How Can I Be Sure I’m Not His Second Choice?

I’m engaged to a man I dated for over 5 years (we wanted to finish school first). I have no doubt that I want to spend my life with him. There’s just one big concern I have. We met at University through a female mutual friend. He knew her for a couple months before we met, started dating and things got exclusive within a month. Nothing ever happened between him and this other woman, mainly because she was unavailable. Now engaged, he recently admitted he was attracted to her when we first met and this really bothers me because I always suspected he felt something for her when we used to all hang out together. To make matters worse, she is totally his type (petite, brunette) while I am the exact opposite (curvy, blonde). I know he would never cheat because he takes a lot of pride in his integrity, but I can’t help feeling like I was just his second choice since I was the one who initiated our relationship and she was never interested in him anyway. We are happy together most of the time, but I find myself questioning his emotional feelings for me and why he ever got with me in the first place. I don’t want to commit myself to a man who’s with me out of logic and reason, I need to know there’s strong emotion and passion too. Should I worry about the possibility that he really preferred the other woman but settled for me?

Mandy

When women in my inaugural Love U coaching program would post questions like this in our online community, they would often run 1000 words or more.

Every once in awhile, I’d get a question that could be answered with one word:

Overthinking.

Every once in awhile, I’d get a question that could be answered with one word:
Overthinking.

Since it took too long to write “overthinking” every time, I reduced it to “OT.”

It may sound a bit dismissive; that is not my intention.

My job is to listen, process and advise. But if I listen and process and determine there is actually no problem whatsoever, what exactly am I to advise?

That’s right. Hence the term OT.

Your question, Mandy, is a common and important one, so I will leave you with a little more evidence, explaining why you’re making a mountain out of a molehill on this one.

    a. You’re engaged to a man you’ve known for 5 years and you’re worrying about someone he was attracted to in college? You won. You got the ring. He chose you. Take yes for an answer. Nobody else is a threat (except for your insecurities).
    b. He admitted he was attracted to another woman. That shows that he’s honest and he assumes you can handle the truth. A solid relationship can take this level of honesty. A flimsy relationship is one that relies on the lie that your husband has never found – and will never find – anyone attractive except for you.
    c. He has a type. So what? Most of us do. And I don’t think most of us end up marrying our “type” because we’re not so superficial as to let hair color and body shape override the more important aspects of marriage.
    d. “I can’t help feeling like I was just his second choice…”? The hell you can’t! He’s never done anything with her. He’s never been with anyone except you, and never intends to again. So how is it that YOU’RE the second choice here?
    e. You initiated your relationship five years ago and therefore, you think you just forced him into it against his will? Like he’s just going with the flow? Like he’s just marrying you to be polite? Please don’t share this with your fiancé. He’d be insulted.
    f. I need to know there’s strong emotion and passion too. If he is emotionally connected to you and you have a good sex life (neither of which you mention here), I’m going to assume you’re fine on this front. If you’re not emotionally connected and don’t have a good sex life, perhaps THAT’s a reason to not get married – but it’s certainly not this college crush. That, I can promise.

Before we go, I’m going to reluctantly share my response to the woman who was really upset that her boyfriend didn’t think she was as hot as Angelina Jolie. It wasn’t my most diplomatic moment, but I don’t disavow my answer either.

No matter who you marry, your husband will have slept with someone hotter, dated someone hotter, seen someone hotter, and will continue to notice hotter women wherever he goes for as long as you shall live.

No matter who you marry, your husband will have slept with someone hotter, dated someone hotter, seen someone hotter, and will continue to notice hotter women wherever he goes for as long as you shall live.

You have two choices: make a big deal about it, or don’t even worry about it.

Which one do you think will lead to a happier marriage?

Choose that one.

With love,

Your friend,

Evan

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Comments:

  1. 1
    Malika

    You are always the choice that came after the others. I have had relationships and crushes with many other guys, yet each experience is unique. It’s one thing if he blathers on about a woman and treats you as an uninteresting option (been there, done that, felt exhilirating to walk out of the door and to never see him again) another is accepting that there were other women who he also found attractive but who he doesn’t have the unique connection he has to you. The Angelina Jolie story is enlightening, but the ensuing discussion didn’t touch enough on the most important aspect. Is  he attracted to you? Is he in love with you? If the answer is yes, that’s the only thing that matters. Who is ‘hotter’ says nothing about how important and special you are to him. 

  2. 2
    Malika

    It helps to think of yourself as the next choice. He sounds commited to you, and that is what matters. If you look back at your own life, you can see quite a few other men you had feelings for. Does this affect how you view the unique connection you have to him? Chances are they don’t. 

  3. 3
    Emily, the original

    Agree with Malika and Marika. He picked you. You’ve been together for 5 years and she is some rando woman he was attracted to a long time ago. Although why he would bring that up 5 years later is a little strange unless you asked. Seems a moot point at this late stage in the game. If he was rambling on and on about a past girlfriend who had dumped him, that would be problematic. I had a male friend tell me, “I’ve only loved once,” and he is not with the person and married to someone else for companionship.

    1. 3.1
      Adrian

      Hi Emily,

      I agree with everyone that 5 years is a long time to develop doubt but we don’t know how his admission came about.

      So here is my question for you, you always speak about how you don’t like when a guy tries to flirt with one girl and then if he fails turns right to the next girl and tries to flirt with her… He keeps trying until he succeeds by finding a girl to say yes (I am assuming that in your examples he does this in front of all the girls he asks out after being rejected by the girl before her).

      Why don’t you like that but you feel that a guy who wanted girl “A” but fails to get her so accepts girl “B” is okay? To me both are examples of a guy going after the girl he wants the most first and then going for the next best in his opinion.

      …   …   …

      I’m not disagreeing with you I’m just playing devils advocate since it’s a slow day for me.

      1. 3.1.1
        Emily, the original

        Why don’t you like that but you feel that a guy who wanted girl “A” but fails to get her so accepts girl “B” is okay? To me both are examples of a guy going after the girl he wants the most first and then going for the next best in his opinion.

        Yeah, I can see that. The example you gave is of a guy approaching multiple women at a bar. It’s only based on a appearance and, frankly, proximity. They are breathing, they are women and they are in his immediate vicinity. In the case of the OP, this woman, the OP and the boyfriend hung out together as friends back in college. So, presumably, he knew her on some level. That seems like much more of a “choice.” But he never dated the other woman. Had he, he may have decided she wasn’t a good fit. He has dated the OP and it sounds like they are compatible. Isn’t staying with someone making a choice?

        But you tell me. Do you have male friends who have pined for another woman (and I’m not saying the OP’s boyfriend is pining for this other woman) while being in a long-term relationship with someone else? I was very much besotted/infatuated with someone else while I was dating the last person I was seeing. The whole thing with the second guy was very casual (so it doesn’t really compare to the OP’s situation) but I never stopped being interested in the first guy. Doesn’t that happen to men?

  4. 4
    Clare

    When all is said and done, it doesn’t matter if he was attracted to other women before you. It doesn’t matter if he was in love with other women before you. What matters is how he feels about you. Only you can answer what kind of a connection you and your fiance have. If your relationship is independently strong and loving, then you’ve no need to worry about the past.

    Is there another reason why you are questioning your relationship? Is this woman still a part of your lives? Does he make you feel uncomfortable where she is concerned? Is his love for you in doubt in other ways? Because these are concerns to address.

  5. 5
    Yet Another Guy

    Five years is a long time to spend with someone, especially considering that guys are a lot less likely to settle down with a woman at that age.  No guy is going to spend that much time with a woman at that age unless he is into her.

    I agree with Evan on the hotter thing.  Hotter does not translate to better, nor does it even translate to better sex.  I also agree with Evan’s assertion on type.  I allowed my type to control my choices for far too long.

  6. 6
    Nissa

    While I agree with a lot of what Evan says here, there’s one part of her letter that I think is being overlooked. She says: I don’t want to commit myself to a man who’s with me out of logic and reason, I need to know there’s strong emotion and passion too. This makes me think that she isn’t so much worried about the other woman, it’s that her experience of this guy is that his choice to be with her is based on logic & reason (I will date/marry this woman because she is available & is willing to provide sex regularly) more than because he really loves her or has a strong desire to share his life with her. I get the sense that she feels he’s just not that into her, so her mind went wandering into reasons why that might be, & that led to the discussion of this other woman.It reminds me a bit of other discussions on this board about those who have married someone for whom they had low arousal, or because they thought that person would make a good parent. If that’s the case, then there seems to be some validity to the worry. If it’s actually just about him being more attracted to someone else, I’d agree that she just needs to let that one go.  

    1. 6.1
      Evan Marc Katz

      There is no evidence that he is “with her out of logic and reason.” All she’s done in her question is express fear based on her own feelings of insecurity. Literally, the ONLY thing her fiance has done to trigger this insecurity is admitting that he was attracted to another woman once upon a time. Anything you (and Gala) do to fill in the gaps is just that – filling in the gaps – without any evidence whatsoever. It’s a completely different story if this guy SAID he was settling for her, lacks passion for her and compares her unfavorably to this other woman; alas, none of that actually took place.

      1. 6.1.1
        Yet Another Guy

        @Evan

        I am wondering if the true problem here is an impedance mismatch with respect to love language.  The LW may not be receiving love the way that she desires it.

        What is wrong with being a man’s second choice?  Men are usually their own worst enemies when it comes to selecting women.  A man’s type is usually toxic to him, but he keeps going back to the well until he gets burned enough that he starts to look outside of the box. As Mick penned, “You can’t always get what you want, but if you try sometime, you just might find, you get what you need.”  What good does it do to get what one wants when it is not what one needs?

      2. 6.1.2
        Nissa

        I agree that it would be great if the OP did present more evidence. Most people marry or express a desire within three years of dating. Five years seems a bit long to go without either of those. Usually, when men are great, women go to great lengths to point out those features, and the OP didn’t.                                                            Without the OP telling us if he is (or isn’t) showing passion, expressing a desire to marry without prompting, or indicating that this lifestyle is one that is his preference, it’s a bit hard to say.                                                        It doesn’t seem like the fiancé is particularly talking about the ex or comparing her unfavorably, I agree with that point. I’m just wondering why the OP’s mind went there, as opposed to her thinking, Maybe he doesn’t love me / maybe I’m too ___, maybe he’s a commitmentphobe – all of which are things insecure women tend to think when they are freaking about without a basis in reality.

  7. 7
    Gala

    I think Evan didn’t really understand the question being asked. I don’t think she is worried that he chose her over that particular woman, she’s worried that he chose her because *nobody* who he really wanted wanted him back. So she wins by default. She was also the one who intimated the relationship so this doesn’t help the perception. In other words, she doesn’t want to be settled for. I know this stinks but the reality of the situation is, most of us settled and have been settled for in our relationships, or there wouldn’t be any relationships. I only had one long term relationship where we were each other’s mutual “first choices”. Not in the sense that we were each other’s firsts, but in that there were no one else we’d rather be with. In my other relationships there’s definitely a few people i could think of who i would rather be with! And sadly in the ones where the guy was my “first choice”, i wasn’t his – there would be someone else he’d rather be with.. and he’d leave me eventually. It’s always better to be a guy’s “first choice” though than the other way around. It’s the principle of least interest.

    1. 7.1
      Evan Marc Katz

      Yeah, I didn’t understand the question. Went entirely over my head. (Sigh)

  8. 8
    ScottH

    I dunno about this.  If things were good and they were focusing passionately on each other, things would be good and concern about people from the past wouldn’t arise.  It seems that this is not a happy and healthy situation.  Yeah, they’ve been together for 5 years but I don’t think that really means that it’s been a good and healthy 5 years.  If she’s having doubts now, that’s a very bad sign, IMO.

  9. 9
    Christine

    My sister had a similar situation where a guy in her group of friends asked one of the other girls out first because he was attracted to her. This girl wasn’t interested in him in that way and he then asked my sister out. They have now been happily married for nearly twenty years with four kids! Being the ‘second choice’ can work out really well 🙂

  10. 10
    Mrs Happy

    I know of a man who obsessed and daydreamed for decades on “the one who got away” and it ruined his marriage, but I think for most men, the “one who got away” is very much in their past, and maybe fantasized about, but the man knows it isn’t real, and he just gets on with his real life and the woman he is building that with.

    I think Mandy picked up on her guy’s significant attraction for this other woman – “I always suspected he felt something for her when we used to all hang out together”.  Add that to 3 other facts, i) Mandy initiated their relationship, ii) how young they are (finished uni in recent years) thus how much her guy may on some level still like to … ‘know’ a number more women, and iii)  there perhaps isn’t the amount of strong emotion and passion she wants to see.  Though I agree in general with Evan, and it’s probably all OK, I think Mandy has reason to be cautious, and I have seen other women experience these things and their man never fully commit to them because they were not in fact his choice.

    I am giving Mandy the benefit of the doubt and assuming she intuited undercurrents over 5 years, rather than assuming she is insecure.  I think sometimes people just know their partner is not fully immersed and this is what this letter reads like to me.

    I’d suggest a blunt brutal conversation with him but I don’t know he’d be completely honest, or even know his own motivations and desires, because most people wouldn’t.

    1. 10.1
      Emily, the original

      Mrs. Happy,

      I’d suggest a blunt brutal conversation with him but I don’t know he’d be completely honest, or even know his own motivations and desires, because most people wouldn’t.

      And he may know he’s not all in (if he in fact isn’t) but may be getting enough out if the relationship that he wants to keep riding the train so he may fudge his answers.

      1. 10.1.1
        Yet Another Guy

        @Emily, the original

        I do not know about that one.  In my world, only a man without options would stick around for five years if he was not all-in. What is to be gained by sticking around?

        Mrs. Happy is on the money about men not dwelling in the past.  Very few men pine for the one who got away.  Most men make peace with their decision to marry the woman they took as their bride.  When I look at who I took as a bride as well as who my friends chose to marry, I can honestly say than none of us married the hottest woman that we ever dated by choice.

        1. Emily, the original

          YAG,

          When I look at who I took as a bride as well as who my friends chose to marry, I can honestly say than none of us married the hottest woman that we ever dated by choice.

          Nowhere in the letter does the OP make any reference to appearance, either hers or the other woman’s. Another commenter on this post wrote about dating hotter men. It’s not about that. The OP is questioning whether her boyfriend is with her out of logic or emotion, the same premise Jeremy writes about when women marry for status and children and later lose interest in sex because they weren’t super into the man to begin with.

        2. Yet Another Guy

          @Emily, the original

          Now engaged, he recently admitted he was attracted to her when we first met and this really bothers me because I always suspected he felt something for her when we used to all hang out together. To make matters worse, she is totally his type (petite, brunette) while I am the exact opposite (curvy, blonde).

          Maybe I am wrong, but that part of the letter sounds like the LW is comparing her appearance to that of her friend.

          With respect logic versus emotion, a woman loses 100% of the time when she uses a logic versus emotion argument when talking about a man. Men are logical creatures by nature. A man may decide to sleep with woman based on emotion, but he sure as heck will not marry one based on emotion.

          One last thing, you side-stepped the question about what does her fiancee have to gain by remaining in the relationship?  Relationships are not emotional maintenance free.  Unless a man is the unfortunate type who does not have options (most men have at least limited options), it is a heck of lot less work to obtain sex than it is maintain a woman emotionally.

        3. Jeremy

          @YAG, ” Men are logical creatures by nature.”  LOL!  Not according to any study, research, or accurate observation.  Men are emotional creatures by nature.  No decision made in the history of human-kind was motivated by pure logic. The emotions that tend to motivate men might tend to differ than those of women, and some men might try to subsume their emotions when making decisions and subordinate them to logic, we are ALL primarily emotional.

           

          it is a heck of lot less work to obtain sex than it is maintain a woman emotionally” Meh.  You are extrapolating.  For many guys, having a relationship which provides an emotional and sexual haven is well-worth the cost of emotional maintenance – which isn’t all that hard for some guys.

           

          In my world, only a man without options would stick around for five years if he was not all-in.”  I’ve seen men do this often.  Have a relationship/marriage to provide comfort, lifestyle and children and have affairs on the side.  As I wrote to Adrian on Evan’s last post, some men marry because of an internal desire to marry, others go with the flow.  In the case of this OP, it’s not that she’s necessarily nuts in thinking that a man might not be all-in, but rather that if his behavior to her hasn’t given her legitimate reason for concern, she should evaluate how much of her worry is real and how much based on anxiety.

        4. Yet Another Guy

          @Jeremy

          We are going to have to agree to disagree on this subject.  Men with options usually execute them when they are not all-in in a relationship.  Unless a man is dealing with a total door mat, maintaining a relationship over the long haul is hard work.

          I stand by my assertion that no man with options will remain with a woman for five years unless he is all-in.  Most women have emotional demands that a non-all-in man is unlikely to want to fulfill for an extended period of time.  The guys who remain in this type of situation are guys who have a difficult time attracting women of equal quality.  A man who remains in a non-fulfilling marriage and has a mistress on the side usually does so because he does not want to forfeit half of what he sees as HIS assets along with paying child support and possibly paying spousal support to a woman who will be having sex with other men on his dime. How many of these men stay true to their wives after being called on the carpet for cheating?  Divorce often occurs at a breakneck pace with the man shacking up with his paramour.

        5. Tom10

          @ Yet Another Guy
          “Men with options usually execute them when they are not all-in in a relationship.  Unless a man is dealing with a total door mat, maintaining a relationship over the long haul is hard work”
           
          I’m with Jeremy on this one; a huge percentage of men are perfectly content staying in quasi-committed (i.e. not married) relationships for years and years because of the tangible benefits of doing so; i.e. regular sex and dinner with no demands for true commitment.
           
          Maintaining a relationship over the long haul might be hard work; but obtaining regular sex over the short haul is just as much hard work.
           
          Some men with options are just too darn lazy to bother executing them.

        6. Mrs Happy

          Dear YAG,

          I see quite a number of men and women “sticking around”; they stay in relationships because of inertia or laziness or just wanting to be with someone and not wanting to be alone. I bet lots of men don’t have many options or – more importantly and more commonly – they would now have options on the open dating market but they don’t think they would, they’re not confident and don’t realise that now they’re 40 not 20 the power in dating has shifted more to them.

          I have a male friend who is shy.  Nice, smart, considerate guy, but not confident socially with unknown males or females, positively debilitated in fact by a lack of social ability.  He was pursued by his partner, she pushed the big decisions like moving in, having children and when, and he has never really been into the relationship. I know he’d prefer a different type of woman and life (for years his partner’s severe moodiness has been horrid to live with).  Because he suspects dating and finding someone else would be distressing (the shyness) and he thinks he couldn’t attract a better fit partner, he just stayed.  They have been together about 20 years now and this is not the family life he wanted.  His inertia sort of drove me crazy after a while as I honestly couldn’t sympathise a lot after about year 10 of the drama (I was his main support person who heard about it all repeatedly).

          YAG I suspect most men on the planet don’t have your self-assurance.  They stay in ‘meh’ relationships for the benefits, even though you and I would scream “go go go”.  You asked what is to be gained by sticking around, and using only my friend as an example, by staying he gets to see his kids, a home life and house he couldn’t afford on just one wage, sex, housework done, meals cooked, fun times with his partner, her extended family’s social and practical support, someone to talk to at night, and they are just the things I can see from a distance, I’m sure there are more.

        7. Emily, the original

          YAG,

          To make matters worse, she is totally his type (petite, brunette) while I am the exact opposite (curvy, blonde). …Maybe I am wrong, but that part of the letter sounds like the LW is comparing her appearance to that of her friend.

          He’s more attracted to a different type but the OP may be more physically attractive. I’m not sure why this concept seems so hard to grasp. I was at the height of my (thin yet curvy) blondeness, in my 20s, and asked a guy I liked what his type was. I was sure I was it. He said it was somewhat chubby, big-bottomed women. Despite how attractive you are, you can’t be everyone’s type.

           Men are logical creatures by nature. A man may decide to sleep with woman based on emotion, but he sure as heck will not marry one based on emotion.

          You are logical but you can’t make sweeping statements about an entire gender. It’s myopic.

        8. Emily, the original

          YAG,

          One last thing, you side-stepped the question about what does her fiancee have to gain by remaining in the relationship?  Relationships are not emotional maintenance free.  Unless a man is the unfortunate type who does not have options (most men have at least limited options), it is a heck of lot less work to obtain sex than it is maintain a woman emotionally.

          I’m with Tom on this one. He could be lazy and it sounds like the OP is doing a big chunk of the work (or at least did initially). There are men who want to know they have sex at hand, when they want it. It comforts them, I suppose. They don’t like the initial period of dating and not knowing if they are going to get it. And he may like the emotional support he gets and doesn’t want to have to go out and look for that, either.

        9. Tom10

          @ Emily, the original
           
          You wrote:
           
          “You are logical but you can’t make sweeping statements about an entire gender. It’s myopic.”
           
          in response to Yag’s comment;
           
          “Men are logical creatures by nature. A man may decide to sleep with woman based on emotion, but he sure as heck will not marry one based on emotion.”
           
          I agree with you Emily.
           
          Men are logical…sometimes. As are women logical…sometimes.
           
          Men marry all the time based on emotion; they call it “love”, lol.
           
          In fact I’d YAG got it all backwards: a man may decide to sleep with a woman based on logic, but he won’t usually marry one based on logic; otherwise we’d have no embittered divorced men posting all over the internet blaming their woes on women. The cold truth is that those men married the wrong woman in the first place due to selecting their spouse on emotion rather than logic.
           
          PS. I note you’re still going strong and haven’t mentioned the C-word since our challenge began. And you haven’t mentioned Chemistry either. Hahahaha 😉

        10. Jeremy

          @Tom, re: logic vs. emotion,

           

          A while back I passed by a local deli that calls itself “kosher-style”.  This means that it serves bacon-wrapped cheeseburgers, but with a side of a kosher pickle or perhaps with a bowl of matzo ball soup.  There is nothing kosher at all about this deli, other than the trappings and the story it likes to tell about itself.

           

          The same is true of logically-minded people.  We are “logical-style.”  We serve up a plate of emotion and irrationality with a side of kosher-pickle logic.  We try to suppress our emotions, try to rationalize our actions, but without the initiating emotion there would be no action.

           

          The internet is full of divorced men who are angry – not because they married for emotional reasons, but because they THOUGHT they were marrying for logical ones.  They thought the world worked by a certain set of rules, and later discovered that it doesn’t.  And when we see that the world doesn’t match the stories we believe, we have 2 choices – to accept that the stories are wrong, or to believe there is something wrong with the world.  Too many people choose the latter.  My city was just rocked by a mass murderer who made just that mistake.  An emotional response to faulty logic.

           

          All of us who claim to be logical would do well to identify the emotion behind our actions rather than identify the logical justifications we use to rationalize our decisions post-hoc.

        11. Tom10

          @ Jeremy
          “There is nothing kosher at all about this deli, other than the trappings and the story it likes to tell about itself.”
           
          Well with regards to commerce I doubt the deli pretends to be kosher as a story it likes to tell about itself, rather to create an angle to create itself a captive or niche market. The same way modern brands, even those contributing to environmental degradation such as airlines, tag a “green” or “eco” label to their products for commercial purposes; I doubt any of them actually care one iota about the environment but it suits their image to pretend to do so.
           
          But point taken. So many of us like to pretend that we’re not susceptible to making decisions based on reason rather than emotion; in the end the only ones we’re kidding are ourselves.
           
          Why do so many men like to see virtue in rejecting/suppressing their emotions I wonder? Such thoughts probably feed into toxic ideals of masculinity prevalent in society and all the resultant catastrophic consequences you mentioned.
           
          “when we see that the world doesn’t match the stories we believe, we have 2 choices – to accept that the stories are wrong, or to believe there is something wrong with the world.  Too many people choose the latter”. 
           
          Because that’s the easier choice isn’t it? Accepting that, in fact, it’s us who are wrong, rather than the world at large, is just too damn painful.
           
          “My city was just rocked by a mass murderer who made just that mistake.  An emotional response to faulty logic.”
           
          A horrendous tragedy; in fact I was just reading about this and the perpetrator’s distorted thinking and antipathy towards women. Minassian, and his hero Elliot Rodger before him, saw themselves as the holders of truth and logic thus blaming the world at large; whereas objectively, the reality was their problems originated from their distorted thinking and poor emotional control.
           
          I also noted that they were both involuntarily celibate, or “incels”, and remembered the discussion we had some time ago about the effects of sexual starvation on young men.
           
          “All of us who claim to be logical would do well to identify the emotion behind our actions rather than identify the logical justifications we use to rationalize our decisions post-hoc”
           
          So it seems it is impossible to disassociate emotion from our decisions, no matter how hard we try. Due to the fact we’re human I guess.
           
          Men would be better served, and achieve better results, by acknowledging and working with their very real emotions rather than working even harder to override and control them?

        12. Jeremy

          Tom, I suspect the reason that so many men try to override their emotions and take pride in being logical is to be “better” than those around them.  That is, IMHO, the true root of toxic masculinity.

           

          When I was a lonely, unhappy little boy, I became enamored with very orthodox religion for a while.  With being the religious kid among mostly secular kids.  While I made up a lot of excuses as to why religion interested me, the true reason was that I could perceive myself as being better, rather than worse, than those around me.  That if I felt excluded from the group it was because of THEIR moral failings, not my own deficiencies.  Took me a long time to get over that.  Some never do.  I think there are a lot of potentially beautiful things about religion, but  only if one is able to separate fanaticism from belief, belief from practice, practice from community.

           

          My experience is that when it comes to community and friendship, many women are content with being equals to their friends and contemporaries.  Neither one-up nor one-down in hierarchial status.  But most men are more content being one-up.  How do we become one-up?  We get more money.  We get more prestige.  We see ourselves as “Better” than those around us.  More logical, more rational, more in control.  Because if we weren’t, who would we be?  Just another cog in the great machine? We pour all our energies into assuaging our status anxiety.

           

          The irony is that by accepting our place of equality in the hierarchy, we would ultimately be happier.  Easier to get along with.  More lovable.  Have better relationships. More able to forgive ourselves for our failings and others for theirs.  If we accepted our emotions and the meaning thereof – our shared humanity, our fallibility, our lack of special-ity – so much would be easier for us.

           

          And I say that as a person who has ego-invested in his own special-ity for his whole life.

        13. Yet Another Guy

          @Tom10

          Why do so many men like to see virtue in rejecting/suppressing their emotions I wonder? Such thoughts probably feed into toxic ideals of masculinity prevalent in society and all the resultant catastrophic consequences you mentioned.

          It is because men are the sent the message that they are expendable from the time that they are little boys.  Other than Israel, only men are subject to  compulsory service in countries that still have conscription (last time I checked, men still had to serve longer than women in the IDF).  Trust me, I spent five years in uniform. It would be pretty darn hard to convince an 18-year-old boy to run into a hail of bullets without the emotional desensitization that started when he is a little a boy.  The military takes that level of desensitization and kicks it up several notches. While basic training exists to teach basic military skills, its primary goal is to cull the emotionally weak.  That is why recruits are subjected to constant physical, mental, and emotional stress. Drilling while on active duty takes desensitization to a new level. The same holds true for public safety jobs, which are predominantly male.  Think about the level of emotional suppression it takes to be able to run into a burning building while everyone else is running out. There is a reason why we train men to do these jobs when they are young.

           

        14. Emily, the original

          Hi Tom10,

          Men marry all the time based on emotion; they call it “love”, lol.

          Exactly. So many of the male posters always write of relationships in such a cold, clinical way … He has no better options … This woman has the highest SMV he could get … He’s getting regular sex … the cost analysis of leaving and looking for something one is not favorable … DAYUM.   PS. I note you’re still going strong and haven’t mentioned the C-word since our challenge began. And you haven’t mentioned Chemistry either. Hahahaha 😉

          I’m Lionel Ritchie. I can do this all night long.   🙂

      2. 10.1.2
        Tom10

        @ Jeremy
        “I suspect the reason that so many men try to override their emotions and take pride in being logical is to be “better” than those around them.
         
        My experience is that when it comes to community and friendship, many women are content with being equals to their friends and contemporaries.  Neither one-up nor one-down in hierarchial status.  But most men are more content being one-up.  How do we become one-up?  We get more money.  We get more prestige.  We see ourselves as “Better” than those around us.  More logical, more rational, more in control.  Because if we weren’t, who would we be?  Just another cog in the great machine? We pour all our energies into assuaging our status anxiety.”
         
        I think there’s some truth to your assertion, however, I don’t think it’s gender specific as you claim; rather I believe it’s just the human condition, expressed differently in the genders and at different points in our life.
         
        Karl R noted this point in a recent comment; “most people have some area where they view themselves as “alpha”, or better than average, even if it’s not the typical social arenas”.
         
        Men get one-up from status (our job), money and sexual conquests, but also sports, music, intelligence etc. I could probably identify how each male contributor on this blog obtains his one-up. Women get one-up from status, money and marriage etc.
         
        Women with children often obtain their one-up vicariously through their kids’ achievements: “my little Jonny speaks 3 languages and plays 4 instruments; isn’t he fantastic!”
         
        But that competitive edge is what drives the human spirit isn’t it? We need that angst to push ourselves to the next level; in fact contentedness is probably anathema to achievement.

        1. Jeremy

          Oh, I definitely think that women compete – they just do it differently.  I vividly recall going, years ago, to a Christmas party of my wife’s psychology grad-school class.  They were all women.  They all smiled at each other and treated each other like best friends…..and the intense competition, jealously and antipathy behind those smiles nearly bowled me over.  I had to leave the room because of the intensity of vicarious emotion I was picking up.  Yeah, women compete.  But they tend to compete in a much more pro-social way than men, IME.

           

          It’s what drives the human spirit, agreed, but it’s also what drives sexual competition.  After all, men want to be the best because women choose the best men.  As men choose the best women.  But whereas men might qualify “best” as prettiest or most accommodating, women often qualify “best” as the most outstanding from the crowd in terms of status and power.  Hence the dilemma.  We can’t talk about toxic masculinity without acknowledging the role of female choices.

        2. Emily, the original

          Jeremy,

          Women often qualify “best” as the most outstanding from the crowd in terms of status and power.  Hence the dilemma.  We can’t talk about toxic masculinity without acknowledging the role of female choices.

          Part of that is hard-wired. There are plenty of examples in the animal kingdom of male animals competing with each other to mate with female animals. It’s no different than men worshiping youth and fertility. Or married women feeling uncomfortable around single women and worrying about mate poaching. Some women will try to “steal” the man because she wants to “one up” the other woman. Her interest in the man is driven by that competition.

        3. Tom10

          @ Jeremy
          “women often qualify “best” as the most outstanding from the crowd in terms of status and power.  Hence the dilemma.  We can’t talk about toxic masculinity without acknowledging the role of female choices.”
           
          This sounds suspiciously similar to victim blaming.
           
          I was watching an episode of Mr. Robot last night where Elliot, the central protagonist, laments his dystopian perception of the world:
           
          “Sometimes I dream of saving the world. Saving everyone from the invisible hand, the one that brands us with an employee badge, the one the forces us to work for them, the one that controls us every day without us knowing it. But I can’t stop it. I’m not that special. I’m just anonymous. I’m just alone.”
           
          And I remembered our discussion where I postulated that we don’t make our own dating choices, that free-will is a myth; rather that there’s an invisible hand (nature) pushing all of us. The thing Minassian and Rodger didn’t realize is that women aren’t really to blame for their own choices as they are as subject to the role of the invisible hand as much as we are.
           
          Rather than try to analyze and accept their hypocritical myopia they went on a rampage. So what’s the solution? I guess it’s to understand how the invisible hand works, accept it and work with it.
           
          @ Emily, the original
          “Part of that is hard-wired. There are plenty of examples in the animal kingdom of male animals competing with each other to mate with female animals.”
           
          Right. All of that is hard-wired.
           
          Do you ever watch nature documentaries Emily and think of our discussions and theories whilst observing the dating/mating rituals of various animals? I always do that. Or sometimes in a club I can hear the narration of David Attenborough as I observe ‘the boys watch the girls while the girls watch the boys who watch the girls go by’. Lol.

        4. jeremy

          So what’s the solution? I guess it’s to understand how the invisible hand works, accept it and work with it.”  And forgive yourself and others for being affected by the invisible hand – there is no malice behind it.  And use your rational mind to find ways to augment the hand for better outcomes for yourself – don’t be at the mercy of the hand.

           

          Understand our inherent biases and use their strength against them – like judo – rather than trying to overcome them through sheer willpower.  It’s easier not to eat the pie if you don’t have it in your house – “availability bias”.  It’s easier not to cheat with a woman if you don’t flirt excessively or sequester yourself with women to whom you are attracted – also availability bias.  It’s easier to be happy in marriage if you view marriage as irreversible – “paradox of choice”.  It’s more effective to do CBT to deal with your own anxiety than to listen to the advice of others who have come to the same conclusions for you – the “Ikea effect”.

           

          We are not at the mercy of our inclinations.  But we can overcome them more effectively with an understanding of our source coding.  Just as the main dish at the deli might taste better with the kosher pickle side-order, our main course of irrationality might do better with the side of kosher-pickle rationality.

        5. Emily, the original

          Thomas,

          Do you ever watch nature documentaries Emily and think of our discussions and theories whilst observing the dating/mating rituals of various animals? 

          I’m getting insight into your proclivities. Are these sexual animal shows?    🙂

          And, also, Jeremy mentioned men picking the best women in terms of appearance. And women picking the best in terms of male status. Isn’t a man landing the prettiest girl also a status symbol in the bro world? Nothing reveals more about you than who will date you. (NOT who will have sex with you.)

        6. shaukat

          The thing Minassian and Rodger didn’t realize is that women aren’t really to blame for their own choices as they are as subject to the role of the invisible hand as much as we are.Both Minassian and Rodger were incapable of understanding this, in my opinion, because of their deep seated narcissism and entitlement complex. Rodger especially was the quintessential narcissist, if you watch his videos and read portions of his manifesto this aspect of his complex comes through clearly: he states repeatedly, “I am the supreme gentlemen;” “I don’t know why women don’t like me, I am such a gentleman,” etc. His narcissism was anchored in a glorious past, he believed aristocratic blood, gentlemanly behavior, wealth and his racial superiority should have sufficed to land him attractive women. When this perception he had of himself was shattered through rejection (or rather, ‘passive rejection’ as some of the ladies here define it, since he never actually approached any women directly, another sign of his entitlement), when he saw women pass him over for “brutes,”rather than looking inward in an effort to improve, he lashed outward and blamed everyone else: women first and foremost, but also minorities. Throw in some actual mental illness, and it all becomes a toxic mix. I think as we learn more about Minassian, we’ll discover a similar trajectory.  

        7. Mrs Happy

          I’ve been thinking about Mr Minassian and his likely suboptimal life experiences with relationships, and how men navigate relationships from early school years then through adulthood. Jeremy I am truly sorry for your city’s losses and I am sure I speak for all regular contributors here in saying we hope you haven’t been too directly affected.  The ripple effect of these tragedies is far-reaching.

          While idealistically I agree with Tom10 and Jeremy’s conclusions on how to best cope in this world of relationships, I think it’s impractical to hope that angry, disaffected, socially-inept young men will use rational thinking to change the hand life deals them and better their outcomes, or understand their biases and turn them into strengths.  A person of average intelligence only has so much ability to apply knowledge and skills and adapt advantageously to the world around them. Asking them to do what only smart people can do well, is like asking me to lift up a truck – it can’t be done.   If you are smart it’s all too easy to forget how hard it is for others less fortunate in the cerebral IQ lottery to navigate this world.

          College kids (with higher than population average IQs) think everyone is having lots of sex, even whilst in the middle of life in dorms, and can’t see that 20% of students are having 80% of the sex.  How can we expect a romantically inexperienced, isolated, lower IQ angry young man, saturated by advertising images of perfect young women, surrounded by pretty girls at school, seeing in every movie from James Bond to rom-coms a hetero couple fall into bed within 90 minutes, to understand that’s not actually how the world works?  How on earth can we expect that he should not only identify the big lies he has been sold, but problem solve his significant issues?

          And just to be clear, before I get attacked, in my opinion the only reason to keep Mr Minassian alive, is that he so clearly doesn’t want to be, and he deserves to suffer.  If he killed 10 innocent people I think he deserves life in the most brutal of prisons, and in such cases I think it’s unfortunate the death penalty has been abolished in Canada.

          Constable Lam was amazing.  What a quick thinking, wise, containing, brave man.  What a hero.

    2. 10.2
      Adrian

      I actually somewhat agree with Yet Another Guy on this one. This guy was in college for the past 5 years, he had plenty of options and plenty of opportunity yet he stayed with her and remained faithful.

      Also they are both 22-23 years old. At that age I doubt he would choose her simply because of logic, I bet he is emotionally attached to her as well. I don’t disagree that people stay in relationships out of fear and laziness but most people who are lazy don’t push themselves to finish college and most people who are afraid would not have even tried with the first choice.

       

      1. 10.2.1
        Emily, the original

        Hi Adrian,

        I don’t disagree that people stay in relationships out of fear and laziness but most people who are lazy don’t push themselves to finish college 

        I’ll have to disagree with you on this. At my new job, a lot of my co-workers complain. All. Day. Long. Even the manager constantly complains, and he has a master’s degree. They are smart, educated people who are, frankly, happy to complain and do nothing about it. Deep down, they are lazy and don’t want to change because change takes energy and is difficult. Yet they finished school, got jobs and then got complacent.

  11. 11
    Eugenie

    I wonder if this all stems from you wanting to be pursued deep down, while you had to be the pursuer.

    Are you generally the pursuer in the relationship? Is he passive or unavailable or something like that? That might be an issue to explore.

    1. 11.1
      Evan Marc Katz

      She initiated the relationship 5 YEARS ago and if he’s like 99% of guys, he was the one who proposed.

      I don’t see why everyone is attempting to assume anything that is not explicitly written.

      1. 11.1.1
        Mrs Happy

        Dear Evan,

        we are assuming and interpreting because we all love analysing nuances.  That’s who you have as regular commenters.

        1. Evan Marc Katz

          I’m aware. But at a certain point, it starts to sound like conspiracy theories – everybody making assumptions about what was unsaid by the OP based on their own fears and biases, as opposed to the actual text provided. Technically, it doesn’t matter – people can theorize all they want – but it does get a bit tiring watching people leap to conclusions questioning this fiance’s motives, even though there is literally NO evidence that he is anything but pure of heart in his desire to marry her. Frankly, it feels like mental masturbation as opposed to giving the OP sound advice to her straightforward question.

  12. 12
    Marika

    FWIW, Evan, I agree entirely with you.

    I think the LW is just feeling a little sensitive and insecure and needs reassurance, not for others to buy into her (unfounded) fears.

    She’s very young. She hasn’t met lots of men and been on lots of dates and experienced that you can love, lose and love again, like many different types of people in your life, and that their exes or past flames/ crushes are no threat.

    Just talk to someone who married their first serious bf about online dating. Their response is likely to be “I don’t know how you do it!”.

    These are fears based on insecurity and lack of experience, nothing more. I would say, trust your guy, trust your relationship and enjoy it!

  13. 13
    Michelle

    The same also applies to me.  I may be with a man I love, but I have also dated guys who are hotter, slept with guys who are hotter, been hit on by guys who are hotter, had hotter boyfriends, and will continue to notice guys who are hotter wherever I go for the rest of my life.  I choose to be with this man because I know he has qualities in a specific combination that is unique and that I love more than these other hotter men.  I hope that this is what guys also think of when they notice or remember hotter women.

  14. 14
    Lisa

    Its hard to know if she is truly insecure and this is all a figment of her imagination, or if there is really something to be concerned about. When I was reading this letter I recalled EMK’s concept of mirroring and said yep, that should have been done here. Since she did all the pursuing,, she is not sure that he is actually interested in her or not. I do think you can be someone’s second choice and still a great partner. But I also think it would feel pretty crappy to be someone’s second choice. The only thing I would say to this writer is that physical attraction does not make or break a relationship, it’s the icing on the cake. He barely knew your friend when they dated, so all he has is physical attraction and lust. Had they actually dated or become engaged like the two of you, it’s very possible he would have found her to be unattractive. He loves you. He may still be curious about what could have been, or have a grass is only greener complex, and if so then you should leave. Have you spoken with your friend about this? What does she have to offer?

  15. 15
    Jeremy

    This would be an excellent application for cognitive behavioral therapy (CBT) for the OP.  There are good books on the subject (“mind over mood” comes to mind), or a therapist could provide assistance.  The first step would be to write out the situation that is causing distress.  Then to write the emotions that the situation evokes – perhaps fear, anxiety, jealousy, whatever.  Then write the automatic thoughts that are behind the emotions.  For example, “I am afraid he loves her more than me.”  “I am afraid of entering into a loveless marriage.”  “I am afraid he will cheat on me.”  Whatever.  Then write out the cognitive distortions (incorrect ways of thinking) that are leading to these automatic thoughts – see here for a list of common cognitive distortions:

    https://www.psychologytoday.com/us/blog/in-practice/201301/50-common-cognitive-distortions

     

    In this case, likely catastrophizing, mind reading, emotional reasoning, jumping to conclusions.  And then finally, writing down thoughtful alternate explanations for the situation that do not rely on cognitive distortions – he is with me because he loves me.  He proposed to me because he wants to marry me, not someone else.  He tells me that he loves me because he really does.  Change how you feel by changing what you think.

     

    I am suggesting the CBT approach because I don’t believe a frank conversation will go well in this case.  After a 5 year relationship and a marriage proposal, her approaching him with accusations and fears may not be received well, and also may not be useful.  The OP may be predisposed toward anxious attachments, but can work on the anxiety.  Hopefully her fiancee understands this and will also provide some natural reassurance for her with his behavior.

    1. 15.1
      Nissa

      This sounds like a very sensible course of action.

  16. 16
    Stacy

    My (ex)best friend was in love with me for years and I never felt the same. He told me his (now) wife was his second choice as a result (and this is linked to one of the reasons we have not been friends anymore for years – out of respect for his marriage). I just saw him on facebook and he seems incredibly happy and he now has children of his own. I guarantee you that he is no longer thinking about me.I say all that to say that we are all second choices somewhat.  It doesn’t matter as long as the person you are with sees  you and treats you the way he should and sees you as enough. My fiancé is not my 1st choice. However, he is the best choice when considering all the qualities I like in combination. I will not leave him for another ‘1st choice possibility’ because I am content.  My fiancé was also engaged once before to a woman who ended up cheating on him. While I don’t know this for sure, I am reasonably sure that if he could go back in time and choose that she would never cheat and be married to her, he may make that choice to be with her. They had an incredibly great relationship otherwise (or so he thought). But none of this bothers me as long as he keeps treating me like the cat’s meow.

  17. 17
    Adrian

    Isn’t the more important question: “If you had the chance to be in a relationship with your first choice would you leave the person you are currently dating or married to?”

    I’m going to go out on a limb and say that anyone who would turn down that opportunity is doing so because the person that they are currently with is now their first choice. Just because you may have started off as someone’s second choice doesn’t mean that you will always be their second choice.

     

    1. 17.1
      Jeremy

      Above I mentioned doing a CBT chart because it really helps tease apart what the anxiety is all about.  In the case of the OP, is her anxiety that he will cheat, go back to the other woman if given the opportunity?  Or is it that she wants to be loved intensely, desired intensely, and that she doesn’t want to be with someone who doesn’t feel that sort of intensity about her?  If the latter, it’s all about validation.  You and I know what that’s about.  The problem is, while it’s ok to need some validation, there’s such thing as needing it too much.  The line between being a bit anxious versus having pathological and debilitating anxiety.  Liking a bit of validation and being a validation junkie.

       

      Speaking in general, a person with an anxious attachment system does best with a partner who is able to provide the type of validation they need naturally.  Such a person does not do well with a person who is brutally honest or unwilling to empathise with what she needs to feel and hear.  There was nothing wrong with Evan’s answer to the person who asked the Angelina Jolie question – but someone who would give such an answer would not make a good partner for someone with an anxious attachment tendency.  On that subject, Evan and I have totally different approaches – his, that being honest is preferable and that the anxious partner should grow up a bit.  Mine – that honesty is not always appropriate because the question being asked is not always the question being asked – so intuit a bit, and answer the real question.  My approach works better with a partner like me.  Evan’s approach would work better with a partner like Clare or Nissa.

       

      My hope for the OP is that her partner can provide her with the validation that she needs, and that she can overcome her own anxiety with some CBT to meet him the other half of the way.

      1. 17.1.1
        Evan Marc Katz

        I agree with you, to some degree, Jeremy. Except your answer is dependent upon a man “inuiting the real question” and, as we know, most men are not capable of that. Any question where the answer is for the woman’s PARTNER to change is not the kind of question I’m going to answer. Unless your answer is “find a more intuitive partner,” I believe there’s little an anxious woman can do except understand that men, in general, lead with the truth, say what they want to say and do what they want to do, and thus, don’t require much interpretation.

        1. Jeremy

          That is a good general rule.

           

          I think that “find a more intuitive partner” is the answer only if the person in question is unable to overcome their anxiety with the partner they are with.  Hopefully that is not the case here.

           

          And finally – you are right, most men are not capable of that intuiting.  If you can’t intuit well, get out of the intuiting business.

    2. 17.2
      Nissa

      I thought about this when I was dating, before I married. I was still in love with my first love when I married my husband. But I didn’t choose my first love because he didn’t treat me well. He cheated and lied. So even if I had had the opportunity to be in a relationship with him, I would not have chosen that.In my mind, my ‘first choice’ would have been for my first love to not cheat on me and for me to get to be in a relationship with him. But since I didn’t get to have the ‘no cheating’ part, it made the rest of it moot. So the fact that I wasn’t able to give my heart in the same way after that didn’t mean very much. I still fell in love with my husband, I still chose him. I was utterly faithful to him, had no contact at all with my ex in spite of my ex’s working less than a mile down the road from me for a decade. BUT – in my heart, my husband was not my first choice.Interestingly, I saw my first love in a restaurant when I was getting divorced & he had been on my mind quite a bit. He smiled at me for a very long moment, so I smiled back and I thought he was really cute, until it dawned on me that I knew him and oh my God realized it was my ex. I immediately dropped cash on the table and walked out to get away from him. So it really was no credit to my ex-husband that I did or didn’t revert to my ex. It was a function of my believing that I could never get what I wanted from that person, and so I stayed away.

      1. 17.2.1
        Emily, the original

        Nissa,

        So the fact that I wasn’t able to give my heart in the same way after that didn’t mean very much. I still fell in love with my husband, I still chose him. I was utterly faithful to him, had no contact at all with my ex in spite of my ex’s working less than a mile down the road from me for a decade. BUT – in my heart, my husband was not my first choice.

        Do you think your husband sensed that you weren’t “all in”? Sometimes we don’t feel as much for the person who is actually better for us in the long-term.

        1. Nissa

          That’s the thing. I was as ‘all in’ as I was capable of being at the time, which me being who I am, my ‘not as capable as before’ was still ‘far more capable than most’.I still loved my husband very much. I never really talked about my ex, although my husband surprised me once when we were dating by saying that he thought I’d never love him like I loved the first one. But once we dated for a while, I think he realized that my integrity meant that no matter how I felt, I would not act on that. And I backed that up with the behavior of zero contact with my first love.I felt terrible that the one I married, C, felt ‘compared’ and assured him that I was happy. Which to a great degree I was. It just wasn’t that pure, joyous, I-have-no-doubts-whatsoever kind of love. I did have doubts that no matter how much I loved this new person, that it might not work out. That my love couldn’t conquer all. The first time, I was blissfully ignorant of how it could come crashing down. But I never felt (and still don’t) that this meant I couldn’t love, appreciate, and respect the man I married. I still wanted him, enjoyed him, planned to spend the rest of my life with him.I just think it was not so much about not loving the man I married enough, as it was about my inability to deal with my idealism having been crushed. I just could not come to terms with losing the person I loved, irrevocably. It shook my faith in the goodness of life, that something that bad could happen to me. It took a decade for that hole to heal, and it helped to have a new loving relationship to convince me life could be worth living again.And my husband was actually a worse fit for me in many ways than my first love, so it certainly wasn’t an issue of shared interests or wanting a family together. I never lost interest in him sexually.I did eventually fall ‘mostly’ out of love with my first love. I stopped pining for him and truly accepted that I would never be with him. But it took a decade for that to happen.

        2. Emily, the original

          Nissa,

          But once we dated for a while, I think he realized that my integrity meant that no matter how I felt, I would not act on that.

          Whether someone acted on it or not, I’d still be bothered if I was with someone who was pinning for someone else (although you wrote that that feeling ended). But that’s me. I’d worry more about a one-off sexual infidelity (though I’m certainly wouldn’t give it a free pass) and more about a strong emotional infidelity/longing/wanting. I mean, if the other person is starting to camp out in the spouse’s head.

    3. 17.3
      Stacy

      @Adrian,You are such an interesting person and I would be perplexed if women weren’t always knocking down your door.:)Honestly Adrian, I don’t know the answer to that (if you would leave the person you are with now for your first choice) because it’s so complicated.  After being with someone for awhile, going through the growing joys and pain of your relationship and being in a really good place, and even after sometimes having kids with the person, I just don’t think it’s practical for many people to make that choice (EVEN if part of them would want to). In other words, if my first choice was available, I won’t leave my current man. But it’s primarily because of an instinct to survive.lol Honestly, it is exhausting to start over, get to know someone, and see how it all pans out.  However, if emotions were the thing that led me and if I was in my early 20s, I would pursue my first choice in a heartbeat. However, after establishing a long term history with the person you are with, even if you meet someone else that SEEMS hotter, smarter, more your type, etc., sometimes history with the person you are with trumps lust and passionate desire. Because ultimately, ‘first choice’ primarily stems from those things we see on the surface.I hope this doesn’t sound cold but I am just being honest.

  18. 18
    Gala

    And finally – you are right, most men are not capable of that intuiting

    I think most men over the age of, say, 27, are very good at recognizing that “do these jeans make my ass look fat” is not really a question 🙂 whether they “intuit” this or have simply learned from their mistakes doesn’t really matter anymore.

  19. 19
    Marika

    Emily TO

    While I can certainly appreciate your concerns around a partner being hung up on someone from their past, I think you’ll drive yourself insane worrying about it. Past the age of 30ish we all have pasts and people who broke our hearts/things that didn’t pan out but played on our minds etc…Worrying about what could be in their heads is, in my view, as futile and damaging as guys worrying about how quickly you slept with the last guy. This is probably where full trust or no trust comes in. If you’re with someone, you have to trust that they want to be with you, they are happy with you (even if there’s a past love they sometimes think about) and that they’ll be faithful.

    My ex husband used to quiz me about my ex before him (they met once when my ex husband and I were just work colleagues) and worry about why I said this about him, and blah blah and it drove me insane! NO matter how much I reassured him that yes, the ex boyfriend was a good guy and treated me well and I didn’t want to bitch about him, I love HIM, not the other guy. And there’s a reason we broke up!

    1. 19.1
      Emily, the original

      Marika,

      Past the age of 30ish we all have pasts and people who broke our hearts/things that didn’t pan out but played on our minds etc…

      Well, Nissa wrote that she was pining for her ex. That’s a bit different than thinking about a past love from time to time and wondering what if.

      Worrying about what could be in their heads is … If you’re with someone, you have to trust that they want to be with you …

      Well, there’s not much else you can do. No one is going to come out and tell you they’re still pining for someone else. That would be shooting themselves in the foot.  I am probably a bit paranoid about this, but, as Jeremy has taught us, people often don’t know their motivations for doing things and, as we’ve learned from this site, people are inherently selfish. It’s human nature.

      My ex husband used to quiz me about my ex before him (they met once when my ex husband and I were just work colleagues) and worry about why I said this about him, and blah blah

      From what I remember, your ex-husband really knocked you over. I have a hard time imagining (at least in the beginning) you were dwelling on someone else. 🙂

      1. 19.1.1
        Marika

        I hear you, Emily, but if they’re pining or hung up or even just the occasional thought, how would you know? You can’t monitor their thoughts. You certainly can’t control them.

        Yes, my husband had nothing to worry about. I didn’t even look at another guy when we were together. My point was that you can needlessly drive yourself crazy worrying about someone’s ex. If I wasn’t so wrapped up in him, that level of insecurity could have been a real turn off. It definitely can’t help a relationship to worry about if they think of their ex.

        I don’t know much. But I know that.

        1. Emily, the original

          Marika,

          I hear you, Emily, but if they’re pining or hung up or even just the occasional thought, how would you know? You can’t monitor their thoughts. You certainly can’t control them

          I agree. But if you’re really into someone,  it’s difficult to ascertain his level of their interest clearly. (Because you’re so damn excited it’s mutual.) As you and I have written, we feel most breakups very deeply, whereas some people do not. You can certainly discover months down the road that someone’s attachment to you is a bit shallow or nowhere near the level yours is to him. Or maybe he’s just emotionally shallow in general.

    2. 19.2
      Clare

      Marika,

      I’ve found myself in the same position with a few of my ex-boyfriends. They’d get jealous and irritable and start quizzing me if I mentioned even very harmless details about an ex (such as “Oh, so-and-so used to work there”). Two of my previous boyfriends actually asked me if we could have a rule that we didn’t talk about exes.

      I can understand it, although I think it’s a little silly to make it an absolute rule. But I do think you kind of have to be sensitive to your partner’s feelings. I know in my case, there is not a single one of my exes that I would go back to, so my boyfriends at the time had nothing to worry about. But sometimes I would mention an ex a little too often without realising it, simply because I had shared a lot of experiences with them. I call this “mentionitis” and I had to watch myself because I think it can lead to unnecessary tension in a relationship. I certainly didn’t like it if any of them mentioned one of their exes too often, even though I may not have dwelt on it or thrown a fit about it.

      1. 19.2.1
        lynx

        “…sometimes I would mention an ex a little too often without realising it, simply because I had shared a lot of experiences with them.”One bit of self-awareness I gained after my marriage failed was how few interesting solo activities I’d been doing — I was too reliant on my ex to initiate novel experiences. As I got out more on my own, I had more solo experiences to share and was able to get over my own mentionitis habit. Reading the comments, it does strike me that too much worrying about previous relationships may not really be about the exes at all. If the current relationship is going well, if intimacy is increasing and you’re continuing to have fun experinces together, then there shouldn’t be room to care about past history. Could be a red flag there’s something wrong at a more foundational level. 

      2. 19.2.2
        Karl S

        Clare – those boyfriends who didn’t like to talk about exes are now exes too, so maybe their attitudes were the problem. 😛

        1. Clare

          Karl S,

          They certainly are. And I think I can say definitively in both cases, their attitudes were the problem. A huge amount of insecurity, and not just about exes, about many things. In both cases, the insecurity and the tantrum-throwing were the reasons I broke it off. So you definitely have a point!

  20. 20
    Karl S

    Appreciate: (verb) 1 – recognize the full worth of. 2 – understand (a situation) fully; grasp the full implications of.

    Getting on to almost 3 years with my partner now. I used to flit around from woman to woman, chasing all the wrong sorts and getting into intense but toxic relationships or half-hearted flings. My partner isn’t my classic *type* and there are definitely other girls who get my motor running because they fit a certain mold (at least superficially) , but my partner is the best total package for me. More than anything else these days, I appreciate her. I wouldn’t be able to do that without good ol’ logic and reason. 

    1. 20.1
      Emily, the original

      Karl S,

      My partner isn’t my classic *type* and there are definitely other girls who get my motor running because they fit a certain mold (at least superficially), but my partner is the best total package for me.

      Does she know this and does she feel the same way about you? (I mean, does she have other men who get her motor running?) I ask because this is a familiar story — went for a certain type, was hot but never lead anywhere, made a decision to go after something less intense but more compatible. Men often write on here that women only make this kind of choice but it’s good to hear from a man who did.

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