When I was fourteen I started dating a boy named Pat who was sixteen. At the age of sixteen, and after living in two different foster homes, Pat invited me to live with his family. We were an item for two more years until we broke up and I moved out. Parting on bad terms, Pat and I didn't talk for almost a year. When we did see each other again we tried a relationship once more, but decided that there was no intimacy between us and we were better off as friends. After that, I had decided I didn't want to get back into another relationship for quite some time.
Then, I meet Jim, and "wow" - he's the one. I'm absolutely head over heels for him. He moved in with me and a few months later, we traveled for a year in the South Pacific. We are in Samoa and plan to get married at the end of the year in Tahiti, our last stop.
You can probably foresee the problem already. I keep in touch with all my friends from Canada, including Pat, but Jim can't understand why I have to keep in touch with my ex-boyfriend. I told Jim that Pat and his family really helped me out when I was younger and that I owed him my loyalty. I've told him how I felt and we discuss it all the time, but we just keep going around in circles. I love Jim more than I ever thought I could love anyone, but I don't want to lose him because of his insecurities with Pat.
What should I do? I'm willing to do anything to make this work. It has been a recurring problem throughout our trip. Please help me.
I've worked with a number of young women who are in just the same situation that you are (except that they are not traveling the South Seas). Every one of them would feel the same way you do about your former boyfriend and his family, and I feel that it is natural that you have that sense of loyalty. You've had a very poor relationship history with your family, and Pat and his family gave you, what sounds like, your first experience of a supportive family relationship. I suspect that in a way, Pat has become more like a brother to you than a boyfriend (if I'm right, that may explain why your breakup was rough). Perhaps that's a way you can explain it to Jim. I can vouch that from my experience, this is what happens when you get "adopted" by a family after being rejected by your own.
You say Jim loves you, but doesn't understand you. I don't think that's possible. Is it you he loves, or some idea of you? Do you feel loved absolutely? Or do you feel that the love is conditional? If your feelings about your former relationships with men trigger some deep seated sense of insecurity in Jim, then he may not be capable of loving you fully. If this is true, no matter how wonderful the "being in love is", you're asking for future difficulties if you marry a man who is attempting to dictate relationship terms to you. Remember, your early relationship history has left you without a strong foundation (no good models) on which to build a relationship, so be wary about committing to a man who may also have a significant relationship impairment.
My recommendation is that you talk these things over with Jim and, perhaps, suggest that he do some work on his insecurity (and the reasons underlying it) before you get married. Two strong people make a better pair than one strong one and one weak one (or worse yet, two weak ones).
This question was answered by Jerry Button. Jerry is a psychotherapist, personal development trainer, workshop presenter and relationship coach practicing in Delray Beach, Florida. He believes that the key to quality of life lies in relationships. His approach to interpersonal and emotional problems is relational and psychodynamic. Jerry is experienced working with individuals, children and families and welcomes challenging opportunities.
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