Ask Margot-He Thinks I’m A Virgin

One woman who regrets her past behavior wonders whether to come clean with the man she’s dating.

By Margot Carmichael Lester

ear Margot,
I made some bad choices in high school and had sex. Before graduating from college, however, I made a pledge and renewed my virginity. Now I’m dating someone who’s very devout and keeps talking about how he’s so glad neither of us has ever been with
If you want to mitigate his suffering, do it ASAP.
someone before. I choke a little every time he says it. If I tell him the truth, I’m afraid he’ll break up with me. But if I don’t, then I’m lying—and that’s not good, either. What’s your advice? Thanks.
– Got a Secret in Sacramento

Dear Got a Secret,
Wow. That’s a doozie. But despite its enormity, this is a situation that can be handled in a straightforward and compassionate way. The trick, frequent readers of this column will know, is to embrace the holy trinity of the delivering of bad news — Truth, Brevity and Clarity — and the two archangels, Time and Place.

Here’s how.

Do it now
Reason: The longer you wait to tell him the truth, the harder it will be to actually do it. And the farther his heart will have to fall before it crashes into a thousand pieces. If you want to mitigate his suffering, do it ASAP.
Approach: Don’t wait for the topic to come up in casual conversation. Address it directly the next time you see him.

Location: somewhere private
Reason: Think about how you’d feel if you discovered that someone you cared about was keeping something very important from you. Wouldn’t you like to know? That alone should help you find the compassion (not to mention courage) to tell him immediately.
Approach: The ideal place to break the news is news on neutral territory, in a private setting. This way, if one or both of you gets emotional, there’s a chance of retaining a shred or two of dignity. Pick a location that’s relatively quiet, but not romantic. Best bets might be a quiet corner of a coffee joint neither of you really patronizes or a park bench that’s a bit secluded.

Stick to the truth: facts, not fiction
Reason: Don’t get caught up in explaining why or how your past experience happened. Just deliver the facts and speak from the heart.
Approach: Think about how you’d like to get this news if you were in his shoes. That’s the first step to making sure you’re being compassionate, but direct.

Make statements, not explanations
Reason: When we’re breaking bad news, particularly bad news that could lead to our being judged or jilted, we all have a tendency to use euphemisms or sugar-coat things—especially when
We’re not going for form here, we’re going for function.
discussing an intimate topic. But in this case, being direct and simple is definitely the best thing to do.
Approach: Take your truth and distill it down to the simplest terms. We’re not going for form here, we’re going for function. Say something like, “I respect you and your values and want you to know my truth. This is hard to share, but I had sex in high school, and I regret it. I made a pledge to God to be forgiven and renewed, and I believe I have been.”

Keep it short and sweet
Reason: It’s a cruel irony that when we’re really dreading something, we often end up dragging it out. We talk too much, and we try to fill uncomfortable gaps in the conversation with explanations or pleas. It’s hard to let silence sit. But you need to if you want to give this guy time to really chew on what you’ve said.
Approach: You don’t need to qualify or explain your decision—even if he asks you why. If you want to, keep it fact-based and brief. But don’t get lured into to telling him more than he needs to know. When you’ve told him, it’s time to leave him with his thoughts. Don’t press for a follow-up meeting. Simply tell him you appreciate his listening (even if he got mad), and that you hope he’ll find some way to forgive and accept you. Then get going.

Now, following these handy tips isn’t going to make your job any easier or less painful (for either of you). But it helps you live your values and be compassionate and respectful of someone you care about.

It’s important to approach it this way because if you have a hope of staying together, you’ve got to build the future on a foundation of honesty and respect. And if you don’t keep working on your relationship, at least you both retain your dignity and pride, which is crucial to finding the truly right person for you.

Margot Carmichael Lester is a freelance writer based in North Carolina. Send your faith-based dating questions to
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