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Struggles with feelings about relationship

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  • #364894
    Kristine
    Participant

    Hello

    Well this is bound to be long.   I’m so glad I found this place.   I googled ‘feeling broken’ and it brought me here.

    To give some history, I’m a woman in my 50’s.   I married young and stayed married for 20 years.   They weren’t all bad, but many bad times.   My ex had anger issues and was very difficult to live with.  It took me a long time and a lot of courage to divorce at 40.   After my divorce I dated quite a bit but could never get it right.  Dating in your 40’s in this atmosphere was tough.   Most of the men I met didn’t want serious relationships.   I was still having a good time and dating around, fell hard for a small handful but nothing ended up serious.     I have a very full life.  Job that I love, grown kids, more friends than I know what to do with.  I am very blessed and grateful to have such a full life.   But something was missing and I kept looking for it.  I dated for 7 years after my divorce before I met my now bf.

    We met 3 years ago.  He is more than I could have hoped for.   He’s kind, genuine, affectionate, caring.  Good sense of humor, I could go on and on.  We have a great relationship, don’t argue about things, see eye to eye on a lot of important things, we have a lot of fun together.  Karaoke, dancing, comedy, live music, great vacations.   We are still smitten with each other 3 years in.   I never question his love for me or his commitment to me.   We are planning on moving in together next year and talk about forever and maybe getting married in the future.

    His history is quite different from mine, and I think this is where the trouble starts with me.    He never dated for sport,  but he had a lot of long time girlfriends and married late in life, in his 40’s.    He dated his College sweetheart for 8 years.   I asked him why they split up and he told me because he was an idiot.  He broke up with her, then regretted it a short time after, tried to get her back but she had moved on.  So that was many years ago, but even in his 50’s, it seems he still really regrets letting her go.   They keep in touch and we have seen her out and about approx 5 times in those 3 years.    More on this later.    He married in his early 40’s and 8 years later she left him for another man.   He was devastated, tried to fix the marriage (he didn’t know that she had a man on the side until after the divorce was final), did everything he could do to keep her from leaving, cried hard the day they got divorced, it was a bad time for him.

    We met shortly after and started dating.    He’s not one of those people who can’t be alone, but when we were having the conversations about exes and history I could tell he dated a lot of women for long periods of time.   Some broke up with him and some he ended it with.   A mix as is typical.

    For some reason I have issues with his college gf.    She is very sweet, I don’t feel threatened by her at all. She’s married and seems like a happy person and they seem like a happy couple.   We ran into her and her husband one night and ended up hanging out with them in a bar after.    I hated every second of it.   He could tell I was uncomfortable so he was extra affectionate but instead of trying to make me feel better on the ride home, he just kept telling me what a great person she was.  ‘Isn’t she just one of the most genuine people you’ve ever met?’.  Blah, blah.   I think he thought I felt threatened by her romantically but that’s not it at all.    I realized then that it wasn’t that I was threatened by her or jealous of her, it was the feelings that it brought up in me that I was uncomfortable with.    It makes me feel not good enough, like I won’t live up to her.  I think because IMO she’s my bf’s ‘one that got away’ it brings up feelings that I’m not comfortable with.    It makes me feel like I’m his second (or third??) choice.   It makes me feel like he wishes his life worked out differently.

    Then there’s his ex wife.   We don’t see her much but in the beginning they used to be more in touch regarding his step daughter, who is grown.    They didn’t have any children together.   Knowing that he didn’t want the divorce and fought so much to keep it, again makes me feel like I’m not his first choice.   And she’s a bit of a train wreck, nothing like me at all.   So it’s curious to me what he was trying to save.

    So to sum things up here.   I believe because of his long dating history, and having so many exes in his orbit, and having so many relationships in the past that he wished had worked out but didn’t, I feel like I’m not special.  I feel like if we were to break up, he would just find the next girl.  I feel like ‘just another girl’ in the long line of girls.    I feel like he is settling for me because he couldn’t get what he wanted.

    I can’t shake these feelings.   He is the love of my life.   This is the best relationship I have ever been in, and that says a lot since I’m in my 50’s.   I need to feel that he feels the same, and I’m not sure.

    A friend of his passed away this week, someone who he hasn’t seen in a long time but someone he was very close to at one time.   He will attend the funeral and the lunch afterwards, and his college ex and another ex will be there likely, they ran in the same circles.    I’m sick over it.   And I feel horrible because my focus should be on how he’s having a tough time dealing with the death of his friend and all I can think about is him spending any time with this woman that he likely still wished things had worked out with.

    I can’t get over these feelings.  Sometimes I feel broken and like I shouldn’t be in a relationship until I fix myself.  I feel like these are abnormal feelings and I can’t make sense of them.

    I am secure in every other aspect of my life.  I’m great at my job, I have a ton of great friends, I own my own home, I raised 2 great kids.  But this one thing I can’t get over.

    I have the need to know that he loves me in the same way that I love him.  I know you can’t measure love and people love differently.    And I’m not a jealous person, this is not me being jealous and afraid and threatened about his loyalty.  He is as loyal as they come.  This is about me letting his past make me feel bad about myself, feeling not good enough, not special, not his first choice.    He’s a great partner in every way.  Loving, caring, affectionate.  We still sleep all cuddled up together, he’ll rouse just a little in the middle of the night and mutter ‘I love you’ and reach for my hand as he falls back asleep.  We’re sickening to be honest.  lol    My friends who spend any time with us will say “I see how he looks at you, you are the love of his life”.     But I don’t feel it on the inside and it’s causing me so much pain.

    Any thoughts would be greatly appreciated.  Thank you    K

    #364904
    anita
    Participant

    Dear Kristine:

    You shared that you married young for 20 years,  and divorced at 40. Your ex husband “had anger issues and was difficult to live with”. After your divorce you dated quite a bit for 7 years. Most of the men you dated didn’t want a serious relationship. You fell hard for a few, “but nothing ended up serious”.

    Following seven years of dating, you met your now boyfriend of 3 years, a kind, genuine, affectionate, caring, very loyal man. The two of you have a great relationship, don’t argue, see eye to eye on a lot of important things, have fun, still smitten with each other 3 years in. You referred to him as the love of your life,  the two of you are planning to move in together next year and talk about forever and maybe getting married in the future.

    The problem you have is that he shared with you about his relationship history, and what he shared troubles you, particularly two relationships: one with a college sweetheart whom he dated for 8 years and then broke up with her. Then regretted it, tried to get her back, but she moved on. He told you that he was an idiot for breaking up with her. He still keeps in touch with her. The two of you spent some time with her and her husband, following which he told you: “Isn’t she just one of the most genuine people you’ve ever met?”

    The other relationship that troubles you is the one he had with his ex wife who left him after 8 years for another man. He was devastated, tried to fix the marriage, did everything he could to keep her from leaving, and he cried hard the day they got divorced.

    You wrote: “It makes me feel like I’m his second (or third??) choice. It makes me feel like he wishes his entire life worked out differently… I feel like I’m not special. I feel like if we were to break up, he would just find the next girl. I feel like ‘just another girl’ in a long line of girls. I feel like he is settling for me because he couldn’t get what he wanted”.

    * “It makes me feel like I’m his second (or third??) choice”- the distortion in this sentence is that you are ignoring the past-present-future time continuum. It is not that the two other women and you are his girlfriends at the present. One he was done with as a girlfriend in his twenties, the other in his 40s and you are in his 50s.

    I can almost hear you (?) saying, but he still loves them, or what if he still loves them, and that’s why he talked so affectionately about the first one recently.. well, that’s his nostalgia- a very, very common phenomenon: people looking back at their past and seeing it as way more wonderful than it was. The reason for it is that we miss our youth (not the people in it, really). We miss how it felt to be young, when everything was more colorful, more vivid,  more intense.

    “It makes me feel like he wishes his entire life worked out differently”- I don’t think so, not according to what you described about how he treats you. I think you are confusing his nostalgia with a current regret for not being with one of the other women.

    “I feel like if we were to break up, he would just find the next girl”- that’s not his pattern. He would probably cry a lot, and try hard to get you back (don’t test my hypothesis, please).

    In summary, for now: he misses being young, that’s all, as in nostalgia. You are not his second or third choice. You are his first choice, no doubt.

    Please let me know of your thoughts regarding my reply.

    anita

     

     

    • This reply was modified 3 months, 2 weeks ago by anita.
    #364905
    Brandy
    Participant

    Hi Kristine,

    A guy in his 50’s is bound to have had several meaningful relationships, some with women he deeply loved who hurt him. That would be normal. Had he not shared with you the details of these two relationships then you likely wouldn’t feel the way you do. Divulging certain aspects of past relationships with a new partner is risky. He obviously thought it was safe to do so with you and never would have had he seen you as insecure or sensitive.

    You say “I never question his love for me or his commitment to me.” This guys sounds amazing and he’s with you because he wants you.

    B

    #364908
    Kristine
    Participant

    Thank you both so much for taking the time to reply.    I know all of these things logically, I just can’t seem to keep my emotions in check and inline with my head.     Anita you make a lot of good points, I will read them all again.    Brandy, thank you so much, makes a lot of sense.   And he is amazing.   Thanks again

    K

    #364909
    anita
    Participant

    Dear Kristine:

    You are welcome. “I know all of these things logically, I just can’t seem to keep my emotions in check and in line with my head”- that’s because the hurt of not being special, of not being #1 in someone’s life- is a very powerful and convincing emotion, and it hijacks your logical thinking, twisting it any which way, leading to a kind of an obsession with his past relationships. I know this same obsession personally, it hijacked my thinking as well, long ago.

    I wonder if as a child you felt un-special, not a priority to your parent or parents; could be an old hurt like this that is fueling your current “Struggles with feelings about relationship” (title of your thread).

    anita

    #364912
    Brandy
    Participant

    You are welcome, Kristine. 🙂

    #364936
    Beth
    Participant

    Hi Kristine,

    I was very interested to see your post, as I’m in my early fifties too and going through something very similar. After all this time of no-good relationships, finally finding a gentle, kind, considerate guy who is utterly devoted to me, and one where we both have learned from our past mistakes. I too though am feeling the same way about his past flames, and I do have to be around them quite often. It always makes me sick to my stomach. I swing wildly between wanting to know more, and knowing I’d be much happier being completely ignorant of this. Luckily he doesn’t want to tell me much in the way of details. Here are some thoughts I’ve had today on this, that I hope are going to get me closer to dealing with this, while a) not dismissing my thoughts and feelings, and b) not hurting this lovely, gentle guy.

    What if – just what if – this is actually a pretty big deal, but you are handling it remarkably well? It might be that you’re not actually a problematic person on this but are having a very normal reaction (for whatever deep-rooted reason that you can’t possibly sort out with a counselor immediately), and are handling it admirably, alone, without professional help?

    On the subject of the gut-sinking thoughts and realizations that these perfect and unattainable other former flames do exist locally, that you/I keep having to bump into, these fearful thoughts arise and hijack me just when I thought I’d made the peace about them. Just when I thought I’d weighed up all the pros and cons, and decided “Hey, don’t take your fears and insecurities out on this lovely, considerate, kind and obviously very devoted guy”, that these ugly thoughts arise again. The fear of that happening is the biggest thing, here, for me. THAT’S what I’m currently trying to figure out how to get a handle on. I can only control myself and my reactions, after all.

    Like you, I’ve had a good career, stable life outside of less than great relationships, and raised two kids I’m so proud of. So being constantly sideswiped by these thoughts either out of the blue by myself, or by having to see one of these women, keeps me off balance and steals my energy. I want this problem to be gone, and for these thoughts not to rob me of my mental energy any more. I’m thinking perhaps just being gentle with myself whenever these thoughts arise is a good start. Maybe some of this is helpful? All the best!

    #364947
    anita
    Participant

    Dear Kristine:

    My new input today: you wrote regarding running into your boyfriend’s former college sweetheart of eight years: “We ran into her and her husband  one night and ended up hanging out with them in a bar after. I hated every second of it. He could tell I was uncomfortable so he was extra affectionate but instead of trying to make me feel better on the ride home, he just kept telling me what a great person she was. ‘Isnt she just one of the most genuine people you’ve ever met?’ Blah. blah. I think he thought I felt threatened by her romantically.. It makes me feel not good enough, like I won’t live up to her… It makes me feel like I’m his second (or third??) choice”-

    – it is possible that this is what he wants you to feel: that you are not good enough for him, that you are not his first choice, and this is why he shared with you so much about his past relationships, about his many exes that he keeps in touch with and still sees once in a while, about how he cried after his marriage ended, and that he regrets the long relationship with his former college sweetheart ending, that he was an idiot for ending it, etc.

    And this is why, while knowing you were very uncomfortable during the meeting at the bar, he “kept telling” you what a great person she was. It was not a single comment that he made about her, but he “kept telling” you,  going as far as asking you that question, about how genuine she is, rubbing it in.

    If he knew how comfortable you were, and if he believed that you were jealous of her, or threatened by her, why did he choose to promote that discomfort, jealousy and threat?

    It is possible that after your 20 year marriage of “many bad times”, your difficult divorce, and 7 years of dating men who “didn’t want serious relationships”, falling “hard for a small handful but nothing ended up serious”, being at that point in your late 40s, or early 50s, when you met your boyfriend of 3 years- you were very invested in seeing him in the best possible way: “He  is more than I could have hoped for. He’s kind, genuine, affectionate, caring. Good sense of humor, I could go on and on… I never question his love for me or his commitment to me”-

    – maybe his low self esteem is such that he needs you to feel less-than about yourself, so that he can feel more-than about himself.

    anita

     

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