I was in a relationship for four years and broke up with him two years ago. Then I began dating someone else with whom I shared every detail of my previous relationship.
For the past three months we have been discussing marriage, and he developed cold feet and told me that he would not take anyone as his wife who had slept with someone else before.
I am at my wit’s end since I poured out my heart to him and now cannot bear to live without him.
At the same time, he has taken to drinking because he says it is difficult for him to forget me. I am unable to understand his behavior and do not know whether I am actually dumped or whether I still have some chance of saving my relationship with him.
Please help me, as every moment of my life now is consumed by thoughts of him.
Our Clinical Psychologist’s Reply
Relationships are very difficult to manage because they are constantly changing. As such, perhaps it might be a good idea for you to step back a moment and decide whether this is a relationship that is healthy for you because I see several problems.
First, while there is some information that new partners need to know about previous relationships, it is usually wise to keep “every detail” to yourself. If you do not, you run the risk of the new partner becoming jealous, feeling like they are not measuring up, or misunderstanding aspects of the former relationship. Only the two people involved in a relationship know what it is truly like; everyone else just has to guess. Consequently, while your new partner needs to know the number of previous sex partners and the reasons for the breakup, the other details you may want to keep to yourself.
Second, you didn’t mention how long you’ve been with the new guy, but I’m guessing that the fact that you slept with your former love was not new information for him. Consequently, I have to wonder why he’s objecting to your sexual history at this stage of the game. If that was a problem for him, why not mention it before, when it might have been easier for everyone to walk away? Moreover, unless he himself is a virgin, it’s hypocritical for him to make that a stipulation for marriage.
Third, it sounds like he has started to drink (or just increased his drinking?) in order to manage his stress. That is not a good idea at all. Drinking or using drugs in order to combat difficult emotions is a path that can lead to addiction. And if you think you have relationship troubles now, just wait until you find yourself married to an active alcoholic! Even if your current love decides he wants to be with you, if he cannot develop better coping skills, then I would seriously re-evaluate the possibility of a future with him.
Finally, while I understand the misery and anxiety of a possible or actual break-up, it is very problematic to have every moment of your life consumed by thoughts of him. In order to have a well-rounded life, it is best to surround yourself with a variety of interests and relationships (e.g., friends, family, co-workers). That way, if one relationship or interest ends, you have a number of other people and places to occupy your thoughts. As the old saying goes: Don’t put all your eggs into one basket. If you don’t have those other people and things in your life, you may want to start developing them. That will certainly help you think about something else, other than just your relationship.
I can certainly understand your confusion about whether or not you’ve been dumped. He seems to be setting conditions for marriage that you do not fit, but his high level of distress also suggests a lack of resolve. So there might be hope for a continued relationship. However, you may want to take this opportunity to think about what you want in a romantic relationship and what you don’t. Given the level of chaos this has caused, the relationship certainly seems to warrant some reflection.