What To Say When Your Significant Other Asks How Many People You’ve Slept With

There aren’t many trickier questions to navigate than the Hokusai wave of “How many people have you slept with?” It can be a perfect storm of insecurity and jealousy. One of you may be left feeling inadequate and inexperienced while the other is left feeling a little slutty, or worse, regretful. People make all kinds of gaffes when exploring the unchartered waters of this question.

But fear not, readers. I’ll be your Christopher Columbus. (Because I know I’m not technically the first one to offer this advice, but, damn it, I will get credit!) With my help you’ll be sweeter on your baby than John Smith was when he laid eyes on that epic babe Pocahontas. (I only know the Disney version of this story.) Okay, enough with the seafaring metaphors and onto the sex. Foremost, you need to self evaluate. Are you going to get jealous? Storm out of the room? Are you going to hold their number against them? No explorer ever made it without a plan. I mostly don’t ask because I am a jealous person. I’d find out who those other guys (or girls) were and slowly build cases against them like I was Jack McCoy. Not only did I dwell over all these new Eskimo siblings but I’d also keep them inside me as evidence against the kingpin: the person I was dating. Nothing can break down the perfect little rainbow of your relationship faster than jealousy. Even if it’s a full-on double rainbow.

Of course, if you’d rather not know, there’s a chance your lover might. Be ready to tell them why you don’t think it’s a good idea. Say you don’t want to talk about the past because it can ruin the present. Say you don’t think it’s a good idea because if your numbers are vastly different then one of you is going to be left with a scarlet letter and the other with an albatross. I’ve been branded with the scarlet letter and I’ve watched the albatross weigh down lovely people into thinking there is a deficiency in their sexual ability. It sucks. If you don’t think one of you can handle it, maneuver your vessel far, far away.

But let’s say you think you want to talk about it. Jealousy is totally 2011 and you’re all about the here and the now. Great. Be prepared to answer your question first. In fact, you should really aim to answer first. If you’re the one who wants to know you have to be able to show a little courage. Be Buzz Aldrin, not John Glen. Buzz Aldrin made the moon his bitch by stepping all over it. Your loved one is going to be a little nervous when you bring up this question so show some courage and say “I have slept with XYZ number of people.”

After you have asked the other person and you have both shared your answers the real problems can arise. There are basically three positions at this point. This is how you should handle each one:

1. You are the sexperienced one. Congrats on all that sweet lovin’ you have accumulated over the years. You need to be a little sensitive toward the other person because your lover may feel a little insecure. Is it less than a five person difference? Okay, no big deal. Is it a 20 person difference? That’s going to be fine, too. But remember that as much as that other person is going to try and not make this discrepancy a big deal (and it might not be) your number is the bigger number and if we know anything about Americans it’s that bigger is ALWAYS better, right? No, but seriously, don’t be a dick about it. Maybe reassure your lover or something. Angle your number appropriately. Say something like “Well, baby, I wouldn’t know how to do INSERT SEX THING HERE to you so well without all those other scrubs. (Make sure you call all the others scrubs.) Don’t shame yourself but let them know that they are more than just another number. And try and laugh about it. Laughing always helps.

2. You are the in(sex)perienced one. Okay, cool. Don’t panic or anything. The important thing is to stay present. Don’t let your mind wander to all those other people. It’s not a home-run derby. In fact, let’s keep in theme and say it’s about how far you hit the ball, not how many times you hit it. 1-500ft home-run is worth 100 ground outs to first. There’s a good chance a portion of their sexual encounters were brief. The secret about one and done sex that no one ever tells you is this: Yes, sometimes it does feel good to just get laid. But nine out of 10 times the best sex you’re going to have is with someone who you care about. You develop a groove. You know they like it with you more than those other people because they keep coming back for it. Trust me. Some of their escapades have been lack luster. Plus wouldn’t you rather be “the best I ever had” if it meant you outsexed 25 guys? It’s not a competition. But damn it’s great to be the winner. Also, you should never shame your partner. Just as there are perfectly acceptable reasons for not having sex, there are a ton of reasons for having a lot of it. If you want to play Rick Perry’s hit board game “Moral Authority” than you shouldn’t have started this conversation.

3. You have the same (or a comparable) number. AMAZING! You lucked out. You both are at two, 20 or 200. Sure you may have gotten there different ways. One of you may have been the turtle — adding two or three to the bed post every year for the past 10 and the other the hare — wilding out freshmen year in what many describe as a “sexplosion.” But hell, you found yourselves at the same place. I don’t even have to write more about this because this is the ideal. If you screw up the conversation at this point — your relationship already had issues.

The important thing to remember that you couldn’t be the person you are today and they couldn’t be the person they were if either of you had different experiences. They might like that you’ve had a bit of practice. They might like your new car smell. Whatever the case, they care about you. Otherwise, why would they put themselves through this awkward endeavor? It’s not an evaluation. Lean back, relax and remind them why they like spending 16 hours straight in bed with you. Soon they’ll forget about those other two, 20 or 200 and you’ll be the most important number in their lives: #1. (Cue Nelly’s “#1” as you ride off into the sunset.) TC mark


image – Michelle Tribe


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  • http://twitter.com/Kunngpow Chantelle (@Kunngpow)

    are we teenagers? geez, who cares?

  • http://twitter.com/Lavinia_Vanilia Ana Lavinia (@Lavinia_Vanilia)

    I think this should be an off limits topic. I also wrote an article about it http://www.examiner.com/article/what-s-your-number-3?no_cache=1343151705

  • phil

    The only correct answer to this question is 2 partners. Although you might or might not have performed oral 37 times, but that doesn’t really count, right?

  • http://www.itmakesmestronger.com/2012/07/what-to-say-when-your-significant-other-asks-how-many-people-you%e2%80%99ve-slept-with-2/ Only L<3Ve @ ItMakesMeStronger.com

    […] Thought Catalog » Love & Sex Add a comment […]

  • Em

    “But nine out of 10 times the best sex you’re going to have is with someone who you care about… It’s not a competition. But damn it’s great to be the winner.”


  • Ali

    What I never understood was the whole “Oh wow, he/she has slept with 20 people, they’re a slut!” When they might’ve only gotten laid once every couple of weeks or something, and yet, you may have only slept with 5 people, but get laid every day. Who’s penis/vagina is being used more here? Hmmmmm?

    Generally though I just think it’s funny. Sex is sex and people need to stop freaking out about it. You’d think after all these millenia of doin’ it, we’d freak out about it a little less.

  • from the Philippines

    This question shouldn’t be asked anyway. Who cares right? But others really care especially in my country. If you’ll answer more than 1, then you’re a slut. -___- I really can’t understand that perspective.

    • Filipina

      Oh yeah. That’s how Filipinos roll and I also hate it. We’re trying to be conservative people when most of us are naughty and want to have sex. We should just accept that we need sex and people should not judge by the numbers.

  • bb

    I’m surprised you didn’t touch on fudging numbers.

  • H

    There are some sentences in #1 that are seriously hard to follow, but actually most of its good advice. Overall, I think I agree with Ana Lavinia, it should really be off limits.

  • http://whatslyfe.wordpress.com No-s♠r

    Reblogged this on Whatslyfe.

  • Jen

    What if you’re a virgin? Not because you don’t believe in sex before marriage, but just because you’re an awkward nerd, have some bad luck, and figure that its already been 24 years, you might as well wait at least a little until you think you like them a lot? When does that conversation happen…? Anyone?

    • Katie

      The last guy I dated was a virgin when we met. He was twenty. I never thought it was a big deal. Well… at least not after about five minutes. It was more that I was afraid he would regret it than anything else, but once he assured me that it was something he wanted to do, it was on. Hahaha.

  • Kablam

    What if you.. Lied? Before my boyfriend and I were serious, we had this convo and I may have left one person out.. Or was it two? Either way, a year and a half later I still hope the conversation never comes up & I mess up! Because I’m pretty sure he remembers lol.. I suppose I’d just come clean haha, we don’t have any other secrets and I like it that way.

  • http://intheforgotten.wordpress.com kaitovillar

    Reblogged this on In the forgotten..

    • http://twitter.com/Lavinia_Vanilia Ana Lavinia (@Lavinia_Vanilia)

      Like I said, I think it should be off limits. But if a guy I date insists, I would tell he is my number 5. I just hope there will not be a convention of my exes very soon…They will be some people on my number 5 spot. :))) I agree with Ali, you can have sex for a billion of reasons, sex is just sex, we should stop freaking about it.

  • Alexandria

    The moral to this story should be: if you’ve both slept with no one, then this conversation really isn’t awkward at all. WAIT.

  • http://firstimpressionnetwork.wordpress.com/2012/08/02/link-lovage-2/ Link Lovage « First Impression Network

    […] Have you shared your number? (Thought Catalogue) […]

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