Two months ago, I was single and hopping from bed to bed. But I met this guy at a wedding and since then we've settled into a really sweet - but hot - relationship. Last weekend, during a little pillow-chat, we made the mistake of bringing up our histories. Actually, he started the conversation and didn't hesitate in telling me how many women he'd slept with and who his biggest hang-ups had been. I thought it was a tender moment of honesty, but when I told him (honestly) how many men I'd slept with, he freaked out and told me that if he'd known how much I slept around, he might not have thought himself so special. Things haven't been the same since. I don't feel like I have to take any of that back - he asked, I answered honestly - and now we're in the midst of our first big rift. Any way I can claw my way back to bliss?
There's two ways these types of scenarios can go: 1) well; 2) badly.
If it goes well, it can be one of the best parts of the early going. It's that magic moment when you tell the other person something about yourself you don't normally tell other people, because you're too embarrassed/ashamed/don't want to horrify/disgust them:
"I have herpes."
"I've killed a man."
"I have a vestigial tail, it wags when I'm happy."
(Okay, okay, I stole that one from the movie Shallow Hal.)
It's a way of saying: You trust the person. It's a way of saying, "I separate you from the herd, in a good way." The first step toward the two of you vs. the world, as opposed to you vs. him/her and the rest of the world.
The "confession of imperfections" conversation, should happen, in my opinion, around the third or fourth date.
If the other person laughs at your confession, or recoils in horror, that obviously doesn't augur well for the future.
Best case: The object of your affection expresses compassion, and then reveals some imperfection of his/her own:
"Vestigial tail? That's nothing. Check this out!"
At which point, of course, your job is to refrain from recoiling in horror, and to arrange your own features into an expression of compassion, no matter what pops out next.
Having said all that ... I do have a slight confession of my own here.
I know it's totally cretinous, sexist, retrograde and Cro-Magnon, but I was kind of happy my wife Pam didn't have too many lovers before me.
And it's also probably terribly antiquated and atavistic, but you know what really kind of got me right in the old breadbasket? When Pam said to me, one day: "I wish I hadn't had any lovers before you, Dave."
Meanwhile, I'm being a total hypocrite, because I slept with all kinds of women before I finally met Pam, at 31.
There were some profound loves in there, true. Did I also have one-night stands that were utterly meaningless, except for the sex? Sure. Did I have sex with women whose name I couldn't remember or maybe never even knew in the first place? Did I wake up in strange apartments and have no idea where I was, how I got there, the name of the girl I was with, or even what part of town I was in?
Uh, okay, no more questions! End of press conference!
Anyway, maybe I'm a little hypocritical here, but a big part of me - my gut, and that's huge - tells me to tell you it might not hurt to play down how many lovers you've had to a man who's a potential "possible."
But that's maybe advice for the next guy. Maybe this guy isn't worth it. To be honest, he doesn't sound worthy, like a "keeper." He did fail the "confession of imperfections" test.
Maybe he's more the "catch and release" type. In any case, you shouldn't worry about how you should claw your way back into his judgmental embrace. He's the one who freaked out on you.
He's the one who should worry about clawing his way back into your good graces.
Bottom line: Tell him, point blank: "This is me. This is the deal. Take it or leave it, and I'd rather know sooner than later because if you can't handle it I need to move along and find someone who can, someone who accepts all my history and my faults and loves me for them, because of them (i.e. because I'm the lusty, man-loving type and not a shy flower), rather than in spite of them."
If he decides he can handle it, that he can smile and enjoy the hair-raising tales of your sexual history, the ins and outs, then more power to him.
If not, buh-bye.
David Eddie is a screenwriter and the author of Chump Change and Housebroken: Confessions of a Stay-at-Home Dad.
I've made a huge mistake
Have you created any damage that needs controlling? Send your dilemmas to email@example.com, and include your hometown and a daytime contact number so we can follow up with any queries.