Past Hurts & Present Concerns: Advice Needed for a Stronger Bond

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    Hi everyone,

    I’m reaching out today because I’m hoping to gain some valuable insights from this supportive community. Like many of us, I’m navigating the complexities of relationships, and I’ve encountered some challenges that I’d like to address.

    My first hurdle involves overcoming past relationship experiences. Two broken engagements have left me with residual doubts about my ability to fully commit and trust in marriage. I’ve been practicing meditation to become more aware of these lingering thoughts and avoid acting impulsively. However, sometimes the emotions surrounding these past relationships can still be intense. These emotions can occasionally trigger false hope about reconnecting with an ex, which ultimately leads to feelings of guilt towards my current girlfriend.

    Secondly, I’m facing a more personal challenge related to physical intimacy in my current relationship. While I deeply value my girlfriend’s qualities and cherish our time together, I’m finding it challenging to discover a form of physical expression that feels completely fulfilling for both of us. My personal preferences in this area don’t seem to align with her, and this has unfortunately led to a decrease in my overall desire for intimacy, causing me worry and concern.

    I think that physical attraction might be an important aspect of a healthy relationship, and I believe in open communication. That’s why I’m reaching out for advice. Has anyone else faced similar challenges? What strategies have you found helpful in building a stronger foundation for intimacy and connection?

    Thank you all in advance for your insights and support. I truly appreciate the opportunity to learn from this wonderful community.


    Hi Henry

    I hope it’s okay if I call you Henry?

    Would you like to talk a little more about how these broken engagements happened? It’s okay if you don’t, I understand that these things are painful. Sometimes insights can be found in the details.

    It makes sense that these past difficulties are affecting your current relationship. In different ways we are all affected by our past relationships. I think you’re very brave and self-aware for wanting to work on these issues to overcome the difficulties with commitment.

    In what way don’t your personal preferences align with your partners in regards to intimacy? I’m sorry for asking for more information. It could just be helpful to have a little more context.

    I would agree that attraction and intimacy are important parts of a relationship. Do you feel attracted to your partner and vice versa?

    I feel like communication is very helpful with intimacy. Different things feel good to different people and what may work for one partner may not work for another. I found talking about these things very helpful with my partner. It helps for both partners to be open and willing to take guidance. I would say that there is no place for negativity in communication about intimacy though. No one wants to feel hurt. Keeping communication short and sweet works for us. Practical directions are helpful. And it can be good to do research online for new things to try. Of course, I wouldn’t recommend doing things that either partner is uncomfortable with.

    Wishing you all the best! ❤️🙏


    Dear Henryanhng:

    Welcome and thank you for your appreciation of the forums!

    Two broken engagements have left me with residual doubts about my ability to fully commit and trust in marriage… sometimes the emotions surrounding these past relationships can still be intense. These emotions can occasionally trigger false hope about reconnecting with an ex, which ultimately leads to feelings of guilt towards my current girlfriend… My personal preferences in this area (physical expression) don’t seem to align with her, and this has unfortunately led to a decrease in my overall desire for intimacy, causing me worry and concern“-

    – As I understand it, your bond with your current girlfriend is not strong enough (the title of your thread: “Concerns.. for a Stronger Bond“), partly because she does not adequately communicate openly with you (“I believe in open communication. That’s why I’m reaching out for advice“, reaching out here, in the forums, not reaching out to her, not at this point, at least), and there is a certain sexual incompatibility between the two of you, resulting in your reduced physical- sexual attraction to her.

    You are also dealing with lingering distrust following two broken engagements, as well as a lingering emotional attachment/ longing to one or both of your ex fiancées, which causes you to feel guilty in regard to your girlfriend.

    I’m reaching out for advice. Has anyone else faced similar challenges? What strategies have you found helpful in building a stronger foundation for intimacy and connection?“-

    – I have faced great challenges in trusting people, and still do (to a lesser, or lessening extent). Distrust and Intimacy and Connection are antithetical, they don’t go together.

    Trust is necessary for a strong bond.

    The question, as I see it, is: is your distrust in your girlfriend a function of who she really is, or is it a function of your past inaccurately projected into her?

    In other words: did you do your best to openly communicate with her, over time, in an inviting way (a sensitive, gentle way), and she did not reciprocate, or became defensive or offensive as a result?

    Or did she share with you that, let’s say, that she’s shy and it is very difficult for her to ask for what she wants, or maybe even to know what she wants?

    Helpful in building a stronger foundation for intimacy and connection” is the feeling of safety in each other’s company (no aggression, direct or indirect), really listening to each other (putting oneself in the other’s shoes, so to speak), being patient with each other, validating each other’s feelings, being accepting vs critical.

    About your guilt regarding your feeling, at times, of hope about reconnecting with an ex: we don’t choose how we feel. No choice= No Personal Responsibility= No Valid Guilt. We are responsible for what we say (or type), and what we do.



    Hi Helcat,

    Hi Anita,

    I would like to share more detail about my situation:

    My first relationship ended because she decided to move back to her hometown permanently. At the time, I had a full-time job in the city, so we attempted a long-distance relationship for a while, but it ultimately didn’t work.

    During this long-distance phase with my first ex, I met my previous ex-fiancée (the second broken engagement). Looking back, I realize I wasn’t fully committed to her. I often found myself stuck in a cycle of reminiscing about my past relationship and couldn’t fully move on emotionally. This ultimately led to her calling off the engagement.

    Now about the current relationship: I can share that I tend to be attracted to women who have a more balanced or curvy figure. Unfortunately, I haven’t felt that physical spark with my current petite frame and minimal bust girlfriend, and it’s impacting our intimacy. Because bringing up my physical preferences feels selfish, I haven’t been able to communicate this openly with her. While I encouraged her to consider some lifestyle changes, I understand these things can be heavily influenced by genetics. I want to support her health in a way that feels right for her, not just for me.

    I believe my biggest challenge lies in my perspective or outlook, along with my ability to accept and move on from what cannot be changed.



    Hi Henry

    Have you tried practicing mindfulness or meditation before? Since you seem to have some difficulties focusing on the present, it may be helpful for you to practice.

    I’m sorry to hear about the difficulties with your previous relationships.

    It makes sense that you would still be preoccupied in the 2nd relationship because there wasn’t a gap between partners. You didn’t process your emotions with the first break up before dating.

    But you are still reminiscing about past relationships now. Do you feel like you have emotionally processed the breakups?

    Some part of you feels like there may be a chance of getting back together. I’ve always found it helpful to have a rule of no backsies. It helps me to emotionally disconnect from the past.

    Both times, the relationship ending hasn’t been your choice. How did that feel for you? Do you worry at all about your current relationship ending?

    Is your partner anorexic, or skinny with an unhealthy weight? Or is your partner skinny but of a healthy weight? If it’s the latter, I wouldn’t recommend that she changes her eating habits and gains weight.

    Have you considered purchasing lingerie for her? Would she find that acceptable? There are some kinds that enhance the bust.

    I guess that weight wise, I have found that physical attraction can fluctuate in relationships. But I value the connection with my partner more than that and am attracted to my partner in other ways. It didn’t stop us from having sex or impact enjoyment. I just focused on other things.

    Do you feel emotionally intimate with your partner? Do you have a strong emotional connection and attachment?

    I feel like weight is a very personal and touchy subject. I’ve never broached it with my partner. We’ve always been body positive and let each other figure things out for ourselves. Weight does fluctuate over the course of a lifetime, people can be skinny, overweight and everything in between at different stages in life.

    I would also say that there are people who I haven’t been attracted to and tried to date them at their request and it didn’t go very well.

    Wishing you all the best! ❤️🙏


    Dear HenryNahNg:

    * This is a very long post because of all the quotes from 2 online sources that I copied and pasted here. Sometimes the result of the copying and pasting is lots of excess print. If that happens, I will re-submit my post without the excess print. Please feel free to read or not to read any or all of the long post to follow.

    (I am adding the boldface feature selectively to the following quotes from your two posts:  “I’m navigating the complexities of relationships …Two broken engagements have left me with residual doubts… I’m finding it challenging to discover a form of physical expression that feels completely fulfilling for both of us… What strategies have you found helpful in building a stronger foundation for intimacy and connection?… my biggest challenge lies in my perspective or outlook“-

    – your choice of words indicates to me that you intellectualize emotions. It is a defense strategy that creates a distance between you and your emotions. It also creates a distance between you and other people. When you intellectualize your emotions, you suppress them, and suppressed emotions hinder connecting with others on a deep emotional level.

    What strategies have you found helpful in building a stronger foundation for intimacy and connection?”- one excellent strategy would be to stop intellectualizing your emotions.

    From psychology today/ how to stop intellectualizing your emotions: “In a world that often values rationality and control, we frequently find ourselves intellectualizing our emotions. This process involves dissecting our feelings, analyzing them, and attempting to manage them with logic. While intellectualizing emotions can be helpful in some situations, it can also lead to a disconnection from our true emotional experiences…

    “Intellectualizing emotions is a defense mechanism that serves as a shield against the overwhelming intensity of feelings. It’s the process of suppressing emotions by overthinking, analyzing, or explaining them away… While intellectualizing emotions might seem like a coping mechanism, it often has detrimental effects on mental and emotional well-being. Here are a few reasons why it’s essential to address this habit:

    “Emotional Suppression: When you intellectualize your emotions, you suppress them. This can lead to unresolved emotional issues that fester over time, potentially resulting in more significant problems like anxiety or depression.

    “Interpersonal Relationships: Intellectualizing emotions can hinder your ability to connect with others on an emotional level. It might make you appear distant or unapproachable, making it challenging to build meaningful relationships.

    “Physical Health: Continuously suppressing emotions can lead to physical health issues such as increased stress, high blood pressure, and weakened immune system functioning…

    “One of the most apparent signs of intellectualizing emotions is overthinking… Rationalizing is another sign that you’re intellectualizing your emotions. You might find yourself coming up with logical explanations or excuses for why you’re feeling a certain way, rather than accepting the emotion itself.. Minimizing your emotions involves downplaying their significance…

    “Learning to Embrace Your Emotions… Practicing self-compassion is a crucial step in reconnecting with your emotions… Mindfulness techniques can help you become more aware of your emotions as they arise. By staying present and nonjudgmental in the moment, you can observe your feelings without trying to intellectualize or suppress them…

    “Intellectualizing your emotions may seem like a way to maintain control, but it often comes at the cost of disconnecting from your true emotional experiences. To lead a healthier and more fulfilling life, it’s essential to recognize the signs of intellectualization and take steps to embrace your emotions authentically. The journey to emotional authenticity is a personal one, and it may require time and effort. But the rewards are profound—a deeper connection with yourself, healthier relationships, and improved overall well-being.”

    From nick wignell/ intellectualized emotions: “When was the last time you said out loud: I feel sad or, I’m angry? If you’re anything like me, probably not so recently—like, maybe not since you were in elementary school. We adults tend to avoid using plain emotional language to describe how we feel. When asked how we’re doing, it somehow feels strange to simply say I feel sad—as though it’s too childlike and simplistic. Instead, we say much more adult things like: I’m upset or, I’m just spread too thin or, I’m really worried.

    “But these more adult words and phrases we use to describe how we feel aren’t really emotions at all. And our habit of using them allows us to think we’re communicating how we feel, when in reality we’re doing the exact opposite — hiding how we feel…

    Intellectualizing your emotions is an unconscious verbal habit of rejecting plain emotional vocabulary and substituting a more vague, conceptual, or metaphorical idea to communicate how you feel emotionally… Saying I’m sad is a little more uncomfortable and raw than saying I’m upset. And to avoid this emotional vulnerability and discomfort, we intellectualize our emotions to keep them at a distance and decrease their intensity.

    “We’re able to intellectualize our emotions like this through two tricks of language: 1. Umbrella Terms. Umbrella terms are generic words that act as containers for many possible feelings. If you got fired from your job, there are probably a lot of emotions swirling around your head (mad, terrified, disappointed, confused, despondent, etc.). These emotions can feel less overwhelming when we package them up in the linguistic container of upset… Common umbrella terms include stressed/ stressed-outweirdupsetfineokayoverwhelmedoff, etc. 2. Metaphors. Spread too thin is a really great metaphor for what happens when we have too much going on in our lives…  And while they’re illustrative and evocative, metaphors can also be shifty and vague, perfect vehicles for pretending like we’re saying something without actually having to say it…

    “Now, at this point you might be wondering.. What’s so bad about intellectualizing my emotions a bit? Especially if it helps me avoid pain? In small doses, I don’t think there’s anything wrong with it. Your dry cleaning guy doesn’t need to know the intimate details of your guilt over that argument with your sister-in-law… A little emotional suppression allows society to function. But when that emotional suppression and hiding becomes a firmly ingrained habit that we can’t shut off, it makes us rigid and inflexible. Specifically, when we’re in a habit of not talking to ourselves or others about how we feel in a plain way, it becomes difficult to do so when it’s truly necessary. And this can become problematic in a few ways…

    “In my experience, there are three subtle but powerful threats to our emotional health and well-being that come from the habit of intellectualizing our emotions. 1. Lack of Emotional Clarity I see the problem of intellectualizing emotions all the time with my therapy clients who are struggling with some type of mental health issue…  2. Poor Self-Awareness… it’s difficult to change how we feel if we don’t really know how we feel in the first place… By avoiding talking specifically about how we feel, we avoid thinking specifically about how we feel. And if we do that long enough, we really don’t know how we feel. Like any other skill—from speaking French to powerlifting—if you stop practicing, you’ll lose competency. And it’s no different with your emotional life.. So before you can work on improving how you feel, you have to establish the habit of describing how you feel in plain, genuine language. No metaphors, no vague generic terms, just plain emotions: sad, mad, scared, ashamed, disappointed, excited, etc.

    3. Isolation and Alienation The last major downside to being stuck in a habit of intellectualizing your emotions is that it’s isolating. One of the primary ways we human beings forge connections with each other is by being vulnerable and sharing intimate aspects of ourselves with others… While uncomfortable, sharing our feelings humanizes us and makes us relatable. Nobody wants to be friends with someone who’s just fine all the time. We all crave connections with people, not robots…

    How to Stop Intellectualizing Your Emotions Below are a few tips for getting started changing your emotional language away from the intellectualized and general toward the plain and specific. * Awareness… * Prepare Alternatives… Try this: Google ’emotions list,’ print one out, and carry it around with you. Whenever you notice yourself using an intellectualized emotion, pull out your list and find a more appropriate emotional word. Do this enough and those real emotions will get easier to pull up and use on your own.

    “* Lean into the discomfort. The biggest reason we avoid using plain emotions to describe how we feel is that we’re afraid that it will be too uncomfortable—either to us or someone else. We worry that if we acknowledge our sadness, we’ll sink back into depression; or that if we communicate our anger, we’ll make our spouse feel guilty. In other words, we intellectualize our emotions because we’re afraid of them and their consequences. But while emotions can be uncomfortable, they’re not dangerous—no one ever died from guilt or became depressed because of sadness (in fact, there’s pretty good evidence that it’s the avoidance of sadness that leads to depression). In any case, to get over our fear of our own emotions, we need to start being willing to experience them and build up resilience. Start small: Instead of telling your spouse you’re just tired, explain that I’m a little frustrated that you

    Wrapping Up Expressing how we feel in plain, clear language can be surprisingly scary and uncomfortable. And in order to avoid this discomfort, we all tend to intellectualize our emotions—to take a genuine emotional feeling like sad or scared, and verbally wrap it up in a less intense idea like upset or stressed. While this is a natural and even useful tool at times, it can come with serious downsides if it becomes a mindless habit and our standard operating procedure including staying stuck in mental health struggles, having trouble with personal development goals, and getting caught in cycles of isolation and loneliness. But in small ways we can begin to change our emotional language by consciously choosing to use real emotion words to describe how we feel.”

    Back to your words, HenryAnhNg: “the emotions surrounding these past relationships can still be intense.. I haven’t been able to communicate this openly with her“- you can, if you would like to, communicate openly here, in your thread, by doing this exercise: translate your Intellectualized Emotions Writing (IEW, if you will), into Real Emotions Writing (REW). For example, taken from the 2nd paragraph of your original post (I am not you, of course, therefore the translation is my own, offered as an example of what it could be for you, but not necessarily so):

    My first hurdle involves overcoming past relationship experiences. Two broken engagements have left me with residual doubts about my ability to fully commit and trust in marriage“- I feel sad and scared because two of my previous relationships ended badly for me.



    How are you, HenryNahNg?



    Just voicing my opinion, …

    I think it selfish to say that the person one is with is not the way you want her to be. Of course there is nothing wrong in wanting thing the way you want them to be. Just that it is selfish. Whenever I got involved with a girl, there was physical attraction. But, there was a little more to it. And even if the person isn’t exactly physically the way you want them to be, The love and enjoyment of being together should be enough. If it isn’t then you should not be with that person. You will only being wanting something else. That won’t be good for you or her.

    Next is that physical attraction is not the only thing you want. Being a man you want a woman who will be there for you. Help you in your efforts. Be a partner to your life. Loyalty. Trust worthy. Compassionate. Loving. Supportive. That doesn’t always comes in a seductive package. And these qualities are much more important to me.

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