Q: We’re Asian and have an arranged marriage. At the beginning, my husband would often bring up his previous and only girlfriend (American, tall, blond and beautiful; his parents broke them up) and their great sex life. Since I told him I feel uncomfortable with this he has stopped, but the pictures still linger in my mind. He’s loving and caring, but I am often comparing myself to her and thus feel inadequate. I can’t trust that he is truly sexually attracted to me, and I don’t feel as confident about my body, which hurts my self-esteem. What can I do?
Dr. Klein: The institution of arranged marriages was not developed to support self-esteem, kindle romantic love, or build intimate communication. Your exposure to western culture has made you want these things from your marriage, which may not be realistic.
That said, you are correct that you need to do some inner work if you want to develop trust, self-esteem, and a sense of sexual adequacy. Psychotherapy or a woman’s group would be a good start. So would Lonnie Barbach’s classic book, “For Yourself.”
For better or worse, people rarely marry the person with whom they’ve had their most exciting sexual adventures. You don’t have to be your husband’s ultimate sexual experience. What he wants from you is your trust, some enthusiasm, for you to like your own body, and for you to explore your own eroticism so that you enjoy sex with him.
You cannot possibly compete with your husband’s ex-partner. He was single, she was exotic, and she taught him things. Forget about her, rather than dragging her into your marital bed.