Asking a partner about their sexual history can be risky business. You have to ask yourself why you’re curious and whether you really want to know.
We can all aspire to be sex-positive in theory, but theory doesn’t always translate to feelings. Sometimes, finding out a partner has more sexual experience than you can feel a little confusing or even intimidating.
Will a partner think less of you if you haven’t done the same sexual things as them? And what if they’ve enjoyed something in a previous relationship that you’re not sharing now? These are just two of the questions you might ask yourself.
This week’s reader, Roy, tells us how his partner’s sexual past is affecting his current relationship.
“Am I wrong for telling my partner I couldn’t be married to her knowing she had a threesome with her ex but hasn’t with me?” Roy says.
“She and I were married before when we were 19 and it almost happened, but the third person backed out and then we got divorced and she had a threesome with someone else. Now we’re back together she won’t do it again.”
Counselling Directory member James Eve asks the reader if it’s about more than just a threesome. “You are back together with someone with whom you have a complicated story with, which started when you were young,” he says.
“It feels like you are disappointed and angry at the prospect of not having a threesome as an option within your relationship, when your partner has explored this with other people… and yet you got so close to fulfilling this fantasy.
“I would be curious to explore what having a threesome meant for the two of you; what does it mean to invite someone else into your relationship? What does your partner refusing to do this with you say about how she feels about the relationship now?”
How can we stop ourselves from feeling threatened by our partners sexual past?
The first step is to ask yourself why you’re dwelling on a partner’s sexual past.
“It’s unavoidable, a person comes with a past; though a sexual past comes with some level of taboo for new partners and isn’t usually a topic happily discussed over cocktails and dinner,” says Eve. “Of course if you are feeling insecure in yourself or the relationship, these matters tend to play out in the present.”
In the reader’s case, Eve says the discontent may stem from the fact the partner has done something they wanted to do together, with someone else.
“This might be hurtful, or upsetting for you. Of course if we like/ love something or someone, then it’s natural that we want to protect / defend this precious commodity and we can be highly attuned to any threats, perceived or otherwise,” he says.
“Jealousy can arise knowing details of your partner’s previous escapades. Instead of stopping yourself feeling threatened, stop and reflect on why a sexual past poses so much threat.”
Why does our sexual desire differ from partner to partner?
Just because a partner has done something sexually in the past, it doesn’t mean they’ll necessarily want to repeat it with you in the future.
“Sexuality evolves and changes over time and is not a fixed entity,” Eve says. “Tastes change, partners change, our bodies change; so quite naturally some of our sexual preferences will inevitably change too,”
He continues: “Sexual acts offer access to parts of our bodies and minds, that we usually keep hidden from the rest of society. Feelings like shame, embarrassment, even anger can impact our own desire and willingness to explore and be explored.
“What we are willing to do, or not do in a relationship, requires a sense of trust, openness and vulnerability; these can vary from relationship to relationship, as can the personal boundaries we choose to set. So no wonder it differs depending on the partner we are with; we also have them inputting into this process too!”
Love Stuck is for those who’ve hit a romantic wall, whether you’re single or have been coupled up for decades. With the help of trained sex and relationship therapists, HuffPost UK will help answer your dilemmas. Submit a question here.