Statistics, Damned Statistics

12 Jun

Dear LetterBalm: I’ve been with my partner for two years, and we are committed to each other. Our previous relationships have never been of concern to either of us until now. Recently, we got into a casual discussion about past lovers. My partner said she had slept with around 10 women. I got nervous because my count is way higher. I lied and said I had slept with 20 women (the true number is twice that). My partner reacted with horror. She recovered somewhat and we went on to other things, but she has joked about it a couple of times. This is eating at me. I don’t want to lie to my partner, but if I tell the truth, it could ruin the best relationship each of us has ever had. How can I reassure her while being (somewhat) true to myself?

–The Truth Hurts

This isn’t the first LetterBalm on the subject and won’t be the last. Both sexes are painfully fragile about the total number of their previous sexual partners. Ms. L.B. says it again, strongly: This is no one’s business (unless one of the couplings produces a child – and, even then, there can be extenuating circumstances). Moreover, a strong argument can be made that one’s sexual history is one of the few allowable lies in a relationship. A partner’s reaction to the truth is a strong indication of his or her self-assurance. But this is unlikely because truly confident partners don’t ask because it doesn’t matter. Talk with your partner gently and say something like this:

Penny, we’ve had some words about our sexual partners, and I know you’ve been dismayed at the number of women I’ve slept with. Can you understand that I don’t remember my love life before you? There has never been anyone more important to me than you and nothing more important than the relationship we have. My love life began with you, and you need have no more worries about this. Talk to me, you know I’ll listen.

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