Carolyn Hax is away. The following first appeared on Nov. 14, 2004.
Dear Carolyn: I’m getting married in May. We’re young, but excited about spending the rest of our lives together.
I just can’t wrap my brain around the one big difference between us: experience. I’ve had two boyfriends before him. He’s been with a lot of women (50 or so). He has never strayed so much as an eyeball since we’ve been together, but I’m constantly tortured with visions of his former girlfriends, including a stripper, a Playboy model, a married woman and a lady twice his age. How can I force myself to let go of his past before we jump into the future together? – Annapolis
No Pilates instructors or trapeze artists? Please tell me you can see the humor in his track record.
You can let go of the idea of forcing yourself to do anything, and that includes getting married when you’re not ready. This isn’t about 50 women with cartoonishly sexy resumes. This is about one woman – one who fears she can’t compete with 50 cartoonishly sexy women, or thinks she has to.
Granted, it would be hard for any woman to sustain the illusion that hers is the best body her husband has ever touched when he’s spent time with dozens of women, especially beautiful women, especially women who get paid to get naked, plus Mrs. Robinson. And it would be nearly impossible if the guy were rubbing his babelicious exploits in your face, instead of making you feel like you’re his romantic high point; hard for me to say from here which of you has made the bigger deal of his past.
But sustaining illusions – or worse, needing to sustain them – is no way to enter a marriage. You need to believe that you, the whole you, inside and out, for reasons based in fact, are so attractive to him that he can’t picture his life without you. It’s a two-step process: believing it’s possible, then choosing a mate who agrees. One who is the same for you. Call it 2.5 steps.
I know you’ve set a date, but please consider un-setting it until you feel confident of your own worth. Doubt is extremely corrosive to trust; note, you’re already tracking his eyeballs to gauge the health of your bond. Scary. And marriage without trust is misery.
If it makes you feel better, another illusion is that women who get paid to get naked are automatically more attractive than those who can’t. Emotional attraction drives lasting physical attraction, not vice versa; forget what you learned in ninth grade.
So how will you know when you’re ready for marriage? When you feel confident enough in yourself to achieve some perspective on the person you’re marrying. This fiance of yours – Chippendale, mogul, pro athlete? I didn’t think so. But you chose him nevertheless.
Dear Carolyn: This summer, I started dating a guy whom I had been good friends with for three years. It was the perfect situation except for his inability to be honest with me. It ended and we now live in separate states, but he wants to come visit me and I don’t know what to do. Any advice? – D.C.
“No, thank you, but have a good trip.” Honesty – non-negotiable.
Email Carolyn at email@example.com.
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