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In a Relationship with his Past


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I am currently in a relationship with a wonderful guy. We've been seeing each other about a year now. When we first met we were both recovering from previous breakups. While I had left my ex his had left him and left some pretty heavy baggage behind. The first months was a tilt-a-whirl through being blissfully happy and connected (strong immediate chemistry) to being reminded how great his ex was, and is, and how I can't replace her, blah blah. It hurt but to be honest I thought our time together was just a fling, something short term. When it become more serious I thought that maybe he would see something in me that would help him get over her, that I could prove myself worthy in some way. (Majorly low self esteem here.)


It's been rough travels getting to where we are now. I've seen that it's not just her that he's caught up in but his whole past; he talks about people and places and events in amazing detail despite the fact that I never know the folks he's speaking of. Not particular interesting things but details of people no longer in his life that he misses be it old friends from high school or girls he dated briefly. He talks about his other exes too, all of which doesn't bother me as much as when he brings up his most recent ex (I'll call her Sue). A couple times he has told me that he has been in love with Sue the whole time we have been together which hurts, obviously.He explains it like he feels he is cheating on both of us in a way, like he never fell out of love with her but just began falling in love with me. When I told him how it makes me feel when he talks about her - like a reminder of the temporary nature of our relationship, like I am trying to fill these impossibly big shoes left behind by her - he tells me he loves me in a different unique way that he's never loved anyone, and that it is a more mature and complete love. He tells me I am his friend first above anything and will always be in his life while Sue was never purely a friend, but a lover always, a youthful passionate and unstable love. I don't know what that makes me. I try to be open and kind to him, trust what he says, which is hard seeing as I suffer from severe anxiety, depression and intimacy fears. My instincts are to run away and shut out. I am confused by boundaries and feel, perhaps falsely, perhaps delusional, that love and trust only occur when there are no boundaries. That's most likely naive.


On the daily our lives are good. We are genuinely best friends, we share interests, we have fun, we make each other laugh, we have similar fears and enough experiences to truly understand each other. I relate to him in a way I rarely, if ever, have to anyone else. I love him deeply and genuinely. I don't know how much to trust him, however. Not because I feel that he is malicious or wants to hurt me in any way but because his own heart won't let him. I know they still talk sometimes. I know that she is an artist like him and they comment/like/talk about their work with one another. (Is it petty to say I hate this ?! I wish I could be talented in the same way as him; would that make it easier to prove myself?). I think a lot of the time he feels she is prettier than me. I also know they had their own problems. I know that he lived in the past even when he was with her, and he has told me she used to tell him many of the same things I do about being present and leaving the past in the past. I want to make this relationship work but I also don't want to sacrifice myself into it. I don't know how much of what is happening is real or how much is altered by my own warped perception of things. I'm typing this after finding some of her old documents in a shoebox under my sink (we live together now). I felt the familiar shock, anger and fear. I don't like feeling like this but I can't tell myself there is nothing to worry about.This is my second relationship, his fourth long term (not counting hookups, casual flings, hang outs...I'm sure many of those). Is this just a hard way of learning about love, that there is no ownership in love, there is no way to explain it. Or is it a serious sign that I'm being foolish waiting for him to get over her? It doesn't alter our daily life other than how I react and how it makes me feel. If it didn't bother me, or I could accept it and move on, live presently myself, it wouldn't be any issue. It's not something he does that much anymore, but it is still a part of our lives.


If you read all this, thank you. I wonder if anyone has had similar experiences. Do you smell bull, see flashing red signs that I'm being silly to ignore? Is it possible to truly be in a relationship with someone stuck in their past? Or does it sound like he's trying to get past something unrelated to me? He wrote in big letters "TIMING IS EVERYTHING" on his notebook and I think about that, and know that he sometimes wishes he had never met her and just been with me. Do you think we can move on from this stronger? Basically any advice on this would mean a lot. I think about it almost everyday.



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You are seeing each other a year and already living together? How long have you lived together?


This is all way too much, too soon. I know you feel like you are "best friends", emotional soulmates, and all that, but it takes much longer than a year to decide to live with someone.


This guy doesn't live in the past. His past is his present. His world is surrounded by all the women, centered by Sue, that he's had before you. You are now his primary source, and he focuses the bulk of his time on you. But Sue, and all of his past lovers, are always in your shared space, in your bed, because he never has left them behind. Heck, he still communicates with Sue on a regular basis.


You will never be alone with him. Your world will always be filled with his room full of women. This isn't to fault him, it's who he is. If you leave him, you will become part of his tapestry of stories that he will tell the next one. And the next. And the next.


Sue shared the same frustrations as you, that he kept telling story after story about his past. This isn't someone who just shares an anecdote once in a while; these women live on in his mind as though they are still here. You will become another Sue, and he will tell the next girl that you complained about the same thing she will: that he just can't let any of you go.


He's a collector of women, and their stories, and how they all relate to him. Which points to narcissism.

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There is no future with this guy. If you have low self esteem then he is the worst person you could be with.


You should never be with someone in the hope that they will finally recognize how fantastic you are.


Have you ever considered counseling for your self esteem issues? This relationship sounds masochistic. Really unhealthy.


I think that he is trying to hurt you by talking about all of these other women, and still communicating with his ex. He has clearly told you that he will never be passionately in love with you. Honestly, he seems to treat you like a close friend, but with the physical benefits. Don't you want a close friend and someone who is head over heels in love, not hanging on to their ex.


Please, end this now. It's time to find your self worth. This comes from you, not men. I'm curious as to how you would advise a sister or best gf, if they were experiencing the same?

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  • 3 weeks later...

I agree with the above posters. I feel like this man is very self-centred, and the rushing of the relationship is a bad sign for both of you. If he does not realise how fantastic you are now, he never will. You need someone who supports you and encourages you for the achievements you have made in your life (you may not be an artist, but I am sure you are talented in a myriad of different areas, take some time to remind yourself of those!), even if they are different achievements to his. Leave him and take time to work on yourself, remind yourself of all the gifts you have that have not been nurtured since you started dating this man. It is completely disrespectful and unhealthy of him to persistently talk about his exes in a comparing way full stop, no matter what kind of comparisons he is drawing.

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I am confused by boundaries and feel, perhaps falsely, perhaps delusional, that love and trust only occur when there are no boundaries.


On the contrary, love and trust can only occur when both parties have healthy boundaries - a good sense of self, and understanding where they finish and the other person starts. Otherwise, the feelings may be very intense, but enmeshed, and it's difficult for either of them to leave even though the relationship may be very unhealthy for both of them.


Your guy is very focused on a past which does not involve you, and this is a way of creating distance in a relationship; a ploy used by people of both sexes who are incapable of a close, committed relationship with anyone. I doubt that he was any different in any of his previous relationships which will probably have been a factor in why they didn't last.


As you are already discovering, being in a relationship with someone who isn't emotionally present to you is lonely and soul-destroying. Stop wondering about what's making HIM tick, and wondering how he feels about you, and focus on yourself. What are you getting out of this relationship? Does it boost your self-esteem, and make you feel that he will always 'have your back'? Does it enable you to be the best person you can be?

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