Dear Em & Lo,
I have been in a relationship with my boyfriend for almost a year now. We have known one another three total years. In the beginning of our friendship, I treated him like a best friend, and told him quite a bit about my sexual past with ex-boyfriends. It severely affected him and bruised his ego. I never had a clue that I hurt him so badly until he told me his feelings.
We have since started to (try) and repair the damage that I did, and I have made it a point to try and nullify it. But he is still severely affected by what happened and to be honest, after quite a few months, I am wondering when he will come around. I have made a point to boost his ego. Tell him he is the best in bed, that he is very attractive, etc. He still finds himself in whirlwinds of depression and he thinks back on that time period of when he was in the friend zone. What can I do to pull him out… or can I at all?
— Dating the Green-Eyed Monster
This is the best and worst thing about falling in love with your best friend: you’ve already told each other everything and you already know everything about each other.
We don’t think you’ll ever be able to make your boyfriend forget the things you told him, so the only thing you can do is to help him put those things in context. We’re guessing that you’re not the first person he’s ever dated. Surely he has kissed other girls, had crushes on other girls, slept with other girls, fantasized about other girls, been dumped by other girls? Maybe he’s even been in love with other girls. And clearly those memories in his past don’t affect the way he thinks about you. So you need to remind him of this.
Tell him to try this: Every time he is assaulted by some vivid image of you with another guy, he needs to force himself to call up an equally vivid image of him with another girl in his past. A friend of ours refers to this as the “nuclear option” for dealing with jealousy. He’ll be forced to realize how little each of these girls now means to him in the context of his current relationship. Tell him to do this every single time he thinks of one of your exes. Eventually he might start to realize that our past can be no big deal if we stop poking around at it.
Beyond this — and everything else you’ve told us you’re already doing — you can’t do much more. The problem is really his to get over. You can be supportive and complimentary and offer rave reviews of his, er, performances. You can hold his hand and tell him he’s wonderful. And if he still can’t get over your past, then he may just have to become part of your past.
And everyone else: let this be a lesson to you. We know it’s tempting in those early, boozy, flirty stages of a relationship to share everything about your sexual past. Every single nitty gritty gory orgasmic detail. We know it’s tempting to tell your partner, “No, go on, tell me, I really want to know who was the best sex you ever had.” But you should know that long after you’ve dished the dirt, your partner will still remember these things. Men: years after you’ve forgotten you even slept with that bartender, your girlfriend will still remember where she worked and what it was she did with her hands that drove you wild. And lades: decades after you’ve forgotten you ever slept with a guy who played hockey, your guy will remember exactly what you said about the size of his penis. If you think you can handle this, then, by all means, blab away. But don’t come crying to us and say we never warned you.
Em & Lo