I started dating a guy, John, last year who had a bad reputation for being a creep. I had just divorced my husband of 16 years and was out on my own for the first time in my life (had a kid and married at 17) so I’d like to say I was not exactly myself as I just came out of an emotionally abusive marriage and felt like a nobody. John made me feel special and I was convinced he was a good guy, dispute his reputation. Anyway, I came to my senses and broke up with John, who didn’t handle it well (stalking, stabbed my tires, etc), and started dating my dream guy, Paul (who is 22 yrs older than me), a short couple of weeks later. Unfortunately, I was an idiot and so embarrassed by my relationship with John that I lied to Paul about it, which created a rough start in our relationship once he found out (and I feel absolutely ashamed of myself). Paul hates John, and is having a hard time accepting that I was ever with ‘a creep like that’. He says he just doesn’t feel anymore special than John, that he feels like hes just the next guy in line for me. How can I show Paul that he means more to me than John ever did? I have told him that, but he seems convinced that what we have is no more special than the relationship I had with John. It just hurts when I tell him I love him, he says ‘you said that to John too”. Or I say he’s handsome, he says things like ‘well you were attracted to John, so I must be ugly like that too’. I hate the way our relationship started and I continually apologised for my inconsiderate actions. I know Paul is insecure, but what can I do to show him that he means so much more to me than John ever did? My words aren’t working, and I just want Paul to feel as special as he is.
Change is hard but it’s possible
I can feel the fear, anxiety and pain running through your long soap-opera-like letter.
I’m really sorry you’re going through this. I know change is hard but it’s possible, and, in your case, essential, if you want to have a healthy long-term relationship.
Here’s the short rundown of mistakes that have been made that need to be corrected:
- You don’t seem to have demonstrated the ability to live confidently on your own for any length of time. I’m sure there’s info I’m missing, but if you went from being a 17-year-old bride to a 16-year abusive marriage to “just divorcing” your husband and falling into a relationship with John to “a short couple of weeks later” meeting Paul, well, it sounds to me like you’re extremely afraid of being alone.
- In addition to being afraid to be alone, I don’t think you know what a healthy relationship looks like or feels like. I’m going to guess you didn’t witness it with your parents, you certainly didn’t have it with your ex-husband or John, and this current relationship with your “dream man” is not ideal either, or you wouldn’t have written.
- Paul is correct that it’s hard to feel special with someone who has the uncanny ability to fall in love with three men in three months. Where he’s incorrect is in continually acting from a place of insecurity in relation to John, who is out of the picture. Which leads me to believe that despite how much you feel Paul is special, his insecurity (and age) is going to be a long-term problem for you.
- It feels to me like you’re just looking for any guy who shows you kindness (maybe your father wasn’t kind) no matter how glaring his flaws. That is the opposite of how I would encourage you to date. Kindness is a necessary component of a relationship, but there are a lot of other things to consider, which it seems you haven’t because you have dove into rebound relationships so very quickly.
I would gently recommend moving on from insecure Paul, getting into therapy, joining Love U, and learning a slower, better, more confident way to choose a partner.