Obsessing About A Lover’s Past Lovers


Are you obsessed with how many people someone you love has slept with? Why? What kind of information does this provide? Let’s talk about some of the more common questions this kind of information is meant to answer.

Does it tell you how experienced your lover is sexually? This one’s easy. If your lover has had a lot of lovers before you it makes perfect sense that he or she would be sexually experienced.

In fact, as we all know, some sexual experience at appropriate times in development is expected and normalizing. If sexual interest and experience is not present, a variety of different fears and anxieties about sex and relationships are the probable cause.

Does it tell you how loyal or committed your lover can or will be? I guess you’re trying to predict future results based on past performance. Sounds like a ‘how to buy stocks’ commercial. In the stock market they warn you not to assume an accurate prediction of the future based on the past.

If you’re trying to make predictions about whether or not you’ve found the ‘one and only,’ your magic formula is less than perfect. You’ll need to factor in the fact of maturation and development.

I might have ran around as a young adult during a period in my life when I didn’t really know myself enough, but that doesn’t mean I didn’t grow up. Putting it simply, I’m not the same person I was then. This is what happens to a lot of people, they change over time.

Growing up, of course means, I developed the ability to stay in one place, develop a relationship, make a promise of commitment, and keep it. Learning how to be in a committed relationship will develop over time, and for some people it happens over multiple love relationships.

Some people never learn how to be committed and remain uncomfortable with the feeling of commitment. Unfortunately, how many sexual relationships such a person has had won’t do a good job of predicting whether or not he or she can make a commitment and whether or not it’s kept.

Does it tell you whether or not he or she would make a good boyfriend or girlfriend? I guess the answer to this question depends on what kind of single love-life you expect to have. If what you want is limited to a good time and you value sexual experience above all else, how many lovers your lover has had will mean something to you. You’ll probably be looking for a sexually experienced person to share sex with.

If you’re in it for the emotional intimacy, the number of lovers your lover has had prior to being with you will mean little to you. The depth of the intimacy you seek will depend on how capable you are developing and maintaining the relationship you’ve formed with the person you love.

Does it tell you whether or not he or she would make a good husband or wife? Some people have different standards for a lover and a marital partner. Lovers can be more sexually experienced. But marital partners might need to conform to standards set by the family of origin or culture.

For people with this differentiating perspective, less sexual experience carries a connotation of ‘purity.’ The assumption being that more love relationships before marriage will interfere in some way with the concentrated commitment to marriage and family required.

For many of us, the number of lovers prior to marriage illustrates the journey in search of love. Unfortunately, this journey can be prolonged for various reasons, interfered with for various others, or subject to the whimsy of good and bad luck.

Looking for love in all the places that looked like they were good places to look for love at the time, is an experience that most of us free men and women had, have, or will have. But we kept looking. The best part of this story would be, you didn’t settle for less than what you needed to be happy.

Ultimately it’s not about sex and numbers. Real love can be so unnerving that coming up with some kind of standard or formula that defensively tells us which love is worth risking is understandable but not really helpful. How many people you’ve made love to is not the place to look.

What you’re looking for is the depth of feeling you’re having for someone in the present. That’s the only standard. If your heart says it doesn’t matter, it doesn’t matter. Don’t fool yourself with rules. That’s basically how it goes and has always gone anyway.

Comments? Welcome. Dr. Tom Jordan

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Dr. Jordan

Dr. Thomas Jordan is a clinical psychologist, certified interpersonal psychoanalyst, author, professor, and love life researcher.

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