Dear Dr. Love, I found your web site today and was very impressed by it. I feel you have a rare ability to connect with people and they respect your assesment of them based on the facts presented. We all need a little help in life every now and then. My situation is this. I have dated a girl for seven years. I am 31 and she is 28. We met in college It has been on again, off again for most of the last four. I am mostly to blame for this as I have never felt I was with ‘the one’. She is a wonderful person and has many admirable qualities. Her best being that she loves me unconditionally and this is what has kept my interest for so long. She comes from a family that doesn’t always put family first but they are good people. I come from a very close nit family. Some of my issues with her over the years have been with her family but I am realizing that this is not that important as long as they don’t interfere with our lives in a negative way. We almost got married once three years ago but I got cold feet and hurt her badly. I felt I was doing it for the wrong reasons as she had decided to start dating another guy and I felt I had to win her back. So I asked her to marry me and she said yes. I won’t go into details but I will tell you this, it wasn’t called off because it never got planned. I am not sure if we were ever technially engaged. There is a ring and a wedding dress but that is as far as it got. We continued to date but in the fall of 2000 we decided we must at least make an attempt to move on with our lives and see if we were better off apart. We remained in contact through the fall and spring even though we didn’t get together often. She basically did nothing but wait for me to get my act together while I went out on dates and met other girls. It became apparent to me that she was still in the relationship despite the fact that we both went out on dates and saw other people, me more so then her. She finally told me in May 2001 that she was losing her feelings for me and felt soon she would no longer have the flame for me that she had carried for so many years, and that if I didn’t make some moves soon, our relationship would finally end completely. She did not push me or give me ultimatums, she merely stated that she was tiring of carrying the torch in her heart. I told her there was nothing I could do about it because my heart was not fully in it. All she was asking for was a chance, an opportunity to try and see if we could begin dating again after almost two years of no commitment. During those years we did spend intimate moments together and this helped us keep some flame and emotional ties. What has happened is, I noticed her moving on with her life, and deciding not to spend much time with me when I asked her to do get together. I decided to give hints that I would begin to see her again but she told me she was dating and had chosen one individual to date exclusively. I feared the worst and decided to check my fears by stopping by her house once a few weeks ago. What I found broke my heart. She did not come home that night and had already after only a month of seeing a new guy, decided to stay out all night and not come home. This was very hard for me to deal with and when confronted she told me that it wasn’t what I thought it was, but yes she did spend the night at his house. This is out of character for her, probably more in character for me if anything and that is what hurts. I told her once again and in a very serious manner, that I was willing to give us a try and would go to counseling if it would help. She has said she feels free and has no pressures on her life right now and wants to continue seeing the new guy to see what she wants in life. She feels she still loves me but wants to know after all these years if I am the one or not. Not unlike I had chosen to do in the past. She has asked me not to interfere as it will only push her farther away. I will respect this but don’t want to be forgotten because I am not making my presence known. I wish to continue to try. My question is: What do I do to ensure that she knows my intentions of trying again are sincere while not interfering with her decision to see this one new guy? I feel she is moving too quickly with him but can’t tell her how to live her life. Especially since I couldn’t make up my mind in the past. I do not want to lose her but do not want to push her away by being a pest. Sitting by and doing nothing seems like a sure disaster for us. I don’t have much ground to stand on as I have chosen for basically two years to only see her and do things with her on my terms and when I wanted to. We have never spend more than a few weeks apart or without seeing each other so the relationship has gone on in some form or fashion during all the supposedly’seperated’ times. I feel I am ready to commit and move forward and in no way want to be reacting to her decisions to date another. I truely feel it is time to try. I have discussed this with my family and they have told me that she will come around given a little time. I fear the worst and want to make the right decisions under the circumstances. Please help if you can
I am afraid that you are right about not having much ground to stand on. She has lots of reasons to mistrust you: how can she be sure that you have truly changed and that you won’t take a hike on her once again.As you may know, many people only want what they can’t have, a repetition of the childhood struggle to obtain the love of a parent who wasn’t available. And, once the object becomes available and there is no more struggle, the interest is gone. How can she be sure that this isn’t your case?I think that you need to soul-search, understand the reason for your cold-feet in the past and the reason why you are sure that you have resolved the causes of previous ambivalence. When you understand, then you can tell her what you have discovered. You are going to need to begin your self-revelations with a thorough recognition of where she is coming from, that she doesn’t trust you, that she resents you for the relationship having been on your terms for years, that she is terrified to let you in and be dropped again, that you would understand that she is too damaged to ever let you back in again.Then and only then tell her that you don’t want to pester her, and that even if you don’t get back together, you just want her to know that your concern and love for her makes you feel the need to tell her that you are worried that she is moving too fast. This is the best you can do.Keep in mind that your girlfriend may, herself, be more drawn to a man that she can’t have. She did, after all, stay with you through your cold-feel period. Now that you seem to have resolved your own issue, she isn’t biting. I know there is water under the bridge, and I know she mistrusts you because of how you made her dangle, but just keep in mind that she was a willing participant in being damanged, so perhaps, just perhaps, she won’t be so willing to take you back being she prefers chasing rainbows.I hope that we are simply dealing with a woman who has been burned and is afraid to trust. If you have truly grown and changed, and you are able to convincingly articulate this, you may have a shot. You might also encourage her to give you a try; to start up with you again, while keeping her guard up; before she reinvests, she can wait and see that you have changed, and that you don’t pull away like before.I hope that there isn’t too much water under the bridge for her to try again. Let me know what happens.