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Your Partner Is Probably Lying About How Many People They've Slept With

A new survey says both men and women stretch the truth when it comes to past partners.

It's an inevitable question in any burgeoning relationship, but it's also the one people tend to dread the most: "How many people have you slept with?" Some people fess up, others try to avoid answering at all, and some lie—actually, many lie. According to a new survey, a third of Americans have lied to a significant other about the number of sexual partners they've had. For more on who's lying the most and why, read on. And for other findings on the trials and tribulations of dating, check out Half of Men Say They Would Break Up With a Woman Who Does This.

The Oct. 2020 survey commissioned by intimate lifestyle brand Lelo and conducted by OnePoll found that more men are being dishonest about the number of people they've slept with. While 42 percent of men confess they've lied about their number, only 23 percent of women said the same.

The survey found that 48 percent of respondents in relationships who haven't revealed their number admitted it was because they were worried about their partner's reaction—and 21 percent of that group said that's what caused them to lie. "The main reason people tend to lie about partner count is fear of judgment," says relationship expert David Bennett. "There is still a stigma associated with a large number of past partners."

The survey also found that some dishonest daters felt they should lie because their partner's number was too far from their own, so they fabricated a number closer to their partner's.

It's also possible that people omit one or two mistakes they'd rather forget from the list. "A person may regret sleeping with someone in their past, and not want to acknowledge the pain or regret associated with that, so they just omit them from their partner count," says Bennett. "They may not be trying to 'hide' anything on purpose, so much as possibly feeling shame or judgment."

While it may seem like just a fleeting fib in the moment, lying about any past experiences can lead to trouble down the line. "The main negative ripple effect is that any lying in a relationship can be detrimental to the health of the relationship," says Bennett.

Marriage and family therapist and author Sharon Gilchrest O'Neill says she has seen this topic reemerge and become a serious problem between couples in her practice. It can cause "serious distress, to the extent that a partner will say: 'If I had known how many people you slept with, I would have thought of you differently and been more wary of getting serious—and now I wonder if I can ever trust you to tell the real truth?'" Gilchrest O'Neill explains.

Although cliché, the old saying "honesty is the best policy" is apt here. Your partner should be able to accept every part of you and your past. If you feel anxious that your truth is too much for them, they might not be the right person for you.

In the OnePoll survey, tallying up the number of sexual partners you've had was voted the most uncomfortable conversation topic to broach with a romantic partner, with 45 percent of respondents marking it the worst of the worst. Here are the other most uncomfortable conversations you can have with your partner, according to the survey respondents. And for more on dishonesty in relationships, find out The Age When Married Men Are Most Likely to Cheat.

What they can do better in bed

Couple on opposite sides of the bed not talking

27 percent

To avoid killing the mood, check out This Is the Worst Thing You Could Say to Someone in Bed.


Couple talking and laughing together in bed

32 percent

And for more facts about who's getting it on often, know that Men With These 3 Personality Traits Have the Most Sex, Study Shows.

Sexual preferences

Couple having a serious talk in bed

33 percent

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Past sexual experiences

Couple talking about past sexual experiences together

45 percent

To see what tends to send men running, check out The No. 1 Turn-Off for Men, According to a Therapist.

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