I’m Jealous of My Girlfriend’s Past Experiences

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Reader’s Question

I’m a 22-year-old guy. I now have my first girlfriend. She is also 22. I knew her in high school, but we go to separate schools now. We began dating last summer, so it’s been almost seven months, but we’ve been apart for four of them. We’ve had sex several times. She is my first sexual partner, but she has had five previous partners, two of whom she describes as flings because they only lasted a couple of months, and one one-night stand.

At the very beginning I braced myself, figuring that I would be intimidated by her past, and I got along okay. But more and more often now, I find that I get thoughts that I can’t push away, of her with other men. The only thing that seems to calm me down is to ask her details about her past, although I really don’t want to know the answers. She answers, but the calming effect is short-lived. It seems there’s nothing we can do that she hasn’t already done with someone else.

It also seems she doesn’t remember our first time together a few months ago nearly as well as she remembers her first time at age 16. I know of her first boyfriend. We are agreed that he is much better looking than I am. She says it’s okay. Somehow that doesn’t make it okay for me. I’m also not okay with knowing that he was a better sexual partner than I am. They were each other’s first sex partners (an experience I’ll never have now) and she describes him as very passionate. They broke up because he moved away. She still has photos in her album of them together. She says she has no regrets, not even the one-night stand, which she describes as “exciting.”

I’m feeling that I’ve missed out on a lot of experiences that she has had and it’s burning me out emotionally. I love her, but at the same time I am so envious of her experience. I’m not sure my perspective is right or normal. I’m not sure I can change my perspective without getting more experience. I don’t want to break up with her but I can’t live like this. I have too much anxiety.

Psychologist’s Reply

Jealousy is not called “the green-eyed monster” for nothing, and it appears as though the monster has a good hold on you. You are jealous of your girlfriend’s previous experiences with sex and you are worried that you cannot measure up to them. While jealousy in this situation is understandable (it’s a typical response to a perceived threat), you are allowing it to get out of control and dictate your life.

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Jealousy left unchecked can lead to all sorts of unhealthy behaviors that frequently make things worse. You’ve already discovered this, because now you know things that make you feel bad when there was no need for it. Hearing that her ex-boyfriend was better looking and a better lover was unnecessary. Comparisons like that are not helpful because you can only be who you are. Besides, sex and relationships are about so much more than superficial appearances, and being a great lover is something that you can learn.

While you can break up with your girlfriend and go off to get more sexual experiences, I’m not sure that’s going to get you what you truly want. If you can tame your jealous monster, then you can stay with her and feel better about yourself; but, just like anything worthwhile, doing so will take effort, practice and time. The first thing to do when managing jealousy is to figure out what is causing it. Common root causes for jealousy include lack of self-confidence in your abilities, a poor self-image, fear of being rejected or ending up alone, and insecurity. It is important to figure out if the jealousy is something coming from you, or if your partner is doing something to incite it. If she is behaving in a way designed to make you jealous, then you should ask her to stop. However, from your description of things, it sounds like the jealousy is coming from you. Consequently, whenever you feel jealous, pause and try to figure out why. Once you know the reasons behind it, you can do something about it.

One of the best ways to deal with jealousy is to work on you. If self-esteem is a problem, then try doing things that will make you feel better about yourself. If self-confidence is the issue, then do things to boost it. For example, when it comes to sex, knowledge is power and experience isn’t the only way to get it. There are a ton of how-to guides for how to become a better lover, so why not read a few of them? Try out some of what you learn with your girlfriend. One of the great things about your situation is that you have someone who is sex-positive and probably willing to practice with you.

Another good way to tame jealous impulses is to change your perspective. For example, instead of being upset that your girlfriend had some exciting sexual experiences, use it as a learning opportunity. If she had exciting sex, chances are she could show you some of what she learned and enhance your sex life. One of the huge benefits to having sex with someone who is experienced is that they know more about what they are doing. You could also choose to focus on what you do have, versus what you don’t. Does it really matter that you were not her first? If you can concentrate more on the sex life that you have and how to improve it, then I’m guessing that the fact that you haven’t had sex with as many people she has will not matter. You’ll be having too much fun to worry about it. However, if you let the monster rule your life, then you may find yourself having sex with other people, but it may not be nearly as good. Plus, if you deal with the monster now, you won’t have to deal with it later.

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