Reprint from March 17, 2016
Huh! I wonder what I would say to a woman who wrote to me and said, “When I first met my husband, he asked me my number. I was so afraid of being slut-shamed that I wasn’t truthful, and I told him it was 3. But now that I know, love, and trust him and we’re best friends, I decided to risk it. I told him the truth. My real number is 40. Big mistake! Now he despises me. What do I do?”
I’d probably say, “Wow. That’s a super uncompassionate response! You should run far, far away from the horrible monster who is soon to be your ex-husband”. You might think I’m being harsh here, but my friend, I’ve got to be straight with you: You’re the one in the wrong.I bet she was terrified to tell you the truth at the time. Women in our culture are still deeply shamed for having multiple sexual partners. It’s misogynistic and ridiculous, and I highly recommend you check that impulse before you wreck your marriage. Yes, it’s frustrating and painful that she lied to you. No, it does not mean that she’s a terrible person or that you should hold this against her.It’s common for people to lie when they don’t feel safe or when they feel backed into a corner. I’m not surprised that she gave you someone else’s number. She’s not the first woman to ever do this. I wish that she would have said, “That’s not for you to know” instead, but we can’t go back and change the past.Now that you do know, I’ve got to ask you: What’s the big deal? Is she somehow less of a woman, less of a friend, or less of a partner to you because there’s an extra 37 people she’s cared for and connected with sexually in her past? Nah. That would be absurd.And please don’t tell me it’s the lie that bothers you. Everybody lies, my man. You lie. She lies. You may want to adopt the point of view that an honest person is one who will tell you when they’ve lied. Your wife is an honest person.
At the start of dating, my wife told me the number of men she’s had sex with was 3. She’s recently admitted that the real number is 40. How do I not despise her for this? She has been my best friend for a long time, but she has also lied a LOT about sexual things.
Richard N. — Syracuse, NY
She likely didn’t tell you the truth because, honestly, her private-life history isn’t really any of your business, and she thought you’d judge her unfairly—and she was right.
You now have a choice: If you plan to hold this over her or use it as a metaphorical stick to beat her with, do her a favor and stop calling her your best friend and leave her now. If you want to stay with her, you might want to sort out what it looks like for each of you to feel safe enough to tell the truth going forward. To stay, you’ve got to dig deep. Find it within your soul to completely let this go, apologize to her if she caught any whiff of your disdain, and move forward in love and openness. Extra brownie points to you if you two can high-five over it someday.