By E.J. Gordon
Several years ago, my husband and I decided to bite the bullet, leave the city, and move to the suburbs where we were both raised. We needed to fill up our fridge, so we headed to the local grocery. There we were checking out at the Whole Foods grocery store, when all of the sudden I spotted this woman herding her child toward the exit, groceries all bagged and paid for. She passed us, waved to my husband, nodded at me. I smiled, and muttered some greeting… “Hey” or “What’s up” — and although I knew she was now married and what had transpired was years ago, all I could think in my head when I looked at her was: You Slept With My Husband.
No, it wasn’t an affair — nothing even close. I think he had been with her in college, well before we had even started … But I knew, and she knew, and she knew I knew she knew … that she’d slept with MY husband.
I immediately thought to myself, my poor husband. I’ve had way more lovers than he had. And since we lived within minutes of where I grew up, we might run into them at soccer, at the Starbucks, at 4th of July festivals, at the gym. What would be the best way to handle this? How should the “Honey, meet my former lover” conversation go?
Over the next few years I developed an “Ex-Sex Protocol”. And in an effort to share with you with the best way to introduce your spouse to your past, I thought I’d start with some of what I learned about what NOT to do.
1. The Happy Sex Memory
My husband and I had just had our first baby, and after months of thinking about only him, we decided to get ourselves together and attend a party. It was at this new bar in the city. We walked in and our friend said to us, “Isn’t this place great? The owner is sitting right over there.” My eyes followed his pointed finger and settled on the owner, who surprisingly turned out to be a man I’d spent some time with in college. I said to my husband, “Oh, that’s Bobby. He was really dumb, but we had this ridiculous physical connection. We could never make a relationship work, but we had really good sex.”
In my defense, I had just had a baby with my husband, so our relationship was a pretty done deal — I was in for life. I had NO idea I could undermine my husband’s confidence with this statement, but he still refers to this as Absolutely The Worst Thing to ever say to your current partner. He immediately felt insecure about our connection. He still wonders to this day if our sex is as good as mine and Bobby’s was. For the record, our married sex is waaaaaay better. (You’re welcome, Honey.)
2. The Lasting/Longing Greeting
One day after dinner we went to a bar on a whim. The fact that it was on a whim is important, because I wasn’t dressed for a bar night. I had on a sweater and corduroys, and I didn’t have my “bar makeup” or any other part of my bar strut going on. All of the sudden, this beautiful woman approached us. She shrieked my husband’s name, threw her arms around him and told him how happy she was to see him, and he completely reciprocated her enthusiasm. I looked at her with her naturally platinum blonde hair, her vibrant blue eyes, and her cute little “come hither” bar outfit, and I immediately felt 10 pounds heavier and 10 kinds of ugly. When my husband noticed me shifting uncomfortably and pulling at my thick sweater collar, he whispered to me, “She’s harmless”. Now, he could call her harmless all he wanted; words wouldn’t make me feel thinner or prettier, especially with his arms around her.
By happily taking HER hug and allowing her to flirt with him, he diminished me. I couldn’t help but think, Man, he sure traded down.
3. Provoking The Bear
At the first wedding we attended together, we found ourselves at a table with people we had thought were strangers. But after a few minutes, the man sitting next to me turned to me and said, “I know you.” And, to my chagrin, he sure did. He harked back to my wet ‘n’ wild high school days, and he was one I was rather ashamed of (unlike My Yummy Bobby). My then-fiancé saw my entire demeanor change and asked me what was wrong. I wasn’t sure what to tell him, so I said that I knew this guy from my “olden less-golden days” and he was making me very uncomfortable. Now I had thought this was a wise thing to tell him, that this would make him sympathetic, because I was truly worried he would be judgmental. Instead I woke up his protective instinct; my guy started saying under his breath, “Who does this asshole think he is? How dare he make you uncomfortable?” The other man heard him, and let’s just say, it wasn’t the ending I’d wanted.
4. The Facebook Foul-Up
When I started my Facebook account, I assured my husband I had nothing to hide — he could even have my password and skulk around the Virtual World as me. One day I was friended by another one of my old ghosts, and he messaged me. At first he just asked what I was up to, where I was living, what kind of job I’d ended up in, but then … he asked me about my relationship. It was obvious from the exchange that he was trying to determine how happily married I was. I proceeded to make it very clear that I was quite happy, but my big mistake was not immediately telling my husband about the interaction. Having him discover it by chance was the worst way for him to find out. Even though the entire experience was innocent on my part, by not mentioning it, I had caused concern.
So, what have I learned?
A. Always be forthcoming. Always tell your spouse, “By the way, there is some history there,” when you encounter a former lover. Make sure if you connect without your spouse’s presence, you tell him.
B. You never want your spouse to feel inferior to an Ex. You want him to feel like he is better-looking, smarter, more successful — really better in whatever department he could be insecure in. You do this by saying things like, “Running into him highlights how far I’ve come … you blow him away!” or “I can’t believe I used to think that guy was good-looking!”
C. Be delicate about how you phrase the information you’re about to share. One method I find particularly successful is, “Oh my God, I have such an embarrassing story to tell you about that guy I just introduced you to.” Then when you’re in private, tell him the story of you and the other guy with limited description and NO praise, and demonstrate sheer relief that he saved you from more inferior sex and loveless experiences like that. Try this: “I don’t know why people say the grass is always greener on the other side; from where I stand, it’s always browner!”
D. When you run into an ex, proudly grab your spouse, introduce him, and then hold his hand or keep your arm around him to show him that you’re proud of where you landed.
E. Never, ever talk about how great it was with a former lover. And your spouse does not need to know that that guy was the one who gave you your first non-self-induced orgasm.
On a final note, for those of you who are involved in relationships where one of you has serious and pathological jealousy issues, it might behoove you when you see an ex, JUST WALK THE OTHER WAY, or better yet, run.
And there you have it, the EX-SEX protocol. I would love to hear about YOUR badly handled experiences with your ex-sexes, so we can collectively learn from your mistakes. I’d also love to hear your hard-earned wisdom. Please share in GW’s Comments section!