Can you ever get over it?
‘Nobody is exactly thrilled by the prospect of going through the person they love’s previous shags. At the very best, you might end up feeling like you don’t quite measure up and, at the worst, you could hear something about your boyfriend’s sex life that you find so gross it makes your skin crawl. I fall into the latter end of that spectrum. Because, three months into my relationship with Alex – the guy I’d wanted to be with for the best part of six years and who I was quickly falling in love with – I found out that he used to have sex with prostitutes. Lots of them.
‘I first met Alex six years ago when I was at university, where he managed a nightclub. The attraction was instant and stronger than anything I’d ever felt before. It sounds like the sort of thing I’d scoff at if I heard anyone else say it, but I knew the first night that we met that I wanted him to eventually become my boyfriend. That night, we went back to my friend’s house and he grabbed my hand out of nowhere and asked me back to his place. I went and we stayed up all night talking about our friends, family and previous relationships that had left us hurt, disappointed or just bored. Oh and, when we did eventually have sex, he gave me five orgasms. It’s the sort of night you don’t forget about in a hurry.
‘When we met again a couple of years ago we were both involved with other people and embarked upon one of those weird friendships where everything we were really feeling was left unsaid. After two years of being ‘best friends’ though, our respective relationships ended and it wasn’t long before we were back in bed again and, eventually, together in earnest. I can’t remember a time when I was more happy than in those first few months. We knew everything about each other (or I thought we did) and the sex was the most exciting I’d ever had in my life. If this was ‘it’ for me, I was pretty happy with my lot.
‘That was until a Saturday night a few months ago spent with a bunch of his friends from back home. Things got pretty raucous – which is no problem, ordinarily – but as everyone got more and more drunk they began to take the piss out of Alex for his previous indiscretions. These included but weren’t limited to a time when he pissed himself at house party in college; a girlfriend who he’d dumped on her birthday and – and here was the bombshell – the “first time” he’d visited a prostitute in “Dam.” The words hang in the air for a few seconds, almost indecipherable, until I realised what it was his friends had said and I suddenly felt like I was going to be sick. I gathered myself and go up to go and have a cigarette and Alex said something to me, but all I could hear was my own bloody pumping violently in my ears.
‘Then, outside the bar, I got the truth. He’d “used” prostitutes a few times – somewhere around ten, if he had to guess – and the time his friends were talking about was when he was 20 and on a lads holiday in Amsterdam. They had been drinking and doing cocaine and they thought it would be “funny”. They all did it. There was two more times that holiday and a few separate occasions on other holidays with the boys in Thailand. He hadn’t done it in years, he said, in a way that reminded me of a petulant teenager trying to get out of his maths homework. He’d never done it here at home. What fucking difference that made, I was unsure of, but I knew I wasn’t going to figure it out drunk, stood outside a bar with his crew of “lads” waiting for me to come back and “throw my toys out the cot”. He got me an Uber home and told me he loved me for the first time. He was going to call me tomorrow and make things ok. There wasn’t anything to worry about. But there was, wasn’t there? Because the person I had fallen for had done something in his past which not only made me look at him differently, but was actually morally repugnant to me. In that moment, I didn’t see how we were ever going to get through it.
‘During those first few hours after I learned the truth, I felt a gut-wrenching sense of betrayal. In the six years we’d known each other – starting the very first night we’d met – we’d discussed every aspect of each other’s relationship past and this had never come up. Some might call it withholding the truth, but all I could see was a lie. Then the questions came flooding: had he worn a condom? Was he not worried about disease? How old was she? Had he come? How much did he pay? Was she better in bed than me? Selfish, disgusted thoughts came at me like bullets and distracted me from what was really upsetting me in all of this: how on earth could he have done that those poor women?
‘Because even though he and his friends thought it was “funny,” did any of them give any thought to how the girls they were fucking for money felt? Had he thought about how they had got there in the first place? Thought about how they were being treated by the shadowy men they were handing their money over to? Had he not seen her as a human being, who deserved his sympathy and understanding rather than his custom? Because it wasn’t just that he hadn’t told me – it was an indication that the man I had fallen for did something is his past which showed that his values completely misaligned with my own.
‘I think if he was anyone else I’d have left him for it. But I love him too much – I can’t bring myself to do it. I have tried to understand that this was something in his past – like drugs and drinking to excess – which he has left behind and has no intention of returning to, but it hard to forget where he’s been when he sidles up to me in bed. For now, I’m concentrating on whether or not I love him enough to get past this. If I can’t I know it’s his problem – not mine.’
*Names have been changed