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Hi, Ms. Aileen,
I'm in a relationship with my current boyfriend for about a year now. The first few months we were together, I tried to ask him about his past. He walked away from chatting and didn't text for hours, until midnight came and I called him to patch things up. The next morning everything felt so different. Maybe my feelings changed because of my doubts. He still communicates with his ex-girlfriends, especially on Facebook, and I just don't feel comfortable with that.
A few months ago I tried to break up with him, but we resolved our issues and got back together. But I still feel strange towards him, and I don't think it's fair for me to be with him when I feel this way. A few days ago I tried to break up with him again, and the conversation didn't go the way I expected it to. He made assumptions and accusations that really hurt me.
Now I'm not so sure about where I am and what I'm supposed to do. I miss him, and I feel guilty for saying hurtful words to him and acting that way.
*Name and some details have been changed.
Thank you so much for your honest letter. I'm sure many women can identify with what you're going through because it's true that relationships aren't simply about whether or not you love someone; so many other factors are involved. As far as your current situation is concerned, the two major factors that you need to pay close attention to are "negotiables vs. non-negotiables" and "feelings vs. urges." Let's take a closer look at both.
NEGOTIABLES VS. NON-NEGOTIABLES
When considering a long-term (and possibly lifetime) relationship with someone, one of the most important things you need to know about yourself is this: "What are the three most important qualities you need in a partner for you to be happy in your relationship?"
Take note, I'm only asking for your all-important three things, not a long checklist. And I'm asking about qualities, things that are more or less a permanent part of who he is. His current job and position, for example, are not qualities, but the fact that he's hard working and creative are.
The reason you need to know your non-negotiables is this: even in the best of relationships, 70 percent of all relationship problems never really get solved and just have to be worked around by both partners. And when you're absolutely sure that your partner has the most important qualities you need in a man, then it becomes much easier for you to deal with those unsolved relationship problems because they'll just be part of your negotiables (i.e., things you're willing to compromise on).
Ask yourself now: "What are your three non-negotiables, and does your current boyfriend have them?" Your honest answer to this question will help you decide whether to leave or stay, and your choice will be much more reliable than if you relied on your feelings alone.
FEELINGS VS. URGES
Our feelings and emotions are gifts; they tell us when there's something in our lives that we need to pay closer attention to and make decisions about, and when we heed the lessons of our feelings, we are able to live with more honesty and freedom. Many times, however, we often confuse them with urges. While feelings tend to be consistent and filled with life lessons, urges are knee-jerk reactions that may damage relationships.
Here's an example: Your feelings are telling you you're angry and hurt. Maybe he forgot your anniversary or your birthday. If you paid closer attention to your feelings, you might learn that your hurt and anger aren't really about his forgetting, but the idea that his forgetting might mean he doesn't love you anymore. If you figure this out inside yourself, then you can communicate and clarify these things with him.
On the other hand, if you don't take the time to learn from your feelings, then you might just give in to your urges: He forgot your birthday, you feel angry and hurt, and now you have the overwhelming urge to hurt him back, so you pick a fight and break up with him.
Urges, in general, are overwhelming instant reactions to a situation (usually born out of our need to defend ourselves), while feelings tend to be more consistent over time.
Take a few moments to review your past actions and emotions now. When you broke up with him, was it because you were learning from your feelings or giving in to an urge? And when you say you miss him, is it your feelings telling you something, or is it a knee-jerk reaction to being single again?
Knowing the answers to these questions will help you learn the all important lessons of the past, so you don't have to go through these situations again in the future.
I hope this helps, and good luck!
(Photo courtesy of Megyarsh via Flickr Creative Commons)