He’s upset I had a relationship before him

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I am a woman who married her high school sweetheart and has been married for 33 years. During this marriage there have been ups and downs, but three beautiful children have come from it. As we face the empty nester phase, we are struggling because there are no more distractions, so all of the unresolved issues are coming to light.

My question is: what do you say to your husband when he still continues to bring up the past – as in before we ever dated? I had a sexual relationship before him but he was a virgin when we met, so that's his problem. He asked me, back then, if I loved the other person I slept with and I said I didn't, but only because of the insecurity I knew he felt. Now the we are older, he feels like I lied to him. He goes crazy over the simplest reference to any memory before we dated. How do we move past this?

– Fed up with the inquisition


Have you asked him why any of this matters so many years later? I wonder if he'd say it’s about the 'lie" or the fact that you had the experience at all. Maybe it's all of the above.

If it's about the unknown – if he's wondering what that first experience really meant to you – it could help to be more specific about the details. Not the sex, but just … whatever you remember about how your teen brain processed that short relationship and why you call your own husband – not the other guy – your high school sweetheart. I guess it's possible that avoiding the story has made it more important than it should be.

It's likely, though, that this has more to do with him not having his own private experiences. What does that mean to him now? What are the things he wants to do with and without you? What are you both comfortable doing on your own when you can?

Also, who else can you talk to about this? Both of you could benefit from counseling to help you learn how to let this go and enjoy each other – and your independence – after the kids leave. This is going to be a huge change, and you have to be ready to make new memories, as opposed to fixating on where you left off before children came into the picture.

Get unstuck. Tell him you want therapy together. If he’s unwilling to do the work to make things better, that says a lot about whether you can empty nest with him at all.

– Meredith

Readers? Why is this an issue at all? What does it mean?