I lied about the number of my past sexual partners

I have been with my boyfriend for almost 7 months now. At the beginning of our relationship, we both told each other how many sexual partners we’d had before. Well, at that time I lied to my boyfriend and said I’d only been with 5 people—when I’ve really been with 12. I fessed up and told him this just last night... and he fessed up as well and said he’d lied too. He initially told me 14 people, but came clean last night and said it was "around the 20 mark."

I know I’m such a hypocrite for feeling upset about it, because I lied too, but it really hurts me to know that he was dishonest. I lied to him because I was ashamed and thought maybe he’d think less of me. He said the same thing about lying to me. We both came clean to each other but I feel a sense of guilt or regret in my heart. I don’t know what it is but I feel there is a weight hanging over my heart. I love him very much and am very happy with our relationship. Should I be upset/partially mad? What should I say to my boyfriend to let him know how I feel?

Response:

No one likes to discover that they have been lied to.

Nevertheless, your question does raise a lot of interesting issues about deception, love and romance.

For better or worse, lovers lie.

And while lovers lie about many things, there is one topic that lovers often lie about: their sexual history (see what lovers lie about).

Driven by fear of rejection, many people downplay their sexual history when they are dating someone they like. On one hand, you can take your boyfriend’s deception as a complement; your boyfriend liked you enough to conceal his past. Often people tell the complete truth when they want to end a relationship—or push someone away.

And apparently you liked your boyfriend enough to lie to him as well.

Furthermore, your situation highlights a real problem that emerges in most relationships: People think that their partner’s lies are worse than their own. Double standards and hypocrisy are the norm.

It is much easier for people to feel the pain inflicted by a partner’s behavior than to acknowledge their own misdeeds. So, while you have been hurt by your boyfriend’s lies, it may help to remind yourself that you’ve behaved in exactly the same way.

And the weight hanging over your head is probably due to the realization that relationships are not built on the truth alone. While no one likes to acknowledge it, all close relationships involve both telling the truth and lying (see why lovers lie).

Everyone holds ideals about love and romance, which never match reality. But, holding such unrealistic notions about love and relationships does not work in the long run. Such unrealistic expectations only leave people feeling inadequate as the truth begins to emerge. Sometimes it helps to acknowledge that relationships are not perfect—there will always be some half-truths and lies.

And from our perspective, our best advice is to not say anything. Pointing out your boyfriend’s mistakes, when you’ve done the same, is not likely to produce anything but resentment and negativity (see confront a partner).

But if you do feel the need to express yourself, our advice is to focus on both of your behavior, not just his actions. Perhaps you can share with him how you feel about what happened and leave it at that (see talk about problems).

 confront lying | past sexual history

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