I have been dating a man who can’t get over his past. We have very similar life experiences and goals and I do believe that we love each other. However, he cannot get over the failure of his first marriage. Twelve years after the divorce, he still harbors great resentment toward his ex-wife. I tell him that the emotional attachment is unhealthy. He doesn’t think he has an emotional attachment because the emotions aren’t positive. He says that he cannot accept the failure of the marriage because he is so successful in all other areas of life. He just cannot seem to put the past in its place, heal and move forward to love anyone else wholeheartedly. He says he wants to, but doesn’t know how. Any suggestions?
Of course! Let’s begin with you, since you have similar life experiences with a man who can’t get over his past.
Is there anything in your past that you are clinging to? Anger at a parent who loved you imperfectly? Sadness about a friend who slowly turned away from your friendship? Frustration at a boss who caters to his cronies even when they’re slackers? The first task in any uncomfortable situation is to see and acknowledge how you contribute to the problem. So consider the stories from your own past that you retell to justify how you have suffered.
Then be honest: Are you ready to release your own tales of woe? Remember, life is experienced on many levels. The superficial level of life says: This man needs to change so he can love me. The spiritual (deeper) level of life says: I accept that this experience is occurring for the purpose of my healing and growth into a more genuine human being.
Now, your man: I don’t think he has an emotional attachment; he has an emotional addiction. Twelve years of obsessing has created a pattern of thinking that interferes with his ability to be fully available for a romantic relationship. He can kick the habit by confronting his demons. For example, he fears that the end of his marriage signifies that he is a failure. The end of a marriage is a death, certainly, and must be mourned. That process includes personal reflection so that gems of wisdom can be culled about oneself and about relationships in general. Instead of engaging in this healthy process, your boyfriend repetitiously reviews the marriage, hoping to find a sliver of info to prove it wasn’t his fault and so he is a good person, after all. But that detail, (if it even exists and I don’t think it does) eludes him because at the core of his belief system is the thought: I am a failure. Once he disengages from his attachment to fearing he’s a failure, he can release his obsession with the marriage.
A good psychotherapist can help. So can TheWork.com. But you must stop trying to be his therapist. It just adds more drama to an already difficult situation.
My monster-in-law-to-be carries her little yappy lapdog everywhere and now wants to bring it to my wedding. My fiancée told her it was up to me. Help!
It’s good to know now that your man has no backbone when it comes to his mamasita’s wishes. So tell him, firmly but kindly, that you don’t want a dog at the wedding. Explain that you don’t want the day spoiled by a dog yapping through the celebration (and yapping forever on the wedding video). Then, together, call his mama and tell her what you decided. Your fiancée gets extra points if he admits to her that he was afraid to say no originally because he didn’t want her to get angry at him. The whole experience will be good practice for your married life.