Question: Dear Luise: My boyfriend of one year often gets upset that I dated a different guy for a year and a half. He knows how much I care about him, but knowing I had a boyfriend before bothers him a lot. It comes up if I tell him how he’s the first guy I’ve been in love with or something like that. I want him to trust me when I tell him that it wasn’t as serious as we are and I want him to believe that my dating a guy a few years ago is not a major issue. What can I do to make my past less of an issue in my present (and future)? J.
Answer: Dear J. The reason this kind of thing is so difficult to resolve is that the person who is trying to solve the problem is not the person who is causing it.
This is about your present boyfriend’s insecurity. You can’t do much of anything about that. Insecurity is a feeling that is always looking for situations in which to express itself. By that I mean…if you had never had a prior boyfriend, the issue might be “I can’t help but wonder what’s wrong with you?” There is no logic. Can you see that?
Wanting your current guy to trust you when you reassure him and to not consider your history a major issue, are both a lost causes. He either trusts you and accepts your very decent and normal past…or he doesn’t. It’s not your presentation. Again, it’s his insecurity.
The ghosts of inadequacy that haunt him were in place long before you met. And if you are serious about him, you will need to learn that they have nothing to do with you. You’re just the catalyst…even though that’s not how it feels.
Talk with him about this from the standpoint of knowing that it’s his. Would he be willing to get some counseling? That’s often a touchy subject but why would he want to drag his unrealistic fears through life, forever dumping them on his partner? Let him know that you would be willing to support him in his commitment to free himself up from his doubts and the discomfort they are bringing to you both. Supporting him is not the same thing as taking it on. A counselor could help you with what that might look like.
Unless this kind of thing is addressed and resolved it will follow him wherever he goes and if you stay together, it will be your constant companion, as well. Don’t try to minimize it or expect it to disappear. I suggest that you bring it out into the open and see what can be done. A great deal will ride on how much he cares about you and how much he values a healthy relationship and future with you. Blessings, Luise