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Should You Share Your Sexual Past with Your Husband?
Why being honest isn't always the best way to approach things.


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If revealing your sexual past to your husband will be hurtful, it would be wise not to do it.


The loveliest thing about marriage is the sense that you and your spouse know each other deeply, and will continue to uncover more knowledge about each other for years to come. So of course you share some sexual secrets. But as someone who has heard about the fallout of these shared secrets too often, I want to say this: Be very careful about revealing your sexual past.

Some women, in the name of "sharing," become specific not only to old lovers and names and preferences and private parts, but confide to their husbands about kinky explorations from, oh, college days, and positions and threesomes and experiments. And I, as their counselor, spend years trying to get the fretful guy to forget this knowledge. Truth-telling is so rampant these days that you'd think it really is someone else's business what you did in bed five or ten years ago.

Trust me, it isn’t. You play intimacy games ("I'll tell you a secret if you tell me one") at your risk. True intimacy isn’t about revelation so much as it is about discretion.

Intimacy requires a falling-away of barriers. But the "truths" you share when you share your sexual past bring up a deep competition, threat and jealousy. Freud had a name for this: He called men’s deep and unreasonable desire for a woman to have a blank sexual past "Retroactive Monogamy." Yes, we’re all beyond that now, but emotions aren’t as modern as we think. How did you really feel when your new husband confided that his first love was the finest dominatrix on the West Coast? Was that a truth you need to know? Why should he hear that the height of sexual ecstasy for you was a decade ago, when you had nine simultaneous orgasms during tantric sex with your bisexual yoga instructor (and that he was married. And you were, too)?

Ladies, please consider how you both will feel later on in the night—and on and on into your future—once the sharing of secrets turns into a massive stomachache. Who needs the retroactive scrutiny? Who needs the questions that remain in his head about your goofy, sexually ambivalent yoga teacher? Who needs to picture him, forever and ever, handcuffed to a bed?

Please, do not confuse discreet with deceit. Discretion is respecting privacy—yours and his—it’s not lying. It’s revealing that which is appropriate and relevant—but with a careful eye towards its emotional impact and its rebound effect. And don’t confuse honesty with honor. You wouldn't reveal a friend's secrets, would you—and then say you were "just being honest?" No, give me honor over honesty any day.

I know a woman who told her husband about a lover’s beautiful private part and her husband is still making self-mocking remarks about his own. She can’t convince him that his is great, too. The heart, complicated and possessive, hears the worst not the best when it feels threatened. So, instead of talking about the stuff that turned you on in the past, talk to your beloved husband about what turns you on now! And when he asks about the sexual experiences you’ve had in your life and with whom ("Wow! Where’d you learn that?") it's both fair and kind to be vague and forgetful. You’re allowed your secrets. You’re allowed mystery. What really matters—and this you can speak to your heart's content—is just how much you're looking forward to the sexual experiences you're hoping to have with your husband.

Dalma Heyn, M.S.W., Founder of The Love Goddess, is the author of several bestselling books on marriage and relationships. Dalma is a widely read columnist and sought-after speaker. She has appeared—without her wings—on national talk shows including Oprah, The View, Charlie Rose, Good Morning America, and Larry King Live. For more information visit www.thelovegoddess.com.

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