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Posted on Mon, Dec 5, 2011 : 5 a.m.

Man doesn't know how to reconcile with girlfriend's past

By Carolyn Hax

Adapted from a recent online discussion.

Dear Carolyn:

I'm in a wonderful two-year relationship with a fabulous woman. She and I are perfect together, and I plan to spend the rest of my life with her.

How, though, do I reconcile her past, which is quite different from who she is now? To put it bluntly, her number is MUCH larger than mine. She had numerous one-night stands and shorter relationships.

I don't worry about her cheating on me or looking back to any of those people. However, as someone who never had those types of experiences, I don't understand how or why she would do that. I wonder what positives she took out of that. And how do I share a special physical relationship with her knowing that so many other women have experienced it with her as well?

-- Leave the Past in the Past

Have you asked her? Only she can answer the "how or why." It's also, between two people who trust each other, often the beginning of intimate, informative conversations.

As for the "special physical relationship," it's possible because what you create with her is unique, and that's true if you're her first partner or her 50th. Since you are different from anyone else she has known, your intimate relationship will be different from anything else she has known -- and will, in a healthy relationship, be an extension of your emotional bond. --0-- --0-- --0--

Re: Numbers:

I never thought I'd be a girl who had one-night stands or slept with a man on the first, second, third or any date. I thought I'd only sleep with men I was in established relationships with because that was who I had always been.

But I entered a phase where I did have one-night stands, slept with lots of men, and became THAT girl I thought I'd never be. Underneath it all I was the same person -- the one who only wanted to be with a person I love -- but I had to get to know myself a lot better before I figured out who I was and what I really wanted.

I don't think I could ever have a one-night stand again, but I know this better because I actually experienced it. This all probably doesn't make sense ...

-- It's in the past

I'm not sure it needs to. You're a living example of the way our beliefs can change with time, sometimes for reasons we can't even identify or articulate. It sounds glib to say, "It seemed like a good idea at the time," but that actually captures the essence of a complicated process.

There are also, of course, plenty of people who can articulate their reasoning: "I was angry and rejecting what I thought were mindless societal expectations" or "I had then and continue to have now a strong belief that sex isn't dirty or wrong, and I believe in enjoying it without the baggage or arbitrary rules" or "I was lost and would have taken validation from others in any form I could get it." Like I said, the initial "how or why" questions can yield a lot about who people are and how they got there.

Tuesday: Exceptions taken.

Email Carolyn at tellme(at), follow her on Facebook at or chat with her online at noon Eastern time each Friday at

(c) 2011, Washington Post Writers Group