I was a promiscuous girl in high school. When I met my husband (we’ve been married for five years), I lied to him and told him I had been with just two other men before him. I felt as though he and his friends put so much emphasis on the number of sexual partners a woman has had. I didn’t think this relationship would go any further than being friends, and so I told a lie. Recently I have been dealing with the untimely and very grim death of my stepfather and have been having anxiety attacks. I was given a script for Xanax and have been taking it twice a day as prescribed. It worked for a while, taking the edge off. But soon, I started to have the anxious feelings again and sometimes the Xanax doesn’t even work.
I decided the best thing to do was to see a therapist to work out these issues. Last night was my first meeting with the therapist, where we only discussed the death of my stepfather and the traumatic events of the two years. When I came home, and laid my head down, I immediately sprang up, sick to my stomach, thinking “What if in all of
this therapy for this, my husband finds out indirectly that I lied to him about my past?” I got to feeling so anxious that I actually threw up three times. I decided that I needed to tell my husband RIGHT THAT MINUTE.
He was upset, to say the least. Disappointed, hurt, humiliated, angry. All things I totally expected from him. We stayed up talking for at least 2.5 hours about all of these things. There are certain things from my past that have been coming back into my memory, things I may have been suppressing all of these years, and as they
come up, I am telling him. I told him a few things last night in addition to the lie about my sexual history.
He’s leaving the decision on what should happen next up to me. He wants to know what I would do if I were in his shoes. I don’t know what I would do.
I thought telling the truth was supposed to make you feel better? Instead, I feel I have these anxious thoughts and that they’ll never leave, and eventually I’ll have to be institutionalized, because who can go on living feeling like this? I know I need to tell my therapist so that we can work on these issues as well, and I know this won’t change overnight.
Dear Going Nuts,
Here’s what I got from your letter:
You told your husband that prior to meeting him you had two other sexual partners. Your stepfather died unexpectedly. You began experiencing panic. You worried that cancer lurked undetected inside you (btw, cancer is a very common worry. You have a lot of company). You got a script for Xanax. When the dose of Xanax you were prescribed didn’t do the trick you began to look for other ways to allay your anxiety. You started therapy. After your first session you woke up in a panic, concerned that through your therapy work, your husband would indirectly discover your past. Specifically your sexual past, you decided that you needed to confess to your husband.
You confessed and stayed up for 2.5 hours beyond the confession. At the end of the 2.5 hour summit he said he was leaving “his response up to you.”
In case you hadn’t noticed, marriage is a shocking proposition when participated in fully. You learn that the core of intimacy is not in fact a shinning geode but a nub of shame and guilt. If you are lucky you get to share your truth(s) with another who loves you unconditionally. Marriage is the revelation of multiple truths. Your husband’s response, since it’s up to you is simple: He will reach out to you. He will hold you and tell you that he loves you. He will tell you that he loves that you came to him with your pain. That he is sorry for the pain you are in. That he loves all of you, all the way to your guilty, shamed core.
In your original letter, you compared yourself to another Ask Miri where the woman’s husband had been involved in online affairs. If I read your letter correctly, the confession you made to your husband involved your sexual life prior to marrying him. Not during your marriage. So, you are not “like” the husband from the previous Ask Miri. Instead of being a duplicitous, adulterous, double-dipper you are, shocker, human….
AND you are courageous. You were spinning inside a vortex of grief and shock and the awakening of painful memories. You did the only thing that made sense in the middle of the night after throwing up and hyperventilating on the edge of the tub.
We all have our pasts. We are entitled to keep parts of ourselves private. I know, you told him that you had a mere two partners prior to him. Okay, so you omitted a part of your previous life. (In your confession, did you explain that you felt the emphasis he and his friends put on the number of prior sexual partners, led you to subtract a few from your tally? I’d be curious why such a thing mattered so much to your then boyfriend and his friends? You might find out something interesting by asking him).
I am infinitely more interested in what your stepfather’s death has meant to you and the source(s) of your current anxiety. Did your stepfather’s death unlock parts of your life that you had kept locked? Why the guilt regarding the sexual partner’s and promiscuous past become too much to bear now…this is all excellent fodder for you and your therapist. The painful memories you alluded to sound particulalry troubling. Take care while you unearth them.
The last time I checked, marriage was about accepting the whole kit and caboodle. You are in crisis and looking for ways to alleviate your discomfort.
And not for nothing, if the biggest problem the two of you have, is that you had a robust sex life prior to marrying? Count your blessings and make dinner or love– optimally, both.
Take good care & keep us posted.
Miri is a licensed social worker and family therapist. If you have a question for her, email her here. Your Q&A will be published on our site. If you don’t want Miri to use your name, please let her know.
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