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Relationship Health Message Board

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I agree that I think your relationship is toxic. Most often, people are not with their childhood sweetheart forever. And I can tell you that women change so much in their early 20s.

I'm coming from the perspective of a woman who got married young and then divorced. I started dating him at age 16, we were engaged when I was 18, married just two weeks before I turned 21. Like you, he had hit me a couple of times before -- like you, he didn't even hit me hard enough to leave a bruise. But oh, it hurt me so bad -- not physically, emotionally. It really hurt my self esteem. Unlike your situation (at least, you didn't mention it), my ex had a bit of an alcohol problem, too, so dealing with that was a factor in this as well. I say "a bit" because at the time I didn't feel he was really a true alcoholic. Anyway, although he for the most part became a VERY good husband after we got married, my self esteem was still hurt by the past incidences of abuse. I believe it was hurt so badly that it caused me to need attention from other men. I started to flirt around and found out that other guys still liked me. Eventually I had affairs. At age 23 I moved out because it had gone too far. Then we divorced. It was hard to do! Not easy!

I mention that story because your GF (or ex-gf) probably feels the need to have those same experiences and really get to know herself, find herself, etc., and she can't really do that in a committed relationship with you. I'm sure her father's alcoholism has really hurt her self esteem as well, and because of her hurt self esteem, I think she's going to want to see other guys and date other people - she probably craves the attention.

With that, I'm sure she loves you too, but I just don't think she's ready for the committed that you now desire. It really is true that you have to love yourself before you can love someone else -- and I think you both should grow up some more and love yourselves before jumping back into this relationship. Your issues and the reasons you have fought in the past - those don't seem to be resolved.

I think it's up to you whether or not you want to tell her how you feel. But, I don't think it's a good idea to be in a committed relationship together. I can understand keeping in touch, but how about taking a year off from each other and explore other things in life? Are either of you in college or working on a career? Think about things like that right now instead of marriage and kids.

Oh, and I think that in order for you to become involved and feel close to other women, you just need time. You obviously do love your ex-GF very much and that's what is preventing you from getting involved with anyone else. I don't think that it is necessarily the "special connection" you feel with your ex-GF. Or how you two "think alike" and all of that. I've felt that way before, especially with my ex-husband, but I've now realized that I can experience connections like that with other people. It wasn't that unique, even though it seemed like one in a million.

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