I found out the woman I've been dating was a prostitute

Love, Confidential: Yeah...

Dear Love,

I don't know where to turn. I just found out the the woman I've been dating was a prostitute. She wasn't hiding it, she just brought it up casually because she's thinking about doing webcam work. We aren't calling each other girlfriend and boyfriend or anything like that yet, but I'm not sure I want to now. I'm sure she thought I wouldn't mind because I think prostitution should be legal, because I can see how it is a form of work. But that's intellectual. Now that I'm facing it, I'm struggling with feeling jealous. I know that people in polyamorous relationships cope with this sort of thing all the time, so I'm wondering what I can do to get there with this. She's really great, and I can see us being together. I think of myself as open-minded. It's on me to get over this, right? But how? 

What to Do

click to enlarge older woman creepily peering at younger man - unsplash
older woman creepily peering at younger man

Dear What to Do,

First, congratulations for seeing that to deal with this situation is on you. That's usually half the battle. That said, this answer won't be half as long, because there are still multiple elements to explore around this topic.

Even people in polyamorous relationships feel jealousy. No shame in that. Jealousy is a natural feeling that can occur in all relationships, even friendships. In order to resolve any problem, you have to first identify it, so you've already taken the first step. The trick is to acknowledge your feelings of envy without shaming yourself. To get there, you have to look more deeply.

Jealousy is a composite emotion that stems from feeling insecure or fearful (or both). Often we think that by removing the thing that's causing the jealousy — in this case, a girlfriend who does sex work — the jealousy will end. But cutting off the relationship will only put a temporary halt to the feeling. It will come back, just in a different form, attached to different names.

You may find, when you explore, that you have a fear of being replaced. Or perhaps you're worried about not matching up to online partners. Once you've explored the possibilities, the next thing to do is the dreaded, "We need to talk." 

The fact that you've so precisely identified your problem but are asking advice from a column instead of going right to your partner suggests that talking to your partner is not your typical strategy. You might be a person who likes to figure things out in advance, then let people in on the outcome after the fact. Hear me when I tell you, that is the behavior will torpedo your relationships. And THAT, my dear What To Do, is what to work on.

I'll give a brief bit of lip service to the possibility that you want permission to break up, as if the moral outrage of sex work is sufficient reason to cut ties. But I also think prostitution should be legal. I don't consider other types of workers as having freedom from oppression or exploitation. If you felt judgmental about her for this — and only you can look in your heart and know — then I would say, by all means, end it now. Silently judging your partner is a disaster for everyone. 

But if, on the other hand, you are interested in exploring the possibilities with this partner, you need to become open to the idea that you don't know what will happen as a result of this conversation.


Love, Confidential

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