Dear Tell All: My wife and I met in our late 20s and have been happily married for five years. I’m from a fairly traditional background — suburbs, business major — while she took a more alternative path in her younger years. Now she works in the business world, too, and you wouldn’t guess that she used to be a classic Madison near-east-side hippie party girl.
I knew she had some pretty wild times during her college and post-college years, but only recently did I learn the extent of her sexual experimentation during a stint in a local housing co-op. I’d never grilled her about the details of her previous romances, but something she said while we watched a racy TV show suggested she was quite familiar with group sex.
Well, how could I let that pass? I asked her what the hell she meant, feeling suddenly very angry. She tried to brush it off, but I demanded that she come clean about her past. She finally admitted that she’d been in threesomes and foursomes in the housing co-op, and once even in a larger orgy.
I stormed out of the room, and have avoided marital relations with her since then. I get grossed out thinking of her in those extreme sexual situations.
For her part, she’s mad at me for putting so much significance on her previous experiences, saying they have nothing to do with our marriage. Tell All, do you have any suggestions for how my wife and I can move past this problem?
Dear Wronged Husband: No, I have no suggestions for how you and your wife can move past this problem. But I do have a suggestion for how you can move past it, because I think the problem is all yours.
Your wife is correct in saying that her previous experiences have nothing to do with your marriage. How could they, since she didn’t even know you then? You can’t argue that she deceived you about her past, since you knew she’d lived the wild hippie life. What did you think was happening behind those closed doors at the co-op? Sorry, Wronged Husband, but incense and Grateful Dead music aren’t usually associated with virginity.
You have to face the fact that your wife did nothing wrong by exploring her sexuality as a young woman. Only a Victorian gentleman — or, apparently, a business major from the suburbs — would think it has tainted his marriage. I suggest letting go of your retroactive possessiveness. And while you’re at it, stop calling yourself “Wronged Husband.” Your wife is the one who’s been wronged here, and you owe her an apology. As they used to say in the co-op: Be cool, man.
Do you have a question about life or love in Madison? Write Tell All, 101 King St., Madison, WI 53703. Or email firstname.lastname@example.org.