of doing them now? I know logically that I must forgive him and heal myself in order to move on, but I have not been able to do that emotionally. I have gone to counseling, but I am still aching over this.

How do I forgive him? Heal myself? Move on? Can I truly be in love with him again, like we once were, after all of this damage? Is there a rainbow ahead? anon, of course

I am not sure what you can do to make yourself feel better but with regard to your husband's behavior, it seems normal to me to sleep around and do drugs, etc in your youth. I had just as many partners, and did lots of ''bad'' stuff before I met my husband but I would never, ever cheat and I am totally committed to my marriage. My past is my past. I also think it is normal to withhold info at the beginning. You are entitled to your secrets before you know if a relationship is serious or not. However, whether it is normal or not, what your husband did is making YOU feel bad NOW and you can't help that. If talking it through with him does not help, perhaps it would be a useful to try couples' counseling? a reformed bad girl

As I read what you wrote, I had the sense that at least 50% of this issue is your own, regardless of who your partner is. Relationships bring up our own insecurities, and if we look to the other person give us a feeling of perfect security and safety... that may not actually be within the other person's power. I've been the person with the ''promiscuous'' past (more partners than my partner had had... back before STDs made us all more careful...) and I know how hard it is to reassure someone. I even ripped pages out of my diary so he would never have to feel bad about my past, and later I really regretted doing that!

Whatever else you do, be sure to do your own inner work on your own feelings. A wonderful book, very supportive for finding personal growth in relationship issues, is Love and Awakening by John Welwood. Been There

Hi. I saw your message and I am sorry to hear you are having a hard time dealing with your partner's past. I guess I am on the opposite side of the coin than you are though. I had a realtively promiscuous past myself. Not that I am proud of it, but a whole host of reasons (sexual abuse, self-esteem, etc.) contibuted to some of my behavoir. As to my husband I don't really know. I also did not tell my future husband about all of my past exploits, etc and he did not tell me about all of his. When we started dating we talked about not wanting to go into the details of our sexual past, because quite honestly it wasn't the healthiest way to start and continue a relationship. Besides, how can you undo what has already been done? I can understand where you might be uncomfortable with the number of previous partners you husband had. He may have lied about it because he knew that you may not approve and he wanted to be with you. People can change. People do deal with their deamons and do grow up. I feel in love with my husband and have no desire to even contemplate being with someone else, even though I had a promiscous past. My past does not change how much of love my husband and my children and how much I love my life as it is right now. Concentrating on your marriage as it is seems a more productive than agonizing over things in the past that cannot be changed. I hope you are able to come to terms with your husband's past and are able to fully enjoy your marriage. Good luck! anon please

Your husband sounds like one of the many people who made mistakes (a lot) when he was younger and was intesly ashamed of them and wanted to completly start over, and, he thought, to do that he had to lie. I really don't think you should be worried about him doing those things now, because like you said, it's all in his past. But you can still be upset about what he did, but you can't be mad at who he is now, because who is now sounds like a decent, honest man. Connie

Wow. Your post struct a real note. I was promiscuous when much younger (in my 20's). But, I am a woman. For various reasons, I'd had many partners, even slept with others when I was supposedly in monagomous relationships (just screwed up relationships where both parties did it).

After becoming friends with my last long-time Ex, whom I had many problems with, I met a wonderful man to whom I became engaged . I asked my Ex whether I should tell my fiance all about my past. He said that if things were going well for us and that I had never done it to my fiance, then I shouldn't feel the need to say anything, only if it would make me feel better.

So, I mentioned to my fiance that I had done many things in my past that I was not proud of but did not really regret because I grew up a lot and learned a lot from all of my experiences but nevertheless was not prepared to tell him. He accepted this and told me I did not have to tell him anything that I did not want to - basically, the woman he was marrying was the woman he fell in love with and knew, and that her past did not matter. We have been married for a few years now and I know how lucky I am to have such a loving, trusting and generous partner. I've not told him much about my past, and he has never asked about it or seemed suspicious.

I WILL tell you that ever since I've been with my husband (almost ten years total), I never cheated on him or even thought about doing anything like what I did before I met him. A lot of my past, I think, was because of screwed up relationships and low self esteem. Through the years, I like to think I've actually matured and feel so much better about myself. Hence, my marriage is a wonderful one.

I would trust your husband now and not worry about his past. If he is loving and trustworthy, then I would assume that he never told you about his past because he truly was embarrassed by it and has changed his ways. been there , done that

hi, I really feel for you. It must be so hard to be in this situation, where you have to deal with a partner who has not only been promiscuous in the past (drugs, sex, pornography) but also lied about it. I really advise you to listen to your heart on this one. A friend of mine went through something similar, very similar, in fact, except that I don't think he used drugs much. She tried so hard for years to give him the benefit of the doubt when she started to find out what happened. In her case it was a lot like yours--he said he had hidden this part of his past because he was so ashamed of himself. She silenced the voice inside of her that told her there was something sinister about this. Later she found out that this man had a history as a rapist. At best, it sounds like your partner suffers from a severe sex addiction problem with the womanizing and pornography. From what I understand, people don't just wake up one day and stop being sex addicts. On the other side of shame is your partner's need to keep this stuff secret because all along he knew it was wrong but couldn't stop himself--this adds to the deliberatness of the act that made my friend's partner's history so disturbing--he was addicted to pornography and to womanizing; he kept this all a secret, and his private desires pushed him to do and hide much worse things. I am sure my friend's partner was ashamed of being a sex addict and a rapist, but he still was one, and it really broke my friend's heart when the truth started showing up piece by piece. She told me she ended up feeling really bad about herself knowing that she had ignored all of her uncomfortable feelings about the sex addiction and that she had been living with, trusting, and believing in a man who had raped at least three women. She told me she really wishes she'd listened to herself sooner and that she had left him at the first warning signs of trouble. Of course it wasn't her fault what he did, but she ended up so overwhelmed by her own guilt and shame at having supported this man that she's been in therapy for years to deal with the consequences.

I don't want to alarm you--certainly not every man who is a womanizer and a pornography addict is also a rapist, but I really think there's something very troubling about the secrecy, shame, and addictive nature of your partner's past (possibly present as well) behavior. hope this helps

I can sympathize with your thoughts and feelings on this. My husband also has a very colorful past. It took a few years of dating to get all the details (or least the rough outlines) of his exploits. He only did the 'count' once and the final number was pretty high. He is embarassed about his past and wants it to stay there. But I don't think your husband's (or mine's) number of partners is really the issue. I know lot's of men who have slept with 50, even 100's of women, who have experimented with drugs and made sometimes questionable choices.

What you need to look at is the man he is now. A very good male friend of mine was the biggest player I know. Slept with hundreds of women, partied all the time, was completely outrageous. Then he met a wonderful women, fell hard for her, and they've been married for 4 years. He was her first. She was his - I don't know if he could even count. I, ungraciously, gave the marriage a couple years, then I swore my friend would be back on the circuit. He proved me wrong. He is completely devoted, completely in love, and swears he doesn't miss that part of his life (and I believe him). In this case, his wife does not know all of the details of his past. Maybe it's better to be ignorant (written with a wink). My opinion, based on watching my male friends go through partying, to dating, to marriage, is that men can really be done with phases in their lives with no regrets. They decide they want a family, and bam, they settle down and devote themselves to their wife and children. I think we as women have a harder time accepting it because we're not like that. We reminisce, we wonder 'what if', we dream about high school boyfriends, we hope that we experienced enough (those are mine - you can fill in yours). Many men just don't think like that. Which leads me back to my husband and I. A girlfriend of mine just found out her husband cheated on her. It came out of the blue, she didn't see it coming, and her husband was never a player. I brought this up with my husband and he replied 'that door is closed to me'. When I pushed further he said, 'really, I don't even want to think about it. That door is closed.' And I believe him. I think there's something to be said for 'sowing your wild oats' before you settle down. Your husband has been there and done that. He knows it's a pretty empty life. And it sounds like you have a good relationship. So try hard to move past your insecurity. You don't want to have a self fulfilling prophecy on your hands.

Wishing you all the strength to move on.

I once found out something scandelous about someone I had known for about 5 years. At first I was Shocked! Outraged! Confused! But then shortly thereafter I realized a few things.

Before I learned this scandelous information, I had known and accepted this person for the person he was. After I learned this new information, he was still the same person, he still was who he was, nothing had changed. Instead it was my perception of him that had changed. And I got to wondering why should I treat a friend who I had known for years any differently because of this new information? And the answer is, I shouldn't. If there was any issue, it was mine alone, not his. So I aligned my perception of him with who he really was, got over it quickly and moved on with life.

I see similarities to your situation. Your husband hasn't changed. He is still the same person as before. Only your perception of him has changed. Once you realize and accept that you are still married to the same great person, I think you will feel better and also move on with life. anon