[Two Pronged] 9 boyfriends and counting

'At the age of 25, I got 8 sex partners in my life. Does the number really matter?'

Rappler’s Life and Style section runs an advice column by couple Jeremy Baer and clinical psychologist Dr Margarita Holmes.

Jeremy has a master’s degree in law from Oxford University. A banker of 37 years who worked in 3 continents, he has been training with Dr Holmes for the last 10 years as co-lecturer and, occasionally, as co-therapist, especially with clients whose financial concerns intrude into their daily lives.

Together, they have written two books: Love Triangles: Understanding the Macho-Mistress Mentality and Imported Love: Filipino-Foreign Liaisons.

Dear Dr Holmes and Mr Baer,

I am currently in a serious relationship right now. At the age of 25, I got 8 sex partners in my life. Does the number really matter? My boyfriend doesn’t know about it and it bothers me a lot as I thought I’m being unfaithful to him. Please, I need your advice. 

Thanks a lot.



Dear Liza,

Please clarify whether you mean that you have had 8 partners in the past or whether you are still having a relationship with one or more of them in addition to your serious boyfriend?

Two Pronged


Dear Dr. Holmes and Mr. Baer, 

I had 8 partners in the past. But only 3 of them are serious.

I only have 1 serious boyfriend now. 



Dear Liza

Thank you for the clarification. Sorry, but one more question: are you in an exclusive relationship with your current boyfriend or are you still seeing one or more of the others? 

Two Pronged


Dear Dr. Holmes and Mr. Baer

I am not seeing any of them. But we are on good terms.



Dear Liza, 

Perhaps you could tell us more about your concern. For example, does your boyfriend know you were not a virgin? Have you actually been unfaithful to him since you started going out? 

Two Pronged


Dear Liza,

Thank you for your emails.

As you have not replied to the last one, our answers will necessarily be based on less knowledge than could have been the case but we will nevertheless do our best. 

You seem to have 3 issues: your past, communication with your current boyfriend and your definition of infidelity. 

Starting with your past and your related question about numbers, these things do not exist in a vacuum. If your boyfriend (let’s call him Eddie) is the conservative type, he will be unlikely to appreciate a woman with an extensive sexual history. If however he is of a more modern mindset, he may well understand that an emancipated woman does not reach the age of 25 without having had some sexual experience. 

As for numbers, it is always worthwhile remembering the great sex researcher Dr Alfred Kinsey’s definition of a nymphomaniac: “someone who is having more sex than you do”. In other words, it is purely subjective and in your case the number will only be significant if it matters to you what Eddie thinks. And if he is indeed unhappy with this news, better to know now about his hitherto hidden Neanderthal dark side!

Your question about infidelity is more puzzling. If these 8 relationships were over before you started going out with Eddie, there is no question of infidelity. If one or more overlapped, then the issue does arise. Of course, infidelity means different things to different people and the definitions are more varied now that social media have provided opportunities for cyber relationships. However, infidelity for you should be how you and Eddie define, not what pundits on the Internet may say it is. 

Fundamentally, your problem seems to be about communication. You have not revealed your past to Eddie and this is weighing on you. This is entirely reasonable because your past, or parts of it, could easily resurface, and possibly at an inopportune time. So some degree of self-revelation is called for.

You have decided not to tell us anything about Eddie so we have no insight into how he may react to anything you choose to tell him about your sexual history. However, since he has freely elected to be in a serious relationship with you, the presumption must be that he likes you for the person you are and that there is a true connection that is emotional, physical, intellectual etc. Who you are is of course shaped in part by the experiences you have had throughout your life – and that includes your sexual past. Logically therefore, we can assume that Eddie would accept that you are still the same person both before and after any revelations.

However, logic is not all that is in play here and it is possible that Eddie will consider that the newly revealed ‘you’ is a different person from the one he had thought he knew. This can of course be positive, negative or neutral and we do not know Eddie or how he would react. 

Still, it must be better firstly not to remain hostage to your past and secondly to find out now rather than later how Eddie takes the news. Please write again if you have more questions.

All the best,

JAF Baer


Dear Liza: 

Thank you very much for your letter.  One of the nicest things about having a co-columnist like Mr Baer is that I can usually trust him to discuss everything that directly pertains to your letter (the way I hope he can usually trust me). That way, the other columnist (in this case, moi) can discuss other issues which matter just as much. Self-disclosure, for example. 

Self-disclosure is purposeful disclosure of personal information to another person. (Read here.) 

There are many reasons to self-disclose.  Some of them include:

  • support, compliments, reassurances – as in getting validation when you confess your insecurities, perceived failures, weaknesses, etc.;
  • relief – as in finally coming out to your best friend about your sexual orientation or to your parents about what you really spent your tuition money on, etc.;
  • clarification –  as in people thinking the wrong thing about you and you want to “set the record straight”;

intimacy and trust – as in wanting your boyfriend to know more about you because that is how you get to know more about him (self-disclosure begets more self-disclosure) and also because you want him to know the real you, whom you reveal to very few people in your life. 

I hope the major reason you are thinking about self-disclosing your sexual history to your boyfriend is more for intimacy (#4) than relief (#2). 

In my clinical experience, opening up about one’s sexual past is one of the most loving things one can do in a relationship (unless, of course, you have both agreed to draw a line under your past and never discuss it, in which case doing so is a rather hostile act).   

That is because a woman’s sharing that she’s had sexual relations with 8 other previous boyfriends is, I imagine, something most men your age will not have experienced. This does not necessarily mean most women have had less than 8 boyfriends, just that most women would not share this willingly with their boyfriends or, indeed, with anyone else. 

The fact that a woman of our culture would want to do so shows her willingness to risk rejection to allow her boyfriend the gift of seeing the real her. I would just like to add here, however, that I, personally, see nothing wrong with a woman’s having had 8, 18, 28 etc. sexual partners. Perhaps the “more the merrier” is not an apt expression, but “the fewer the better” is just as inaccurate. Maybe more to the point, a recent study of British women showed that most had an average of 7 sexual partners. I shall try and dig up the source if any of you are interested. 

Comparing sexual pasts can be one of the funniest (yes, funniest), joyful, validating things two people can do together. It also shows that you both value honesty and trust more than the stereotypical (and wrong) idea of purity and honor. 

It sounds like you have not suffered from any of your previous relationships and neither have you inflicted any suffering on any of your sexual partners. Thus, there is nothing to confess to your boyfriend because you did nothing wrong. However, I can imagine that you fear his rejection and that is why you hesitate.

There is nothing I can say to reassure you that he won’t reject you; however, in my clinical experience, a boyfriend who rejects you about your past, thinking that is more important than the present you have and even the future you might have together is not worth it. 

All the best,

MG Holmes

Need advice from our Two Pronged duo? Email twopronged@rappler.com with subject heading TWO PRONGED.Unfortunately the volume of correspondence precludes a personal response.

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