-- Question for John --
I am in a new relationship. In most ways it is great. But there is one thing that bothers me uncontrollably. Just before we got together my girlfriend was dating someone else. It got a little intimate, but he didn’t follow through. Then she met me. She kept talking to him, but was open and honest with both of us. He was a friend, she was dating me. Then he tried something sexual with her.
Yes, after she told him about me, he got very sexual and suggestive in his conversations with her. She was very honest with me and told me all about it. Things that happened made it obvious to me wht his motives were (to get her back) but she was unsure. She felt he was joking, and that’s just the place he was at in dealing with losing the romantic aspect of the relationship.
It bothers me that she never hung up on him. She eventually asked him to stop, but only after I asked. She tried to let him know where she was at with me, but has always seemed (in my thinking) to soften it as if she’s afraid to hurt him. He is a little messed up and has told her she is the only friend he has to talk to. As far as I know, he still talks to her about his very personal problems.
We have had many fights about this. It’s about the only thing we’ve ever fought about, or at least it’s at the root of it all. I can’t stand to think that she kept him as a friend, even after knowing how much it tears me up inside. She want’s me to accept that she loves me (though she struggles to share her true feelings for me) and accept she only feels for him as a friend. She won’t choose to walk away from him, I can’t walk away from her, but I can’t stand him being in her life. I am convinced he has ulterior motives, but she is convinced he’s somehow over them. I don’t think he’s healthy minded enough to get over them.
It is a stalemate. If it comes up again, she will walk out on the conversation. I am all eaten up inside, and I see no solution. I need help. She is incredible to me, and she cares about me (but I don’t think I’m incredible to her).
I wish I could accept it but I can’t get over it. I’ve thought about walking away, and I don’t have problems dating, butI’ve never met someone as special to me as her. Other than this she is so wonderful. I am totally stuck, and totally exhausted emotionally. It’s a stalemate, and I loose no matter what I choose.
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-- Answer from John --
I’ve been there. At your age, in a brand new relationship, I had the same stuff come up in the first few months. And it almost did in the relationship.
I know what you mean by being uncontrollably affected by the situation. My anxiety was very high. I felt extremely insecure.
However, despite all that, probably because I knew on some level I had inner insecurities at the root of it all — I decided to treat the situation differently than trying to get her to stop talking to the “threatening” other man.
I realized my behavior was the real threat to our relationship, when I tried to “put her in my jail” by not talking to the other guy. I wanted a soul mate, not a cell mate. So what was I doing? And I didn’t just want a stale mate.
Regardless of whatever else was going on in the situation, I was actually the person throwing some major problem into the relationship for her to deal with. It was mostly based on my own source of anxiety, my own insecurities.
Sure, the other guy had motives. Sure, she would try to be reassuring. And, sure, in reality, there is always a risk in love. And the more important the love — the more it grabs you at your core — the more anxiety you can feel, once you start heading down the road of insecurity.
But the other actual reality that even I could not dispute was that I was behaving in a way that would drive any sane woman away from me, i.e. trying to control her. Love is meant to be free, as they say. Not put into a jail cell. Soul mates or cell mates? What works, really?
So I woke up to an entirely different way of dealing with the situation. That was to work with the inner part of me that got so darn insecure when I was finally in a relationship with a woman who meant everything to me. The only issue I could ever “control” was within me, not her.
Once I spoke that realization to her, she was very impressed I was willing to do some personal and emotional growth. And that actually made our relationship more solid and built real intimate emotional trust. Because, frankly, it is rather rare to find a guy who is willing to see, own and deal with his insecurities and inner anxiety. Mostly, women have come to expect that is a burdon (to soothe the guy’s insecure anxieties) that they have to bear. And, frankly, they come to resent it.