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My Boyfriend Doesn't Seem To Have Gotten Over His Ex-girlfriend

Question:

My boyfriend and I have been together for almost a year now. Although I am in love with him, I am very nervous about the things he says about his ex. It seems as though all his problems come back to her. For example his inability to believe that I wont abandon him. He also gets a temper when I say anything that sound like anything she said to him. I also found out that i look a great deal like her. I don’t even know how to begin to talk to him about this without him getting angry. I really want to be with him. He can be very sweet and seems to care about me a lot. He’s even gone as far as to offer me a place to live. Should I be worried that he still brings her up regularly?

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Answer:

Is it really a question of whether you should be worried or not? Clearly, you are worried and perceive a threat or problem with regard to your boyfriend’s continuing sensitivity about his ex-girlfriend. From what you’ve written about, I agree that there is a real problem. It doesn’t appear that he has moved on. In fact, it looks like he is trying to recreate his old relationship with you in a way that marginalizes your own independent person-hood. The fact that you are frightened of his temper and have become afraid to speak openly to him for fear of angering him is also a bad sign that suggests (to me anyway) that the relationship is not on a good foundation of mutual respect and honesty. I do not believe things will get better as you become more economically dependent on him.

Dr. Dombeck has written about a phenomena known in the therapy world as transference. Transference happens when people in newer relationships act towards their partners in ways that recreate the dynamics of older relationships with other people. So, when your boyfriend selected you in part because you reminded him of an old girlfriend, and when he shows special sensitivity towards you when you act in ways that remind him of her, this may be transference happening. Transference doesn’t mean that he is sick or mentally ill. It does mean that he is "asleep" or unaware in some important fashion and not recognizing the distinctions between old and new relationships that must be present in order for you to feel respected and loved for who you are and not for who you look like.

In summary, I think you should proceed with great caution with regard to getting more serious with this boyfriend of yours. I think you need to risk his anger and have a direct heart to heart conversation with him telling him that you are aware that he is relating to you in ways that are defined by his older relationship and that you resent this (or however you feel about it). Perhaps, if you point out what he is doing to you, he will have the capacity to awaken and stop doing it. If he doesn’t then maybe you’re better off long term with someone else.

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Comments
  • Anonymous-1

    Married a guy who was just like this. Everything I did seemed to somewhow remind him of his ex (6 years previous)... He had a hard time saying he would love me forever because of course all those things had been said and lost as she left him...

    I regret marrying him. I love him to pieces but I have never felt I could ever be loved like he loved her. He did EVERYTHING for her, and I got nothing. He's a good guy, loyal, faithful and everything else... but I feel like he never has and never will love me and it hurts.

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