Dear Harlan: I've been dating a wonderful man for about seven months now. We are both in our 20s and our relationship is everything I could ever dream of except for one issue. I can't seem to get over his sexual past. I am a strong believer in waiting for the right person, so when I met him I basically was a complete virgin (I'd only ever kissed before). Everything I have ever done sexually I did with him for the first time. Eventually, curiosity got the best of me, and I asked him how many people besides me he has been with. I was shocked when he told me that I was his seventh. That number doesn't include people he "fooled around with" but stopped just short of sex. Thinking about that fact literally makes me sick to my stomach. I've tried to get it out of my mind, but I can't. I have talked to him about it a bit, but this issue still eats away at me. Sometimes when I look into his eyes, my mind just goes blank. All I can think about is how he has looked at another girl the same way, has done these same intimate things to her, has had these intimate things done to him by another girl. It is enough to drive me crazy. I know I can't blame him for things that happened before he knew I existed, but that doesn't stop these feelings from popping up. Do you have any advice on how to get over or work around this issue? – Intimately Scared
Dear Intimately Scared: Did you say 70 partners? Wait (I just reread your question), oh, six partners before you! That's still too many. One would be too many for you. You're probably scared. If he's shared something so intimate with other women, what's to keep you from becoming another of those women in the future? But that's self-destructive thinking. You aren't like the other women. This isn't a hookup. It's a deep relationship. His past partners might not have been lovers just sex partners. In fact, what he has with you makes what he had with them seem trivial. Instead of thinking about how he's going to hurt you, appreciate how he treats you. If he's loving, respectful, patient, kind, caring and honest he wants an intimate partner to love. That's what you need to think about. Focus on him loving you, not hurting you. That's how you work around it.
Dear Harlan: It's very hard to get my boyfriend to show sexual attraction toward me. I'm always the one initiating anything physical. It's starting to make me think that there's something wrong with me. I need help. – Not Hard to Get
Dear Not Hard: Maybe he has a secret. He could be a virgin who's afraid he'll go to hell if he has sex with you before marriage. He could be a non-virgin with a sexual past and herpes that he doesn't want to share. He could be into women and men and doesn't know how to tell you. Approach this conversation knowing you're hot and desirable. Otherwise, you're going to be too uncomfortable and solely focused on what you're doing wrong. Give him permission to be who he is. Don't resent him, talk to him. Ask him what makes him feel loved. Explain what makes you feel loved. Ask if there is anything he's not sharing with you. Share how to love and approach you. If you're still not feeling it, and he doesn't initiate it, consider initiating a breakup. Something isn't working. (c) Harlan Cohen 2012. Distributed by King Features Syndicate Inc.
Harlan is the author of "The Happiest Kid On Campus: A Parent's Guide to the Very Best College Experience (for You and Your Child)" (Sourcebooks). Write Harlan at harlan(at)helpmeharlan.com or visit online: www.helpmeharlan.com. All letters submitted become property of the author. Send paper to Help Me, Harlan!, 3501 N. Southport Ave., Suite 226, Chicago, IL 60657.