Dear Dr. NerdLove:
My boyfriend and I have been together for six years. I am 40 and he is 50. When we first met, I was attracted to him but I thought he was not available. We worked together for a few months. The nature of the work is that we spent nearly the whole day together in the field each day, and we got to know each other well.
When we met, I had been divorced for about six months. During that time, I had a few casual hookups and short relationships. One of these casual relationships happened while we were friends. At the time, I confided in him about it. Time passed, my boyfriend and I started dating, and I haven’t thought about being with anyone else since.
The issue is that he frequently brings up the fact that I had sex with this other person. Sometimes it is in the context of me giving him a criticism or a complaint, and his response is “Well, you did this thing.” Sometimes, this connection seems, to me, to be illogical and unfair. For example, the most recent time was a few days ago when I said something to him about being careful because of the virus (his job requires him to be go out in public every day). He was moody for a few days and then told me that it was hypocritical of me to tell him to be careful of getting sick when I apparently think nothing of sleeping with random guys who could have diseases. In fact, I probably have all kinds of diseases I don’t even know about, according to him. Sometimes, when he starts thinking about this past incident, he will say (text) pretty nasty, slut shaming-type things to me.
The other piece to this is that I believe he has some kind of undiagnosed psychological condition such as depression or bipolar disorder. I’ve suggested that he go to a psychologist, or that we go to therapy, but he has never wanted to do that.
The end result of all this is twofold:
1) I feel like I hesitate bring up many issues for discussion because I’m afraid it will become about how I slept with someone six years ago before we were dating.
2) I get confused by the way he does this, because I think, Why is he with me if he thinks I’m so trashy? But also, I think that sometimes he gets into his head and maybe it’s more about how he’s feeling than it is about anything I have done, and I can just ignore these episodes.
So should I treat this as something that he does that is irrational and maybe an expression of his mental health? Just let him vent and then forget about it? (I have sometimes just temporarily blocked him for the night and by the next morning everything is fine). On one hand, I have a pretty forgiving temperament and I can easily overlook it. On the other hand, I feel something like despair when I think that in five years, ten years, etc., he’s still going to be saying “In 2013 you did x” every few months. I just want a better way to communicate with each other, especially when we are in disagreement.
Past Is Prologue