Sex & Relationships

Ask Joan: Do I Share My Sexual Past?

A reader wants to know if he should share details about his sexual past with his current lover. 

Dear Joan:

Cindy and I both lost our spouses of 40-plus years to cancer. We met, fell in love, and married four years ago. Our sex life at 70 is wonderfully satisfying. My quandary is that she keeps asking for very personal, X-rated details about what my late wife Susan and I did sexually. She says she wants to give me what I enjoyed most with Susan.

Tell or Not?

I’ve told Cindy that there’s no way to compare my enjoyment of our sex with what I shared with Susan. They are very different in their preferences. Some things that I enjoyed with Susan don’t fit Cindy’s choices, so what’s to be gained? Likewise, Cindy is open to positions and locations that Susan would not ever consider. We have discussed all this generically, but I’ve tried to stay away from the specifics.

Some things that I enjoyed with Susan don’t fit Cindy’s choices, so what’s to be gained?

I don’t know if I should give Cindy more details.  On the positive side, telling her may give her a better indication of how much I’d enjoy doing things with her that I did with my late wife.  However, on the potential negative side, I don’t want to give details that could hurt us in the long run or make her worry that Susan was “better” sexually – which would be totally in error!

I know that Cindy had a terrific physical relationship with her late husband. While I’ve been a bit curious, I’ve never asked. I don’t want to make her uncomfortable or end up getting details that might make me feel insecure or lacking in some way.

Thank you for any advice you may have. I’m running out of time as Cindy keeps pressing the issue, causing some friction between us. Should I divulge the graphic information that I’ve been holding onto so closely?

– Tell Or Don’t Tell

Joan responds:

please don’t! There’s nothing to be gained by revealing intimate details of your sex life with your first wife. This will only lead to more friction as Cindy compares herself after four years with you to your 40-year relationship. This could go terribly wrong.

Sure, talk about what you want sexually that you and Cindy might not have explored, e.g., “I’d love to try … if you might be into it.” – but not in the context of nitty-gritty details of what you and Susan did together.

First, those details are private and part of the intimacy that a bonded, loving couple enjoys. You have no obligation to divulge them to any other human being.

Second, there’s no way to compare anyway! When you met your late wife more than 45 years ago, you were different people. Over the decades, your relationship – sexual and otherwise – changed, settled, changed again as you aged. What a couple enjoys sexually depends not only on the individual desires of each, but also the ways their needs, desires, preferences intertwine. As you say, there are some things you enjoyed with Susan that Cindy doesn’t want to do, and vice versa.

Third, this is a minefield. If Cindy is insecure enough to keep pressing, your answer – whatever it is – is likely to distress her.

What to Say

So how do you say no? Try something like this:

“I love you, and I’m with you now. There’s no way I’d want to compare my sex life with Susan with what you and I do together. Plus, in respect to Susan, I don’t want to share intimate details. They were private to our marriage. Let’s be in the present together and focus on the pleasure we give each other. We can talk about the things we’d like to try together without bringing in our former spouses.”

Your question reminds me of a long-ago (2006!) question from a reader of my first senior sex book, Better Than I Ever Expected: Straight Talk about Sex After Sixty. He was in a new relationship and addressed his question to Robert, my lover, who was central to that book:

“My Lady had a very active sex life before we met. How do you deal with that? Do you think about the other men before you? I know it shouldn’t be an issue at our age, but I find myself wondering how I ‘stack up’ to the others. I feel that asking would be crossing the line. Should I just accept the fact that we are together and that’s the end of it?”

Robert replied:

“I used to worry about this myself. I am fortunate to have someone who assures me that I am the one she loves. Since we learn from all our previous sexual experiences what we want and like, and what we don’t, this sexual learning necessarily includes all past lovers. Fretting about how we measure up to other guys who have had sex with our partner – whether we are good enough, or big enough – is unproductive. I’ve come to believe that authentic expression of love and the ability to be playful and experimental are the most reliable ingredients for successful sex, rather than focusing on measuring up (which can only be unknown anyway).”

I think this is good advice for your situation, too.

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Joan Price has been Senior Planet’s “Sex at Our Age” columnist since 2014. She is the author of four self-help books about senior sex, including her award winners: “Naked at Our Age: Talking Out Loud about Senior Sex” and “Sex after Grief: Navigating Your Sexuality after Losing Your Beloved.” Visit Joan’s website and blog for senior sex news, views, tips, and sex toy reviews from a senior perspective. Subscribe to Joan’s free, monthly newsletter.



5 responses to “Ask Joan: Do I Share My Sexual Past?

  1. I do agree that this is minefield, and I think he is entitled to his privacy about his previous relationship. I am on my 2nd marriage, and I said very little about my experiences with husband #1 to my current hubby, and only in general terms (and there wasn’t much to tell; there essentially was no love life in that relationship!). And I never have asked my current husband about his first wife. I agree with what Joan suggested he do.

  2. Personally I’d find it really irritating to listen to graphic descriptions of what my partner and former lovers did and it would be big turn off. Cindy may just have doubts that she’s pleasing her husband enough so perhaps he should reassure her that she is indeed pleasing him. Also they might watch some Adult videos together and try different things.

  3. Wow ! What a minefield. Once again, talk it through and try to make her understand that there is no comparison and that she is the most wonderful partner you have ever enjoyed.
    Try to tell her that comparisons are odious and that you are utterly enthralled with her and your lovemaking. Tell her that she gives you everything Susan did , and more.

    1. Sorry Dave but I disagree with your approach. On one hand you say to tell her there is no comparison yet on the other you say to tell her she is the most wonderful partner you have ever enjoyed. That is making a comparison. Your last sentence also makes a comparison. However, I agree with your penultimate statement.

    2. Dave,
      The excessive praise might come across to the current wife as disingenuous. Sexual experiences with the two wives are not actually comparable. This gentleman is very thoughtful and respects both women. Could he live with an answer that’s not genuine?

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