Partner’s Sexual Guilt

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Dear Hoopers,
Hi there! I have been looking for a solid relationship for nearly a decade, and this year I finally found the man I want to marry. And amazingly enough he wants to marry me too. In fact, he’s bought the ring and I am almost certain his intention was to propose to me in a few weeks. He’s kind, considerate and we work very well together. However last week I found out he has slept with prostitutes in the past. Some traumatic stuff happened to him in his younger years and I think it sort of tipped him over the edge and I don’t really think he thought much about others.

He slept with prostitutes 3 times during his 20s. However, he also slept with a prostitute only 18 months ago, in the Philippines, which I have massive issues with as the women there aren’t exactly given a lot of choice. He’s not proud about it, he’s deeply regretful and doesn’t try to excuse any of it. To add insult to injury, I have been battling with an anxiety issue to do with the objectification of women for the past 10 years. Every time I think about it I feel sick and don’t know how to move past it. But I love him and want to try but I just don’t know how to stop my head from spinning. Thanks for your help.
-Partner’s Sexual Guilt

Dear Partner’s Sexual Guilt,
Congratulations on finding a kind and considerate partner with whom you can envision a future. Because of how challenging this search has been, you can appreciate your special connection with him and how fortunate you are to have found each other. Now that you are considering a lifelong commitment to marriage, his sexual past is coming to the surface and it isn’t pretty.

I’m not sure how you learned this information about his past but it seems like something he could have hidden from you if he had wanted. Therefore, I’m assuming that he must have been forthcoming and honest with you about this. If this is the case, I would be encouraged and hopeful about your future together. He came clean about something that is shameful to him and he did it to before marriage.

This won’t be easy, but now is the time to process through these issues so that you can enter into a future commitment with a clean slate. I would encourage you two to look for a therapist to help both of you discuss this issue at length. While this may be the most challenging and difficult issue to discuss prior to marriage, it certainly isn’t the only one. Counseling/preparation is critical for all couples as they head towards marriage. Discussing and hashing out important issues before the wedding day is the challenging work that all couples should do.

The heart of this issue is about coming together in honesty and emerging together with shared values and a plan. His acknowledgement and regret of his past behavior is a good start but he needs more for himself and for you. He should seek healing from his past traumas in a way that allows him to move forward within the bounds of your marriage intimacy. He will need to resolve within himself that seeking sex through prostitution is forever out of bounds and commit to you.

He will need to resolve within himself that seeking sex through prostitution is forever out of bounds and commit to you.

-Dr. Ryan

As you mentioned in your question, there appears to be something from his past that played a role in his sexual behavior. Since these traumas drove him to seek out sexual gratification, my guess is that his traumas were sexual in nature. If this is true, it is important to not only acknowledge these women as victims but also your partner as a victim. He could likely benefit from individual therapy around these past traumas to help him heal and move forward in health.

Also, it sounds like his sexual past doesn’t just bother you because it’s salacious, but primarily because you see his past as being malicious and hurtful of women. You mention the manipulative nature of prostitution in the Philippines. While you are aware of this, I’m not sure that the extent or gravity of this reality is evident to many participatory men possibly including your partner. Discuss this concern with him to help educate him but also to process through some of his thoughts and feelings as he entered these sexual encounters.
-Dr. Ryan

Dear Partner’s Sexual Guilt,
It’s a tough situation when you find out the person you love has a past that doesn’t align with your values. In addition to the emotions of this situation, you may also have concerns about his sexual health and how this may affect you. Be proactive and get checked medically in conjunction to addressing your emotional health.

As hard as this is, the key word here is past. He’s deeply regretful for these past experiences and he’s not trying to hide them. If you believe he’s sincere and truly trying to evolve from this then it’s going to be important for you both to find peace with it, shut the chapter and move on.

Considering the issues you’ve been battling with anxiety, as well as your partner’s poor choices from the past, I would suggest getting some counseling. If you are thinking about spending your life together, it’s worth investing in yourselves to get the help to start this relationship on solid ground. It’s rocky right now.

If you are thinking about spending your life together, it’s worth investing in yourselves to get the help to start this relationship on solid ground.


Prostitutes are trafficked, exploited, financially desperate, and it is a sickening situation. It may be hard for you to understand how someone who is all of the things you described–kind, considerate and compatible, could be involved in this behavior.

However, we all have skeletons in our closets and if you want to make this relationship work, you know you both need to do the work to move past this. I suggest you find help so you can make a bright future together instead of letting these past issues torment you.