My wife told me all about her sexual past – and I am having mini panic attacks

I’m in my mid-40s and have been married for more than a decade. My wife is not an affectionate person, whereas I am. We have good sex, but she doesn’t do cuddles. Once we’re done, she’ll be up and gone, or off to sleep. There’s definitely a difference in the level of affection each of us is comfortable with. It’s the same with romantic gestures and compassion. Her mother was quite cold and she was left to fend for herself growing up. Not long after getting together, we spoke about former partners. She is far more open and matter-of-fact about sex than I am and she went into a lot of detail. She has had quite a few one-night stands. Ever since that conversation, they have played out in my head regularly; each one is like a mini panic attack. One particular encounter involved her having an orgasm without penetration, which we have never managed. I love her dearly, and I know this is my problem, not hers, but my life has been a misery with these intrusive thoughts.

This is far from just your problem. Her cruelty and insensitivity is making you miserable and it’s time you both took a look at how being together affects you. Hearing about your partner’s former lovers is often painful, and the intent of the partner and the manner in which they describe them often needs to be seen for what it is – meanness, an attempt to create jealousy, or a controlling mechanism. For some, it can be viewed as titillation, but more often it is an intentional act of belittling someone and inflicting pain. Frequently, though, stories about past sexual experiences are exaggerated, so try not to take them seriously. In terms of the non-penetrative orgasm, this is an easy thing for you to achieve if only she would show you how she likes her clitoris to be manipulated. Do not allow her to withhold this information any longer.

  • Pamela Stephenson Connolly is a US-based psychotherapist who specialises in treating sexual disorders.

  • If you would like advice from Pamela on sexual matters, send us a brief description of your concerns to (please don’t send attachments). Each week, Pamela chooses one problem to answer, which will be published online. She regrets that she cannot enter into personal correspondence. Submissions are subject to our terms and conditions.

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