I started dating a woman a few weeks ago, and yes I know, a few weeks is NOTHING, but, even in that short time some things have come up and I’m having a really hard time separating what is just me being too reactive, and what might be legitimate signs that this is not a good match.
About four years ago, I was in a pretty terrible relationship with a woman. She was bipolar, and later on, I found out she lied about pretty much everything: She had a long-term girlfriend, and when she told me that she spent three months in a psych ward where I couldn’t see her, it turns out she was actually living with her.
It makes sense now. I pretty much never saw her house (she said she was living with her parents) or most of her world. It was always her in my world. The relationship eventually became abusive, to the point that I was scared for a very long time, stopped sleeping, and finally, swallowed a bottle of pills in front of her in a desperate and stupid attempt to make everything stop.
I moved far, far away, started fresh and created a great life, but it’s left me feeling like I can’t trust anyone. I can feel myself bracing for the rug to inevitably be pulled out from underneath me.
Since then, I’ve had a few relationships, none of which have really triggered any of this. Until now. With my last significant relationship, we hit things off right away. She lived a car journey away, so she’d often come over and stay for a several days, and we’d go off on little trips and adventures. Spending that kind of time with someone felt really good; it felt really secure, and it made me so happy to fall asleep and wake up beside someone I thought the world of.
This new woman, she wants to take things slow. We’ve seen each other quite a bit, and now that it’s been a couple weeks I want to sleep beside her. I am not talking about sex. I just mean having her spend the night or me stay with her. I can feel her get weird about it, and it really fucks me up.
That, and a few little things she does, have started triggering bad memories from my ex, and I am having a really hard time reconciling them. I tried explaining my past and why I am suddenly acting overly analytical and self-sabotaging even though I don’t want to, and now I feel as though I wish I had never told her anything. When I told her that my ex used to force me up against a wall and hold my head while she punched the wall inches from my face, her response was that her ex punched her in the face and broke her nose, but that she’s not projecting that onto me because I’m not her. I get what she’s saying, but it also made me feel diminished and like some sort of fucked up trauma pissing contest was taking place. She used a similar response another time when I told her something heavy after she had asked about it. She said I blindsided her by saying stuff like that, and both times, I walked away feeling really shitty.
Normally I am pretty level headed and decisive and confident in my decisions and know what I want and what I’m about. When I’m with this woman and something comes up, I feel so fucking confused and unsettled and like I should have never said anything. I’m so scared of being mind-fucked again. This woman is really smart, and really good at arguing her points, and it makes my head hurt because I don’t know if I’m just messing it all up because I’m terrified, or if she maybe has some serious controlling tendencies because she won’t stay over because she says she’ll only fall asleep if we have sex, but does not want to have sex yet. She also made me feel like I should be more appreciative that she’s let me come over to her house, because even her best friend have only been there two or three times. Am I just spinning in my own insecurities?
First things first: Yes, a few weeks is very soon to come to any sort of conclusion as far as a relationship goes. That being said, you do have some legitimate concerns here. Allow me to address them as someone else who has a great deal of insecurities in terms of relationships.
Your ex-girlfriend sounds a lot like my ex-girlfriend. The only difference is that, she was honest with me about being with someone else – we were on a three year “just-friends-but-wanting-more” section. (We briefly hooked up as teenagers, until one day she came home, kissed me, and then told me she was going to ask her neighbor out. Yikes!)
Anyway, during this time, my ex didn’t tell the woman she was with about me. She told them we were talking, but not that we’d had sex before they got together (a lot of sex), or that she frequently told me she loved me. Yet for some stupid reason, even after all this, I got with her – and we were together for about four years, after the three years of her playing obvious games.
(She was still playing games while we were together, but I was too stubborn to admit it until she became physically violent with me.)
Once you get to the point where you’ve had enough with the horrible treatment, you find yourself holding new partners to a much higher standard than you did before. While this can be frustrating to them (it’s obvious that your new partner is frustrated with this), it’s absolutely necessary for your own mental health, and she should be at least somewhat understanding.
My current girlfriend treats me pretty well – we have our disagreements, of course, but she understands my hesitation about certain things, and while she may grumble about them, she hasn’t gotten tired of putting up with me – and in December, we celebrated our second anniversary together.
I still question things – a lot. Every now and then, when she forgets to check in before going to a friend’s house, I take some time to gather my thoughts and process everything, and then I let her know why I feel that was inconsiderate of her. We both know that the things my ex did were not her fault, but if she cares about you, she won’t mind catering to your insecurities sometimes.
See, my girlfriend was also in a terrible relationship – like, other than the physical violence, our exes were a lot alike. (And now that they’ve both moved away from us, to near the same area, we both keep joking that we should introduce them – maybe we can introduce your ex, too, and the three of them can have a happy life together!)
Unfortunately, not everyone is as understanding as my girlfriend is. Some of them are going to be seriously offended that you can’t instantly get over the bad things from your past. (Trust me – I’ve had a lot of bad things in my past, and more than half the time, I regret sharing them with others.)
The girl I was unofficially seeing before I met my current girlfriend was… Let’s just say, she wasn’t into sharing. She always came to me, because she lived with her mother – but the other girl she was seeing (who I didn’t find out about until later) was allowed to come to her house. The first time I opened up to her, she freaked out and went to my best friend (the friend who set us up) and complained about how I was crazy and told too much of my life “too soon” (it had been about two months since we started talking, and I was under the impression it was exclusive).
I gave her another chance, shortly after which I found out about her other “just talking friend” (who I also found out she accidentally butt-dialed when we were having sex one time… extra funny story there). But she still wasn’t into hearing about my past, good or bad. She was barely even interested in my present. But in my mind, I was convinced that she was perfect – and just a bit jaded because of her own past.
If she’s triggering bad memories of your ex, you have every right to bring this up to her. You do not have to settle for the things you’ve settled for in the past – and you shouldn’t. As we grow up, we get a better idea of what we want and don’t want, and we set stricter preferences. This is a good thing.
It’s important that you realize that some of the problem is your own insecurities – but not in the way you might think. When you have baggage, like many of us do, you need to find someone who’s willing to help you unpack. I think that’s one of the biggest difference between my current girlfriend and anyone else.
She knows I have crippling anxiety… And on particularly rough days, when I’m being someone not even I want to be around, she calmly asks me if it’s an anxiety thing, and she rubs my shoulders. Something so simple really does make a huge difference.
She knows my ex was a pathological liar… And when her stories don’t exactly add up, she tries to explain herself a little better to set me at ease. I don’t (usually) ask her to do this, but she wants to know that I know she’s not trying to take advantage of me.
She knows my ex was a chronic cheater… And in the aforementioned situation where she forgot to check in before going out with friends, or more recently when I found an unfamiliar shirt in my drawer, she took the time to explain what happened. (Turns out her sister gave her the shirt, for me, and I’m actually wearing it as I type this.)
There are a million examples I could give, because my girlfriend is wonderfully supportive, but the point is that, as long as your “demands” are not excessive, it is entirely reasonable that you would have some. You shouldn’t be trying to change her, but you have a right to demand respect – and if she belittles your experiences and insecurities, she doesn’t respect you.
A lot of people say that you shouldn’t get with someone new until you’re 100% over what happened with your ex. I agree, in a way, but I also understand that there are some things that you never really get over. Being treated like shit is one of those things. I’m starting to get to a better place, but it has taken a lot of help from a wonderful woman to get me there.
Let me reiterate, though: It is not your girlfriend’s job to fix your problems. It is her job to help inspire you to fix them yourself – and in terms of emotional baggage from an old, fizzled-out relationship, that means she should listen to your concerns, and the two of you should work together to find out which expectations are reasonable.
The impression I get is that your current girlfriend might be a little immature in her relationships. There’s nothing automatically wrong with this, but you aren’t at the same point she is. This is one of the hugest places that compatibility comes into play. If you’re ready to be more serious about each other and she’s refusing to step up to the plate, you need to let her go.
From what I’ve read, you’ve already tried alerting her to your “expectations” and how she’s not meeting them. The right woman for you will take this into consideration, and allow your love for her to help her avoid the things that she knows will hurt you. If she can’t be bothered to try, or worse – if she puts you down for your insecurities – you need to let her go be a child on her own. You deserve a woman who acts like a grown-up.
Take care, reader, and please don’t hesitate to write in again and let me know how it went!