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    Dear White Desann,

    I totally respect that you wouldn’t want to share everything on a forum.

    INTJ is one of the truly lovely types!  I have known a couple of INTJs in my time – usually people of great integrity and intellectual depth.  I myself am ISFJ.

    I agree with your deduction about your exes.  It says a lot about who you are, that they both wanted to remain friends with you.

    Ruminating, being on edge, worrying about mistakes – all clear symptoms of anxiety, and a specific type of anxiety.  It takes one to know one.  It sounds to me like you have an unrelenting standards schema.  I’ve had schema therapy for that myself.  It’s important that you realise that no partner will remove that inner voice of criticism from you, but there’s a good chance that a therapist that you connect with / have a rapport with would.  It’s self work and not relationship work really that will be the key.  Schema therapy really helped me minimise that critical voice in my own head (that inner perfectionism – holding myself to extremely high standards), which generated a lot of inner anxiety.  The most hilarious example of this from my own life (from the benefit of hindsight – though it was a little sad) was when I was once chopping carrots while preparing dinner for my ex-partner, and I became anxious when I realised I had not cut them perfectly and feared she would reject me for being a bad cook.  It’s hilariously absurd in hindsight, but I was genuinely stressed about it!

    If you can’t find a schema therapist in your area, I can suggest a book (and any related literature) that might really help you work through stuff on your own.  It has a whole chapter dedicated to unrelenting standards schemas and how they are rooted in our childhood development.  The book is called ‘Reinventing Your Life:  The Breakthrough Program to End Negative Behaviour and Feel Great Again’ by Young and Klosko.

    Absolutely though, we all deserve stability and honesty from a partner.

    I too spent much of my teens with my head in books and videogames.  If anything though, that experience gave you the depth and intellectual rigour that you have to this day.  What a precious gift and an asset that you can bring to any future relationship!  You are far, far deeper than a kiddy pool… and the kind of man that the right kind of intellectual woman would be so intrigued by, to the point of finding you irresistible.

    You’re very welcome and I hope at least some of the above offers a valuable perspective on things in your journey.


    Dear Aim,

    It sounds like you are going through some challenging times on multiple fronts (financial stress, a big lifestyle change, and wanting to feel empowered in your desires / dreams / decision-making processes in your marriage).

    I respect the views of everyone else here but my own view is that you should never feel like you have to settle down into any major life decision that isn’t right for you.  In any relationship / marriage it is important that you feel like you have a voice, and any needs / concerns can be heard.

    I appreciate marriages are complex, though.  For us males we are often culturally conditioned to be “providers” and a lot of males still, to this day and age, take great pride in being decision-makers and go-getters.  Your husband may just be following a path that he has been taught is the template for traditional marital success, to try to understand things through his eyes and his experience.  But we don’t have to adhere to tradition for tradition’s sake, especially not if it’s causing you anxiety or making you feel miserable or financially stressed.  We are all different, and some of us are free spirits like you.  I can hear that you really enjoy music and that it’s a central part of your life.  With things like this it’s important to carve out a space for us to self-actualise, so we can set up our lives in a way that makes us happy.

    It will be a tricky negotiation but I do think it’s important you discuss this fully and respectfully with your husband – especially if the decision to move to the country is the right one for you.  That isn’t to say you won’t be able to find a way to make things work in the country, but you need to decide on a way forward as a team – and particularly, on a pragmatic level, how you are both going to keep a viable income stream going for the sake of the baby.

    Have you and your husband considered going to a financial counsellor?  That may be beneficial and help you both feel more empowered in plotting a way forward.

    If your passion is for piano teaching and you can find a way to make that work financially, I say go for it – follow your dreams!  Life is too short for anything else, or to settle for something that makes you unhappy.  In this day and age it also may be worth considering getting a side hustle or two… some kind of work you can do from home to bring in a little extra money.

    Warmest wishes for a positive outcome as you navigate your way through these storms.  I will check up on your post over the coming week if you want to continue to correspond about this.


    Dear White Desann,

    Thank you for sharing with us some of your relationship history (and it’s not boring to me at all).  It is helpful to get a sense of your experiences and what you might be looking for.  I’m so sorry, though, to hear of the painful end to your first relationship.  You should be proud of yourself for the strength and resilience you demonstrated in overcoming the loss.  Not all people manage to get to that point, as you did.

    I want to echo some of the beautiful words of Valora above, especially:  “You’ve been shown that “myself is not enough” so far because the ones you’ve dated haven’t been the right matches. If you aren’t the right match for them, they also aren’t the right match for you. ”  I think you’re way too hard on yourself for the way things ended in your first relationship.  It reads like you went into that with pure intentions and had to suffer an unexpected and traumatic turn of events.  Often, sadly life is just like that – through no major fault of our own.  You aren’t clairvoyant, but us humans have a terrible habit of berating ourselves with the benefit of hindsight for not “seeing” problems or being able to somewhat anticipate or change a traumatic event.  There may be more to the story but from everything you’ve described it was a pretty unforeseen outcome, and you can’t hold yourself accountable for that.  No one is perfect and we all make mistakes (it’s how we learn!).  But even though you aren’t perfect, you will be perfect for the woman that is your match, and vice versa.  The right woman for you would only see your flaws as minor frustrations or temporary setbacks – simply things for you both to work through as your love deepens.

    I think what you’ve said about the assumptions we often leap to in online dating is a perfect example of why it often sets us up for failure.  It may be a better use of your time to find ways just to get out and meet people without any attachment to outcome, and while doing some kind of activity you like.  You’ll likely meet some really lovely woman when you least expect to, when it’s the furthest possible thing from your mind.

    And don’t beat yourself up for feeling lonely or desiring a perfect someone to fill the void.  We all feel that when we’re single and it’s perfectly normal and part of being human.  I have been single mostly for about a year now, and have had moments of loneliness, so I totally get what you’re feeling.  We would all love that special someone to come home to, to share our day with, to go on adventures with, to have deep and meaningful chats with, etc.   It’s especially torturous when you’ve had and experienced that (which it sounds like you have), because the happiness of being with a special someone is so magical and so delicious.  So life sometimes feels strange and unsatisfying in the absence of that once we have but tasted it.

    You don’t need to feel like you derive your sense of worth from anyone else.  You could use this time of being single productively, to get to a point where you can derive your sense of worth and purpose from yourself and yourself alone.  I truly feel that is the way forward for you.

    What do you feel you are most looking for from a partner?  What kind of traits and qualities are you most attracted to?  It may really help you to visualise those – while you get on with the business of making your life as happy as it can be while you are on your own for now.  That way you will more readily recognise it when it comes along.

    You’re a beautiful human, and you should never feel like you’re not good enough.  You are good enough.  Don’t give up hoping for a better tomorrow.


    Hi White Desann,

    Firstly, I want to echo what Anita and Marge have said… you’re clearly an intelligent, articulate, sensitive man with a lot going for you.  You put a lot of thought and reflection into your life and behaviour.  You sound like a really good catch.

    I can hear that you are feeling very critical and judgmental of yourself.  You hold yourself to very high standards.  Coming from someone that has experienced a similar journey in life, putting that kind of intense pressure on yourself to succeed can become such a source of suffering and a real limitation to your goals, ironically.  You deserve forgiveness and self-love for all your mistakes and imperfections.  We are all beautifully flawed humans and none of us have it all together 100% of the time.  It’s important you take alleviating your self-criticism very seriously, because relieving that constant pressure will allow you to relax, to work through things at a more forgiving and gentler pace and to truly savour all the weird and wonderful moments of your journey to find true love.

    I also want to reinforce some of the comments Marge made about online dating.  My perspective is a little different but after trying online dating for the first time this year, I have come to similar conclusions.  I have known friends that have found love successfully online to be sure.  But there are many pitfalls too.  With a lot of people you meet online, you are meeting them in an atmosphere of romantic expectation and pressure, and there are all kinds of unhelpful behaviour dynamics that evolve out of that, such as game playing, judgmental behaviours, and rejection to name but a few.  Whereas if you meet people organically, it is basically just a conversation, and you have a proper opportunity to test the waters and to explore the depth of your connection without all those expectations of romance sitting there in the background.  In my own experiences with online dating, the two women I briefly ended up dating had a real connection with me, but both also had abandonment issues, became clingy and introduced a lot of pressure to rush into a relationship at a pace that made me feel really uncomfortable, and in the end I felt like I didn’t even really know them on a deep enough level that could justify that kind of commitment, so I walked away.  There simply wasn’t enough time to establish a connection absent the atmosphere of expectation that online dating often creates.

    None of this is to say your experience will be anything like mine, of course.  You do you – you need to find the path that is the right one for you.   But if you elect to keep pursuing online dating, do it on your terms and in a way that makes sense to you and is aligned with your goals and your own way of approaching things.  Don’t feel like you have to fit any particular mold.

    I’m curious as to what your previous experiences of relationships have been and how they have helped form your desires and expectations for a new relationship?

    As to your anxiety, that kind of thing is always complex and will take some more time and effort for you to unpack.  But your post reads like (as for so many of us) your anxiety is generated by wanting to seem attractive to a potential lover and to be a pleaser.  But you could flip this perspective around and ask:  what will she contribute to your life?  What happiness will she bring, and how are her personality/interests/strengths/weaknesses aligned with your own?  Don’t ever feel like you have to barter away your own standards just to not be alone.  It’s a very understandable and human pattern we all fall into at times, because we crave attachment.  But finding a way to let go of that sense of attachment is so often the way forward to finding true love, paradoxically – because a true love would be a love where we accept ourselves and another without feeling like we have to look or act a particular way.  It’s okay to be who you are – to work on your flaws / limitations and bask in your strengths.

    And your problems are definitely not incredibly minor.  They are universal human problems that we all face in our lives.  And you deserve empathy, respect and compassion for whatever feelings you’re struggling with.

    As Marge says, meeting people organically will be more slowly paced but it is definitely a healthier way to meet people.  Maybe get involved in some clubs or groups doing things you love and just explore social connections in the context of being yourself and doing activities that you enjoy.  Your perception of London is valid in light of your feelings but not in light of the reality of the romantic potential of living in a modern metropolis.  Your opportunities to meet attractive, available and worthy partners are vastly wider than those living in country or more regional areas, where the dating pool is much more limited.  It is just a matter of finding the right environments where you’re in your element, involved in the work or passions that make you who you are.

    Wishing you the best of luck too and do let us know how it goes!


    Dear Anonymous,

    It sounds like you are facing a really gut-wrenching crossroad in your future life planning, and I am sorry to read of your guilt and to imagine how torn you’re feeling.

    One question jumps out at me:  is the only reason why you’ve had to consider breaking up the distance that being on the other side of the world would impose?  Or is there more to the story?  There are many examples of people successfully navigating long-distance relationships across continents, and you mention that you are “veterans,” so if anyone could weather the storms of long periods of absence, perhaps you two could?

    It sounds like he is wanting to let go of you to be supportive of your dreams, ambitions and happiness.  Your post reads like he is wanting to put your happiness above the happiness that being together brings him.  That level of selflessness is a wonderful quality to find in anyone, be they partner, family member of friend.  But you needn’t let it guilt you into making a decision that isn’t right for you.

    It may be that you need this time apart, and you need a change in scenery, to truly value and appreciate each other more than you possibly could have if you stayed put.

    As someone who has relocated to a new state twice (once in their 20s and now in their early 30s), I would say that such a change of scenery is one of the best ways to step outside your comfort zone, to challenge yourself and to find new experiences and social circles.  It can also really help you appreciate your original “home” in a new light that you couldn’t before.

    Do you need to decide to end the relationship right now?  Is there another option agreeable to you both?  You both seem to agree that you need the change of scenery, so I wonder if you need to make the drastic decision of ending the relationship here and now.  Is it possible you could see how you are both feeling three to six months into your relocation overseas, and whether your relationship is still tenable from that vantage point?  Or would it be better, from your point of view, to have a clean break and give yourselves the freedom to find where your hearts truly lie?


    Dear Crystal,

    Firstly, I am so sorry for everything you’ve been through.  I can only imagine how painful some of these moments/experiences were for you and the heartache they caused.

    It may be a useful beginning point to acknowledge that very few of us humans get partner choice right early on in our lives, and those that do, often do so out of sheer good luck.  It takes years of experience and wisdom to build a relationship skillset and we all have our blind or weak spots.  The attachment that you’re still feeling to him and your inability to stop thinking of him are also things that we all struggle with when it comes to losing someone we’ve loved.  You have also been through a really traumatic experience with the loss of your child and his coldness and abandonment of you in your time of need, so it’s no wonder that you’re still feeling really hurt and holding on to these feelings.  I hope that these three points might help you give yourself permission just to sit with your feelings as deeply and regularly as you can, and to not judge or punish yourself for reacting in ways that are very normal and very human.

    Often in our culture, there is pressure to think positive or to rush our healing;  this is particularly so in an age of social media and all the complexities that result from making our private lives increasingly public, fearing the judgment of others and the social pressure to seem perfect or beyond criticism at all times.  Of course, that is not realistic and it’s not human.  So be sure you’re not putting pressure on yourself to bottle up your feelings or to feel better before your heart is ready to.  Ironically, acknowledging our negative feelings / emotions and allowing them to be present with us whenever they need to is often the key to feeling better and achieving a positive mindset in the long-term.  And of course, this should be accompanied by giving as much love to yourself as possible, getting to know yourself in terms of your values and what makes you happy, and doing things that you love with the freedom and the advantages that being single allows you.  That kind of positive environmental reinforcement is so helpful when it comes to healing from heartbreak.

    Have you took some time out to reflect on who you are as a person and what you need and value most from your next partner, including your non-negotiables?  If not, that kind of exercise may be valuable.

    You mentioned that you want him to want you still and that you realise that behaviour is unhealthy.  Have you considered what may be causing you to feel / behave in this way (in terms of some of your earlier childhood experiences)?  As others have pointed out on these forums quite aptly, we often replay our relationships with our parents or other significant attachment figures (good and bad) in our adult relationships.  Putting some work into this, whether it’s with a therapist, friends, books or whatever else your medium of personal growth might be, could be really beneficial in terms of breaking any patterns you perceive as negative or unhelpful.

    You also asked for advice about not feeling resentful that you trained him to be better for her.  While it sounds like he is still behaving the same to her and being unfaithful, the brain is plastic and yes, people do sometimes change or grow as a result of our positive influences on them and the ways we help them grow in a relationship.  It may be helpful if you see yourself in the lives of other women he might meet in future.  In other words, if he does manage to change his ways and inflict less hurt on other women in future, haven’t you given those other women such a profound gift, in having prevented their needless suffering through your positive influence on him?  What a precious thing, to have changed him so that his behaviour no longer inflicts such hurt on others as he did on you.  I know that may seem like cold comfort, because you invested so much time and effort into him.  Unfortunately life is full of instances of other people reaping what we ourselves have sown, and it can be a cruel place, but when you meet the person you deserve who fills your cup and gives you the faith and love you desire, you will get back what you’ve given over and above.

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