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January 1, 2007 Ask Dr. Love Advice Column
My boyfriend and I were together for 2 years and broke up for 3 years. We recently got back together and it's been terrific the past 3 months.
Just recently the conversation came up about a certain girl being back in town. She's the one who was partly behind why we broke up. All the past happenings and hurts came up again and since then things have been very rough between us, like a wall dredged up in front of us. I've told him I'm not going anywhere and all my feelings in detail, but what choices do we make now for the future.
Do we continue seeing each other, knowing that we can't do anything about the past and knowing that the past problems won't go away? I want them to but honestly and realistically I don't know.
How do we know if we truly are meant to be together. I know and he's expressed this concern too, but we also know that we've never experienced this connection with anyone else, and yet there's this huge rift, something missing. Please advise.
You asked me if you should be ending the relationship because you can't change what happened in the past. The questions you asked me aren't the ones that need to be asked.
Instead, you need to realize that the reason you both can't let go of what happened in the past is because you are both struggling with wounds that need to be healed. Until you both identify and heal these wounds, you will never be in peace in this or any other relationship.
If you've been reading my columns for a while, you know that in most cases the over content of an argument is often a smokescreen for other deeper emotional issues. For example, when couples fight about sex, rarely is the argument actually about sex. It's often about feeling unloved, feeling starved, feeling out of control, etc. The same can be said about money fights.
The reason why couples rarely realize the actual nature of the problem is because the overt content of the fight serves to conceal the real issues and feelings. In my book, Till Death Do Us Part (Unless I Kill You First), I describe the technique I invented for Stripping Away the Overt Content of the Fight in order to discern the actual feelings and issues that are truly fueling your conflict.
Until you identify this emotional core, you will have no hope of resolving your dispute. Moreover, the dispute will continue to rear its ugly head again and again, reappearing in one form or another until you do the work I describe.
I obviously don't have adequate space to go into the technique in detail, so I encourage you both to read my book so you can uncover the real emotional issues that are underlying your argument. Meanwhile, I can make a guess as to what I suspect you are both really arguing about when you fight about this girl. But, again, I want you both to do the full exercise to verify if my guess is right or not.
It sounds to me like we're dealing with a fear of abandonment.
I noted that you told him you're not going anywhere and I have to assume that you felt the need to say this because you sensed that he was worried that you would leave him. I wonder if he brings up this other girl in order to unconsciously relieve his own fear that you will leave him. Perhaps he's hoping that you will become jealous of the other woman, thereby proving your love for him and perhaps temporarily easing his fear of losing you. This is only a guess.
You both will need to do my Stripping Away the Overt Content technique and search your souls to figure out if my guess fits, and if not, then you will uncover the core emotional issue that 's triggering your fight over this girl. Keep in mind that while the fight over the girl may temporarily drain off some anxiety, you will never be free of this fight until you find out what wound is fueling the fight.
When you identify this deeper wound and work it through, your relationship will go much more smoothly and you will both be freed to love each other more fully.
Hang in there.
One of the most challenging aspects of intimate relationships is the way they churn up our earliest wounds. As painful as this is, relationships offer us the divine opportunity to help each other heal.
"If anger and fighting are ruining your dream of a happy marriage, Dr. Turndorf’s conflict resolution program is for you."
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Author of NY Times #1 bestseller Men Are from Mars, Women Are from Venus
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Pulitzer Prize winning author and Professor of Psychiatry at Harvard Medical School
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Author of NY Times #1 bestseller Homecoming
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Winner of the Best Historical Fiction Award, 2012
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Producer Relationship Advice Cafe
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Syndicated Radio Host
"Good stuff. Great insight. I love your approach. Who doesn't need more healing. I love your idea of using your partner as a healing agent. That's such a great way to see your partner. You give great labels and patterns to look for. I love your method. You make it sound so easy. You have a great website with lots of great information and resources. These are the tools we all need."
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Host, The Matt Townsend Show