Cruel to girlfriend?
I am now entering the 5th month of my first relationship. She found and pursued me, and to be honest, I decided on purely logical grounds that being in a relationship with her would be a good idea.
Twenty-two years of being alone, a history of being crushed or betrayed by potential lovers and my father's gruesome suicide 5 months beforehand told me that it was time to grab at any possible opportunity of being loved and cared for.
We have been great for each other, and I've no doubt will continue to be so; but my friends tell me (and I think) that I 'can do better' and that someday someone 'better' will come along. (Someone more attractive, interesting, ambitious and equably capable of realizing their ambitions).
Worse yet, I am sometimes forced to admit to my closest confidantes that I have not completely relinquished my feelings for the last girl I asked out (who pretty much demolished me), and that given the chance I would trade my girlfriend for her. I would ordinarily see all of this as grounds for the 'wait and see' approach, but a week or so ago my girlfriend suggested that we get married when we turn 25.
I won't get into what I think of marriage in general or when I think I should get married. I mention it because her suggestion shows that she thinks about it, that she thinks of me as Mr. Right, and that the further I get into this relationship, the more hurt she is going to be if/when it ends.
My intention is/was to remain in the relationship. I learn new things about relationships, love, loving, sex, and all of that from her all the time, and she gives me confidence, seemingly renders me immune to depression and has been easily the most positive influence my life has had for a long, long time.
I have never discussed these things with my girlfriend, occasionally even resorting to lies to avoid it. I know that discussing it so frankly would destroy our relationship, whereas if I avoid doing so my feelings for her may improve (I do have moments where I feel truly in love with her and think about marriage and a golden future)
Am I being cruel to her?
You chose an interesting word...cruel. Does it feel as though you are being cruel? What is cruelty, anyway? What do you know about cruelty?
How have you experienced cruelty? You sound like a thoughtful young man who is enjoying growing and learning about himself within a new relationship. What about that feels "cruel"?
You seem to realize that you got involved in this relationship so that you could find comfort, safety and security after your father's "gruesome suicide" and a string of romantic rejections. You acknowledge this openly - at least to yourself and this online counselor. While it sounds as though you have made it clear to your girlfriend that you value the sheltering she provides, have you discussed with her why you need and value this so much?
In other words...does she know that you are still grieving? Do you realize that you are still grieving? Do you understand how "cruel" your father's death has been for you?
I am guessing that you have not completely resolved your father's death, based on your description of it, plus the fact that you seemed to become extremely anxious when your girlfriend talked about marriage.
Let me explain...Your father chose to leave you (and this life). Anyone in your situation would feel abandoned and betrayed. While a father's death is a tremendous loss to a young man, a "gruesome suicide" is that and more. Your father violently and abruptly chose to end his connectedness and commitment to you, at least in this life. He chose to leave you.
In my opinion, you will not be able to consider the lifelong commitment which marriage entails until you have completely mourned this loss. If your girlfriend continues to bring up the subject of marriage, you will probably feel yourself pull away from her, based on your own unconscious knowledge that you are not in any position to make a commitment or, more importantly, to trust in one.
It's no surprise that you may even feel compelled to reconnect with girlfriends who abandoned you in the past, since you are feeling abandoned, hurt, alone and betrayed. While I encourage you to accept the comfort and companionship your girlfriend offers, perhaps you could do yourself (and her, too), a favor by explaining that you must deal with your painful past (and the loss of your father) before you can make any plans for the future.
Margaret "Peg" Burr, MA, MFT
This question was answered by Margaret "Peg" Burr. She is a California Licensed Marriage and Family Therapist (MFC34374) with a private practice in Santa Clarita (near Los Angeles). She performs psychodynamic psychotherapy with individual adult clients as well as couples, teens, and families. She also runs groups for adults and adolescents. Her specialty area is Object Relations Systems Theory. This branch of psychodynamic psychotherapy uses a client's interpersonal relationships as windows into his or her intrapsychic structure.For more information visit: http://www.pegburr.com/