Torn in Phoenix
September 23, 1996 Ask Dr. Love Advice Column
I am a happily married 25 year old. My problem stems from the fact that I never completely got over my first love. Ever since we broke up 4 years ago I think about her daily. We stayed in contact for awhile but now we live on the opposite ends of the continent and we are both in serious relationships.
I feel guilty because I still harbor feelings for her, and it affects my marriage. I feel like maybe I have chosen the wrong path and there is no way to backtrack and make things right. There are unresolved feelings here, but I am embarassed and scared to call up my first and try to get these things out and over with. And I can't tell my wife that this is the reason that I am unhappy at times, because she would take it personally. She is wonderful, loving woman who doesn't need any pain inflicted on her. If you answer one letter this week, please let it be me, I don't know how much longer I can deal with this conflict.
I hear how conflicted you are. You say that you want to call up your ex and 'get things out and over with.' You and I both know that a call will not end your relationship. If anything, it may start the relationship up again, and I think that is why you are afraid to call. You say you are afraid that you have chosen the wrong path--you mean married the wrong woman? If you really mean this, you have some serious thinking and decision making to do. It is one thing to have feelings of love for an old girlfriend, but your feelings intrude on your current relationship, to the point that you aren't fully there.
I think that before you make any calls, you need to ask yourself some hard questions:
- Do I want to get back with my ex ( does she wish this too?)
- Do I want to throw away the relationship I have built with my wife?
Keep in mind that you broke up with your ex because things weren't working. Right now you are idealizing the past-- and yearning to rekindle the good old days with your ex. But you did break up. So how perfect was that relationship? It would be good to remind yourself what the problems were that broke you up. Because, if you get back together, the problems that broke you up will surely reappear. Sooner or later, that relationship won't seem so perfect, once again.
The point is this: If you get back with your ex, problems will arise and you will either have to deal with them or break up again. This is the place you're at with your wife (deal or break up.) I wouldn't be surprised if the problems that broke you and your ex up are the same issues that you and your wife are now struggling with. If you break up and start over with your ex, I'm certain you will end you up where you are now--with a problem that needs working on. We always carry the same problems with us from relationship to relationship. Changing relationships doesn't solve the problem. Whatever personal issues you are struggling with follow you from relationship to relationship.
So, my advice to you is, focus on what's not working at home. Can you make your current relationship better? What about the old relationship satisfied you? Can you enhance your current relationship with these elements? I wish you good luck in solving this difficult problem. Leaving and starting over may sound easier, but sooner or later the same problems always emerge. Sooner or later, we all have to face the music. Let me know what you decide and how it all works out.
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