The Ghost of Dating Past

A few weeks ago I ran into an old girlfriend of mine at a pub in downtown Ann Arbor .She was nestled into a booth with her new man, sipping a martini and socializing with another couple across the table.She caught me as I was walking by; we hugged, exchanged warm greetings, and chatted for a few minutes.She introduced me to her boyfriend: a clean-cut, sharp, and decent guy, but sort of flavorless and sterile.She had never appreciated my lifestyle: down and dirty late nights, perpetual motion.It was ultimately the reason for our break-up, and seeing her next to this gauze pad of a man, I couldn’t help but think that he was essentially perfect for her.The thought irritated me.I’m not the jealous type, but as I bid farewell and walked away, I wondered what she saw in him that she didn’t see in me.

It was an unexpectedly uncomfortable interaction for me, but later I flipped the script and started wondering what it was like for the boyfriend. One moment he’s sipping a Heineken and debating the merits of various stock indexes, and the next his girlfriend is hugging some bummy, blinged out, art-minded hipster. Did he feel threatened? Did he feel protective? One reader’s question helped me dig out the answer…


My girlfriend and I have been together for about 2 years. We talk a lot and are very open about our feelings. We also communicate well about sex: turn-ons and turn-offs, concerns or anxieties, or even plain mechanics. However, it really bothers me when she talks about the physical side of her past relationships. She says it’s important that I understand her experiences, but I don’t like imagining her with other men. Is this something I need to get over or is it reasonable of me to not want to hear it? Thanks,


Kyle, It’s true that your past relationships are part of the foundation for the partnership you now share.It IS important that you understand her past experiences, but if you don’t want to know the nitty gritty of her previous physical relationships, that’s understandable and perfectly reasonable. I think the reality of your girlfriend’s sexual history forces you to confront the sometimes fleeting nature of love and romance.No one wants to be just a chapter in a lover’s story; you want to write stories together.You share something intimate, and would like to think that it’s unique.Plus it’s just awkward to think about some other dude scheming on your girl…no doubt.Take solace in the fact that you are the man she wants to be with now.That’s all anyone can ask for. Regarding your particular situation, anything she needs to tell you could be communicated without direct reference to her other lovers.Instead of saying “I loved it when Johnny used to sing the Battle Hymn of the Republic as we made love,” she could simply suggest that you try crooning a few patriotic numbers the next time you’re knockin’ boots, and leave Johnny out of it!

Tell us what you think? Have you ever felt jealous of your partner’s former loves? How do you deal with the ugly green monster when he creeps in?

About Author:

Davy Rothbart has gained much wisdom from his years and years of romantic misfires. So while his heart might be an idiot, he can likely help you if your heart is acting like a jerk. His posts will dish love and relationship advice, reflect on the latest sex studies and meditate on the complicated nature of human interactions as they are illustrated in popular culture.