I have been married for 20 years. When my husband was a teenager he slept with lots of girls. As he grew up he changed and now is a great man that loves me. However, I still feel inferior to his girlfriends. Like I wasn’t worth waiting for and never will be able to measure up. How do I get over these feelings?
It is painful to feel compared, even in your own mind, to others. That really crowds the sacred space that should only be shared between you and your husband. Thankfully, you’re taking responsibility for the feelings you’re experiencing instead of blaming your husband for his past behaviors.
Please know that you’re not alone in feeling insecure and compared to some fictional ideal. In fact, many women (and some men, for that matter) compare themselves to unrealistic standards of beauty and sexuality found in popular culture. Even though your comparisons are from the ghosts of girlfriends past, the comparisons are tragic and unnecessary.
Even though your heart tells you the truth about your husband and your relationship, your brain keeps tricking you into believing something else. The false beliefs can be challenged and overcome so you aren’t held hostage by something that isn’t even real.
First, notice when you are most likely to obsess about these thoughts. Are your energy levels low? Are you tired? Are you feeling distant from your husband? Sometimes we are overcome with irrational thoughts when we’re at our lowest physically and emotionally. Once we get our levels balanced back out, we can see the absurdity of your thoughts and feelings. Staying tuned into your body and emotions can help you avoid subsequent spirals.
Next, take honest inventory of your own insecurities and how those get projected onto other people, even people you haven’t met. For example, if you wish you were more comfortable initiating touch, you might believe that these other girls were so much better at it than you and your husband was getting all of his needs met, and so on and so forth. This spiral could continue down until you believe that you’re worthless and not that interesting to him. I imagine you can see the problem with this approach.
Elder Holland gave powerful counsel about what to do with past mistakes:
When something is over and done with, when it has been repented of as fully as it can be repented of, when life has moved on as it should and a lot of other wonderfully good things have happened since then, it is not right to go back and open up some ancient wound that the Son of God Himself died trying to heal. God doesn’t care nearly as much about where you have been as He does about where you are and, with His help, where you are willing to go.[i]
Instead, I want you to embrace the truth that no other woman can take your place. You are the real thing. You have built a deep intimacy and safety with your husband that no adolescent fling can touch. Do not reduce your intimacy down to a one-dimensional sexual act or performance that you believe other women can do better than you. Sexual intimacy, especially the deep intimacy found in your committed twenty-year marriage, is a rich multi-dimensional mosaic of emotional, spiritual, physical, intellectual, and relational elements that can’t be compared to the flimsy and unstable teenage sexual lust.
There is nothing wrong with occasionally asking your husband to reassure you of what you mean to him. We all need that from time to time, especially when we are reminded of our shortcomings. You have built something beautiful. Don’t let these fraudulent messages tell you anything different.
Geoff will answer a new family and relationship question every Friday. You can email your question to him at firstname.lastname@example.org
About the Author
Geoff Steurer is a licensed marriage and family therapist in St. George, UT. He is the owner of Alliant Counseling and Education (www.alliantcounseling.com) and the founding director of LifeStar of St. George, an outpatient treatment program for couples and individuals impacted by pornography and sexual addiction (www.lifestarstgeorge.com). He is the co-author of “Love You, Hate the Porn: Healing a Relationship Damaged by Virtual Infidelity”, available at Deseret Book, and the audio series “Strengthening Recovery Through Strengthening Marriage”, available at www.marriage-recovery.com. He also writes a weekly relationship column for the St. George News (www.stgnews.com). He holds a bachelors degree from BYU in communications studies and a master’s degree in marriage and family therapy from Auburn University. He served a full-time mission to the Dominican Republic and currently serves on the high council of the St. George, Utah young single adult second stake. He is married to Jody Young Steurer and they are the parents of four children.
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