Worried That You're Overreacting
August 20, 2001 Ask Dr. Love Advice Column
I've read many of your responses and admire your candor.
I'm currently dating someone who appears to be a very loving, sweet, loyal and grounded man. I've met his parents and many (20+) of his friends. . . Whom all share the same opinion: He is a great guy! His most recent relationship (3+years) ended about 2 years ago. He was devastated by the breakup and has expressed his feelings well. And appears to have learned a lot about himself from the relationship. They remain close and have both dated others casually since.
I am the first person that is considered to be a 'serious' relationship since the break-up. They remain involved in a community project and went to a meeting together the other night. We made plans to meet after the meeting, which was to end around 9:30ish.
At 11:00 he called me and said sorry for the delay that 'she' was upset and needed to talk. . . Talk about the fact that he has met someone special and her ill mother etc.
Needless to say, I was upset. I felt he should have called me prior to the 'talk' and let me know that he would be late. . . or let her know that he already had plans etc. I apreciate the fact that he was honest and straight forward about it. . . however, I felt he was more concerned about her feelings rather than mine.
His reasoning for not calling me was that he felt it was not appropriate to interupt her, while being emotional, to call me. I feel he was enabling her. I expressed to him that I have no interest in coming into someone's life if there are still open doors. I asked a lot of questions up front and was very surprised by this incident. (I was under the impression that there were long past these types of feelings)
After talking, he felt that this was an unusual situation and it wouldn't happen again, or he wouldn't allow it to happen again. . . He also asked 'her ' to meet me and she said she wasn't ready to meet me yet. In my opinion, that is a sign that they are not over each other yet. She has healing to do-on her own, and he is allowing her to hold on to him by enabling her.
Lastly, I was hurt (badly) in my last relationship and want to make sure I'm not over reacting or being too sensitive. Please give me your expert opinion! :)))
I am worried that you are second-guessing your feelings. Feelings must always be honored. Unless you are completely psychotic and out-of-touch with reality, you need to respect the fact that your feelings exist for a reason.
Yes, past experiences can intensify reactions to present day occurences, but the point is, you are still responding to some trigger in the present. It is helpful to recognize that your reactions may be disproportionately strong because unfinished business is being awakened. Separating past from present can help to cool down your response in the present and help you deal with the here and now incident more effectively. But, and here's the but, you must respect the fact that something very real did trigger you in the present.
I can see what upset you. This man put his ex-girlfriend's feelings and needs above yours. You read him accurately. I don't know whether he is still attached to his ex. , whether he is a rescuer to those in need; or whether he sees her as a parental figure from his past, such as a parent who he couldn't say no to. It hardly matters what his reasons were. If he wants to be with you, he needs to make you feel first. If he can't do this, then you may be faced with the fact that this man isn't capable of putting you first, not unless you are a basket case in crisis.
You might want to ask him to tell you what message his behavior is sending you. You could ask him if he is aware of the fact that he put her feelings ahead of yours and you wonder what he is telling you about himself and his feelings for you as well as his feelings for her. You will need to help him to realize that when he was in caretaking mode, he lost touch with his appointment with you, leaving you to feel dropped and second-classed.
He may not have realized that he was having such an impact on you. He may have become so caught up with one task that the entire world, including you, disappeared. If he is able to understand how his behavior made you feel, and if he agrees to make a point of considering your feelings above all else, you have a keeper. I hope you do.
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