Marry an Ex-Exotic Dancer?

Q: I recently got engaged to my girlfriend after dating for a year and a half. Everything was great until, right after we got engaged, she decided to tell me that she was an exotic dancer in college. I was stunned and didn't know how to respond. Of course I asked her a million questions, like how she got into it and if she ever went further, like being an escort. She swore on a stack of bibles that she only danced and she did it to make extra money while at school. She wanted full disclosure before we tied the knot.

The trouble is I can't stop thinking of it. This woman, my future wife, the future mother of my children, was stripping in a bar in front of strangers? Getting dollar bills put in her thong? I just can't imagine it. In my wildest dreams I never could have imagined this. I don't know what to do. I'm very torn between loving her and wanting to spend my life with her and thinking of her in that way. I wonder if this will always get in my way. — Walt, 27

Dr. Susan: People have all sorts of weird histories, things they've done that, if known, might change how we see them. In your girlfriend's case, I'm only surprised she was able to keep her exotic dancing job a secret for the whole year and a half you dated. That means she was embarrassed by it, or she suspected you'd freak out, and sure enough, you are.

You might try dealing with your intense feelings in therapy, with or without her. Nobody's perfect, and a lot of us are idiots in high school and college. Oh, we think we know what we're doing, but the repercussions are simply impossible for us to grasp at the time. My best suggestion would be to live with this for a while before making any decisions. Will it always get in your way? You won't forget it, but the emotional shock of it will fade and become meaningless as you build a life together. It's what you and she are together that counts, not either of your pasts.

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