#1032: “Fiancé thinks I’m still in love with the ex!”

Dear Captain Awkward:

I have been engaged for 1 1/2 years now. We are both in our 40’s and have been married before. I have no contact with my ex. When my fiancé and I first got together I made the mistake of discussing things from my previous marriage. There was nothing good about my past but my fiancé doesn’t believe that. He thinks I am still in love with the ex. I am not! He admits to being jealous and possessive and needs to feel like he is #1. If he is not #1 then he can not move forward with me. He has always been the first for the woman he has married or dated. He has never been with a woman that has much of a past in regards to relationships. He wants to be able to get over this hurdle about my ex and I want to do everything to help us get over this hurdle. What can we do?

Lovely Letter Writer, you’re not going to like this, because my #1 piece of advice is: Maybe…don’t…marry him? Maybe don’t “move forward” with someone who suddenly becomes obsessed with your romantic past and who accuses you of things that aren’t true? Maybe this road block is a gift to you, telling you to get out of this relationship with a jealous and possessive man who is using your past as a wedge between you.

Look, I really distrust people, especially straight cis men, who self-describe as “jealous & possessive.” I have a lifetime of experience/an inbox full of examples/an endless sea of violent headlines that point to why the guy who “playfully” grabs your phone on a first date and casually scrolls through it looking for male names and quizzing you about each of them (true story) or why the guy who is threatened by someone you haven’t talked to in EIGHT YEARS sets off alarm bells for me. The Venn diagram of “men who monitor the women in their lives and who get hung up on being ‘#1′” and “men who do scary stuff to exert control over the women in their lives…and bystanders” has a lot of overlap. I specifically mistrust this guy because if I’m reading correctly he has been married at least once before (and dated other people before) and that’s not a problem but somehow you doing the same exact stuff is a problem? Get the entire fuck out of here, Sexist Double Standard Dude. All the way out.

Furthermore “jealous & possessive” are not awesome qualities one should lean into. Those are not things to brag about. They also aren’t excuses for behaving like a jerk. And while attachment styles are a thing and jealous feelings are a thing, people who feel a lot of jealousy and anxiety about romantic partners and fidelity still have choices about how they express those feelings. He could feel weird about your ex and never ever make it your problem. This guy is choosing to make his feelings into your problem. He’s also telling you that his feelings about your past relationships are more valid and more true than your actual words and actions. You saying “I love only you and want to marry you” is less valid to him than his newly-acquired insecurity re: your ex. I don’t like it.

I can think of two likely reasons that this is coming up now and neither of them are great:

Reason 1: He’s getting cold feet about marrying you and is looking for an excuse to break it off or slow things down but instead of saying “I don’t think this is working, let’s break up” he’s fixated on something to blame you for, some “flaw” in you that makes the breakup all your fault.

Reason 2: He is cool with getting married as long as he can put you in an impossible position of having to convince him and pet him and audition for him and reassure him and apologize to him about something that is not actually a problem and not actually happening, i.e., you are not still in love with or even in touch with your ex. He has taken things you told him in confidence long ago and is now using them as a weapon against you to make you beg and apologize and strive for his affection and look for ways to fix a thing that is all in his head. This is an attempt to establish control and reset the power balance between you. Not good.

I mean, if your fiancé truly wants to get over this hurdle, he could talk to a therapist about why he’s having these thoughts and feelings. He could take responsibility for the feelings, like, “Hey, I know I am out of line and your romantic past is actually none of my business, so I’m going to figure out a way to deal with this so that it doesn’t intrude on our life together anymore, please bear with me for a bit, I love you and of course I trust you.” He could talk to a therapist and say “Hey I’m feeling really insecure and need a lot of reassurance from my fiancée about this stuff lately, and it’s upsetting her and stressing her out, how can I redirect some of these thoughts?” He has some negative emotions and you’re supposed to…what…build a time machine? No ma’am.

I think the most gentle script I can think of is something like: “Whoa, I’m sorry you feel that way, that must be a really awful feeling. Since I’m not in love with my ex and none of this is actually true, I’m at a loss for what I can do to help. I agree, though, we should absolutely take a step back and slow down wedding plans. You’re right, we absolutely can’t move forward while this is such an issue for you. Why don’t you talk to a therapist or somebody and try to work it out?

Yes, he gets the “I’m sorry you feel that way” non-apology. Yes, he gets his bluff called.

If you told him that script, what do you think he’d do? Would he yell? Would he blame you? Would he accuse you? Would he bring up old painful things you told him in confidence? Would he monitor you, follow you, quiz you about your plans and who you’re with? Would saying something like that generate too much friction and conflict to be worth it? Would you end up having to soothe his ego and pet him for hours afterward? Are you already dreading the fruitless and stressful conversation you’ll end up having about this? Do you feel safe being able to say “Whoa, hold up, that is not actually a problem or my issue to handle, it’s yours” to him?

Other scripts:

  • “That’s incorrect.”
  • “But you’re wrong about me still having feelings for that guy.”
  • “But you’re upset with me about something that isn’t true.”
  • “Could you explain to me why this is a problem? Can you help me understand why it’s just suddenly coming up?”
  • “It’s not possible for you to be my first-ever husband, but you’re the one I’m choosing in the end. That has to be enough for you.”
  • “I’m sorry you feel that way. What would you like me to do about it now?”
  • “Wow, none of that is true. I don’t know how to reassure you about this. What do you want me to say?”
  • “I can tell you feel really anxious about this and I honestly don’t know what to say that will make it better. What do you think we should do next?”
  • “What is this really about?”

Whatever you decide to do about the relationship, hold this close: You didn’t do anything wrong. This is literally all in his head. Do not give into the idea that you did something wrong by meeting somebody when you were younger and loving someone else before you met this man. If you start saying to yourself “Well, he does have a point about this, to be fair, some of this is my fault,” it’s time to RUN. That is an abuse script talking, one that shows that the abuse has moved inside and colonized the victim. Seriously, run.

This is a problem created by him, and one that only he can solve (by getting over himself already). It’s not fixable by you because nothing that is happening is created or caused by you. What would happen to the relationship if you didn’t try to fix it, like, “Ok, welp, that’s your weird obsession to deal with, good luck working on that, let me know when you want to go back to enjoying our relationship instead of manufacturing problems.

Proceed with extreme caution. Pull in your Team You and make sure you have safe, supportive people to talk to. Do not get married with this cloud hanging over you.

I know this is really hard and not what you wanted to hear, but I don’t have a magic spell against misogyny in general or dudes who suddenly decide to hold your life story against you because “Love!”

Update: The fiancé showed up in the thread to tell us that the Letter Writer is way more jealouser than he is, among other things. Warning bells have become klaxons. I’m closing comments because, among other reasons, it’s very possible that this guy feeds on the attention and will use what we say to hurt and punish the Letter Writer.

I hate this.






65 thoughts on “#1032: “Fiancé thinks I’m still in love with the ex!”

  1. “He admits to being jealous and possessive”

    When someone tells you who they are, *believe them*.

    This is not something you can fix.

    I got a serious case of heebeejeebees reading your letter. And a strong sense that this is the kind of thing that will get worse, not better.

    1. Also, when someone thinks that “admitting you have a problem” is the ONLY step instead of the first… understand that that’s not an ‘admission’, it’s a warning. A BIG ol’ red flag. OP’s letter is 13 sentences long. SEVEN of them made my eye twitch reading it through.

  2. Oh my goodness. Mentioning past relationships to a current partner isn’t a mistake! (Specifically using them to manipulate a current partner into feeling inferior or otherwise bad would be a bad thing, but just mentioning a relationship existed definitely isn’t.) What are you supposed to do, pretend you have no past before you met this person? What’s more, your guy is setting up a major double standard for you here. He’s also had past relationships, and given you know they were all ‘firsts’ for his ex-partners, he’s clearly discussed them with you. But the same thing from you is a ‘mistake’ and a ‘hurdle you need to get over’? Wow.

    The thing that really worries me here is, the guys who I’ve known who have been obsessed with being a woman’s first have had one thing in common: They want a deep level of control over that woman. They specifically want someone who has no point of comparison for sex/relationships/love (and will therefore presumably think that whatever the guy does is normal). They specifically want to be the only one that gets to love/have sex with/whatever her (aka control over her body/heart/whatever). And they want her to accept their jealousy/possessiveness/paranoia as normal, so if they’re ever upset about something, it’s to be expected and it’s her job to fix it (after all, she can’t expect him to manage his emotions, this is who he is and she can’t ask him to change who he is!). This isn’t a consensual kind of power-exchange control, either–it’s a take-it-or-leave-it, my-way-or-the-highway deal, generally, and I’ve never seen it play out well for the woman these guys decide to focus their energies on.

    If you still want to marry him (and like, seriously, consider if you really want to marry someone who treats you like this over a super normal thing like having dated at some point before the age of 40), there is indeed a hurdle to get over. But that hurdle isn’t your past relationship–it’s his nonsense over you not being a pure virgin waiting her whole life to swoon into his manly arms. He needs to learn to manage his jealousy and possessiveness in a way that doesn’t make it your responsibility. He needs to learn to accept that women are people just like he is, and most adults have some kind of romantic and/or sexual history, and that doesn’t make them any less desirable or worthy of love (or any less capable of being in future relationships and falling in love again). He needs to learn to accept your (or any potential partner’s) whole past, whether or not he likes every moment of it.

    If he’s willing and able to do that work, then he might turn into someone worth marrying. If not, whelp…that’s his choice, I guess? He’s losing out.

    1. The other common quality I’ve encountered in men fixated on being “first” is that, by the report of their exes, they are almost always relentlessly selfish in bed and prefer partners who don’t realize sex doesn’t have to involve that much unreciprocated and unrewarded effort.

      1. THIS. Even if they aren’t abusive or controlling, they are likely still bad news and way too much work.

      2. Yeppp. They want to pass off whatever effort they put in as at least normal, if not good–and the reality is, they’re generally so far below average that the only way they can pull that off is via their partner not knowing any better.

        It’s not just sex either. This is the kind of guy who thinks buying flowers once or twice a year should count as ‘super romantic’ and he shouldn’t have to put in any effort to be loving or considerate beyond that. Or that if he does the dishes once in a blue moon, he’s super helpful around the house, and if you nag him to do more, you’re the one being unreasonable. In basically every area of life, his goal is to make a token effort and then get out of doing any real work, and he’s relying on his partner’s inexperience to help pull the wool over their eyes.

  3. I have to agree with the Captain here. My late husband was jealous and insecure about not only the small number of people I’d dated at the time we met, but also men I worked with and/or knew in passing. I’d sort of vaguely known all my life that I was probably bisexual and became sure of it while we were married, but I never told him because if he’d thought he had to worry about me cheating on him with women as well as men (he didn’t have to worry at all, since I’m not a cheater, but there was no convincing him of that), neither of us would ever have had a moment’s peace. He had a lot of great qualities, and I don’t regret our marriage in any way, but if I were to start dating someone now and discover that they had jealousy/insecurity issues? Instant deal breaker. When I was 22 I thought those issues would go away with enough time and love, but at 46 I know they won’t, and I’m not signing up for that sort of stress again. I don’t think LW should, either.

  4. I agree with the Captain. This is a major red flag to be checked out. There is nothing wrong about slowing things down until he deals with his issues. ‘His’ issues are not ‘Your’ issues.

    A week before our wedding, my ex (you knew that was coming) suddenly gave me the silent treatment for 3 days until I begged him to tell me what was wrong. He didn’t like how I wrote my name on a credit card application.

    This turned into a frequently repeated pattern of him making me guess what was bothering him and begging and cajolling him out of bad moods for the next 35 years. He hid affairs from me by doing this and blaming me for his unhappiness and irresponsibility.

    It seems like he is trying to make you responsible for his happiness and not caring about yours. If he acts like this before the wedding, what will it be like afterwards?

    You are more aware and stronger than I was. I’m glad you are recognizing possible danger signals and willing to face them. Sending you Jedi hugs if you want them.

    1. Lucielle, I obviously don’t know you, but you are SO strong! To get through a relationship like that makes you a total BAMF.

  5. You having had previous relationships and experiences is not a bug, it is a feature. Those past experiences and relationships have shaped and formed some parts of the woman that you are today. Without your previous life experiences you would not be the same person that he supposedly loves and you may not have walked the same path that brought you to your current fiance.

    Looked at from that light it is even creepier of him to be irritated that he is not your first. He is fetishizing you as a woman instead of valuing you as an individual who has had a life and experiences.

  6. I am also in my 40s and married my 2nd husband while in my 40s — and if he had given me a hard time about my ex-husband, or any of my exes, I would have kicked him to the curb. If I’d kicked him to the curb … yes, I would have been out alone, again, and for who knows how long, because it’s not the easiest thing in the world to find a partner when you’re in your 40s.

    LW, please make sure you’re not settling for this jealous person largely because you’re in your 40s and you’re concerned about being alone. Please.

  7. “That is an abuse script talking, one that shows that the abuse has moved inside and colonized the victim.”

    This is one of the many reasons I love, Captain, because you are so eloquent. LW, I hope you have not been colonized by the abuse. GET OUT WHILE YOU CAN. This guy is not worthy of you.

  8. LW, as the Captain and everyone else have pointed out, this is s big red flag. Your Fiance, in faulting you for having a past that didn’t include him, has manufactured a flaw in you that you can never overcome, and is attempting to leverage it into a position of power for himself in your relationship.

    If you go through with marrying him, this will come up again. I promise. He spent a lot of money and didn’t tell you? Well, _you’re_ the one who had the audacity to be previously married. He cheated on you? It’s because he couldn’t deal with your awful, awful past. He’s in a bad mood for no reason? Yup, your fault.

    Please, please read Lundy Bancroft’s ‘Why Does He Do That,’ because you’re going to find him in that book

    And if you do marry him, please prepare a bug-out bag (duffle bag with clothes, ID, burner phone and cash) and give it to someone you trust to hold for you. I hope you never need it, but I’m afraid you someday might.

  9. LW, you and the fiancé are both in your 40s and he is mad because he is not your first??? RUN.

    Also, a cat or dog would be much more fun to pet than this dude.

  10. This is the type of post that made me repeatedly have to squelch SOBS of agreement.

    1. “I specifically mistrust this guy because if I’m reading correctly he has been married at least once before (and dated other people before) and that’s not a problem but somehow you doing the same exact stuff is a problem?” *SOB*

    2. “Furthermore ‘jealous & possessive’ are not awesome qualities one should lean into. Those are not things to brag about.” *SOB*

    3. “people who feel a lot of jealousy and anxiety about romantic partners and fidelity still have choices about how they express those feelings. He could feel weird about your ex and never ever make it your problem.” *SOB*

    4. “This guy is choosing to make his feelings into your problem. He’s also telling you that his feelings about your past relationships are more valid and more true than your actual words and actions.” *SOB*

    5. The entire paragraph about what he could do if he actually wanted to get over this, rather than making it a problem the letter-writer has to deal with. *SOB*

    6. The entire paragraph of a script for responding to what he’s doing to the letter-writer, a script that puts the ball back in his court. *SOB*

    7. Alllllll the other scripts for dealing with elements of this. *SOB*

    8. “Do not give into the idea that you did something wrong by meeting somebody when you were younger and loving someone else before you met this man.” *SOB*

    9. “It’s not fixable by you because nothing that is happening is created or caused by you. What would happen to the relationship if you didn’t try to fix it” *SOB*

    I have practically put the whole post in segments into this comment. But it’s so good, and I feel so sad for the letter-writer because I think it’s all so true, and that’s so painful.

  11. LW – you should have avoided all prior relationships in anticipation of being ‘The One’ for this man. You demonstrate a tremendous lack of foresight on your part to have not pined away the first 40ish years of your life perfecting your mind-reading and man-pleasing skills to a fine point. Now he’s suffering as a result. Take heart though: with overwhelming mental, emotional, and physical effort you can spend the rest of your life never pleasing this man but at least you’ll die knowing you gave it your all.

  12. FWIW, Letter Writer, you didn’t “make a mistake” by talking about things from your first marriage. Being married before was a major part of your life, for better or worse. You’re allowed to talk about your ex, your marriage, your struggles, and the good things from that – or any other – time in your life. We ALL have a past and for your fiance to imply that you must completely wipe out a major part of your life as though it never happened is pretty messed up.

    1. Yes, this. It’s NORMAL for people to talk about previous relationships with their life partners. My boyfriend knows about my past and tells me he’s glad I went out and sowed my wild oats, because it helped me figure out what I really want in a relationship. He knows I’m with him through active choice, with full knowledge of what else is out there.

    1. Yes, don’t marry this dude unless this is the relationship you’re okay with having forever.

    1. Imagine how much *work* that has taken on his part as he’s gotten older. Literally who has the kind of energy it takes to find either an age-appropriate virgin as a late 30s-early 40s *dude*, or to court 20yos who can always, 100%, do better than you.


      1. I have a longer comment about this that I think is somewhere in moderation, but yes, this is what I was thinking too. I also suspect that he’s found women willing to lie to him for whatever reason. (Or he’s lying himself about this — because I’m baffled as to why, if this was such a dealbreaker, he didn’t leave when she told him about her previous marriage).

      2. This is what I’m thinking too. It’s normal to date inexperienced people in your 20s, and the odd relationship with a virgin might happen after that…but literally every one? Unless he’s only dated one or two people, the odds of that just happening are so low. And tbh I’ve never met a guy who purposely only dated virgins and wasn’t creepy or super controlling.

    2. Right? I can’t imagine a way for that to be true about someone with several past relationships and/or marriages that involve sex that doesn’t lead to a red flag.

    3. Yeah, that line jumped out at me too.

      LW, honestly, the sort of script I’d use goes something like ‘You say I’m still in love with my ex when I’ve told you otherwise. Are you saying I’m lying or self-delusional?’

      If that doesn’t serve as a wake-up call, well, I can think of a lot of ways to put him in a sufficient upward trajectory to clear any hurdle he encounters.

  13. “He has always been the first for the woman he has married or dated. He has never been with a woman that has much of a past in regards to relationships.”
    That’s not a red flag, that’s a red three-ring circus big top tent.
    I don’t believe one could reach 40 and always be “first” just by accident. Whether he was aware of it or not, he always went for women with whom he’d be “first.”
    Needing to be a woman’s “first” is misogyny 101. He might not *be* a misogynist, but that attitude has deep roots and unless he does the hard work to dig that shit out and get it out of his head, this guy shouldn’t marry anyone.

  14. About the having “always been the first for the woman he has married or dated.” That sounds hinky to me in a lot of ways. First of all, if he reallyreallyreally can’t be in a relationship where he’s #1 (which is disturbing enough on its own), why didn’t he nope out of your relationship earlier? That he didn’t seems to me to be setting you up, as others point out, for you being in endlessly impossible situation where you are always failing. You can’t ever not have been previously married or have had previous relationships, so, if his manly pride or whatever is wounded by that, he will always need comforting (in a million different ways) and nothing you will do will ever be enough, because, again, impossible. If it’s such a dealbreaker, why is he still there? Because he’s setting up this dynamic.

    Also, I… kind of think there’s some lying going on. How is he finding all these virginal women? Also, to me the “I have to be the first” sounds like it could skew ickily towards “I can only date young women,” which is something else you might get stuck having to never be able to fully make up for.

    It’s also possible that other women he’s dated have been willing to lie to him to soothe his ego / keep him, which might also say something about a preference on his part for women with low self-esteem. I’m not saying that you have low self-esteem, because you sound pretty clear on where you are with your ex. But I’ve noticed that a certain kind of man can be drawn to women who have had previous difficult relationships because they see (or maybe just sense — it might not be super-conscious) them as conditioned to accept bad behavior.

    You might think about the whole “if he can’t be #1 he can’t move forward with you” thing as a gift: you’re being asked to do something impossible, so, welp, guess we can’t forward.

  15. LW, did you notice that he doesn’t hold himself to the same standards as women he marries or dates? Why is it OK for him to have a past, but not them?

  16. “He has always been the first for the woman he has married or dated. He has never been with a woman that has much of a past in regards to relationships.” I know guys like this. They follow that pattern because when they are the “first one”, that means the women they are with might not know better and will put up with their BS longer. It’s a tactic to get more out of the women before they have to move on.

  17. “So you were always the first of every woman you dated? Didn’t you feel embarrassed about only offering THEM used goods?
    How are you going to make it up to ME that you have dated so many people before?
    Oh, you’re not comfortable moving forward with marrying me because you are not my first? Ever heard about projection? Maybe you are not ready to date or marry anyone before you figure this out.”

    But then I am a bad person.

  18. Fiancé here,
    Quick question…

    Based on the little information you were provided do you think that your advice may be wreckless?

    I’m afraid to think of how many relationships you may have prematurely ended without the adequate information to base your opinion which I’m assuming is well regarded.

    1. I came to my fiancé with this confession as it was/is something I have been struggling with for some time. The first words out of my mouth were “Love, you didn’t do anything wrong in your past, you did everything you were suppose to do. I have been journaling for some time about these issues and I think should speak to a good mental health professional to help me get over my hang up”

    2. Two nights ago I had suggested that maybe this hurdle of mine is something she could look into while I was at work, perhaps find a good blog that may be helpful. I had been transferred recently from So. Cal to Nor. Cal. and in doing so had to join a different union so there is a 3 month gap in my insurance. I figured being pro active while waiting could possibly give us a head start on working through my issues.

    3. Menopause is a difficult time for most women and could possibly put a strain on even the strongest of marriages, do you agree?

    While menopause has nothing to do with our current situation, it may be entirely possible that middle age men also go through life changes with some difficulties. Perhaps looking into a mirror and seeing a shadow of the man he used to be may trigger some insecurities he didn’t have when he stood a little stronger and lean.

    What kind of husband would a man be to struggle internally and not let a loving and supportive wife know what is weighing so heavily on his mind. Would it be acceptable in this day and age to play the “what’s wrong hunny.. Oh nothing dear” game as he walks into the study and pours his 3rd gin and tonic?

    Perhaps this proposed silent struggle of yours would create insecurities in a loving wife who begins her guessing game at what the fuck is wrong with her distant husband. In my unprofessional opinion, honesty has always ben the best policy within any relationship.

    4. You are joyfully preaching to the choir regarding who created the problem with their insecurities and who is responsible for getting passed it. If you could take some constructive criticism from an admittedly jealous and possessive fiancé, you may want to refrain from giving such absolute, life changing solutions to problem you are not clear on. Perhaps you are slightly jaded towards men.

    P.S. I didn’t “steal a phone” to read her post. It is advice we were seeking together

    PSS… My fiance far more possessive, jealous and insecurere than I am and im not giving up on her. I accept it and do what I can to give her the reassurance she needs.

    1. Becoming jealous and obsessed with the romantic past of a partner, any partner but especially a 40+ year old woman IS a red flag for abuse. That *should* bother you. If you are the exception, great! If we’re catching it before it gets there, great. If your relationship is actually awesome, nothing I, a total stranger who doesn’t know you, can’t hurt it.

      My recommendation is that you work on this issue with a therapist. This is your issue to fix, and if it’s affecting you so much you are reluctant to move forward with the relationship, then it’s a real problem that deserves work and attention.

      My recommendation to the Letter Writer is to keep a wary eye on the situation and to not make herself responsible for fixing your feelings about this. The scripts I recommended stand, and I will add “ok so what do you have plan to do about that?”

    2. My, this reply sounds totally reasonable and not at all like the kind of thing a man who casts his fiancee as a jealous, way more jealouserer than him, harpy and expects her to sort his hangups because he’s too busy to write to an advice columnist himself would say.

    3. Two problems: first, you’ve given her tmi about your brain weasels. Saying “I’m dealing with some jealous feelings right now. That’s not your fault or your problem, but I wanted you to know where my brain is.” Would be fine. Anything more needs to be said to a friend or therapist or someone who is not her. Your partner cannot be your only source of emotional support and dumping this stuff on her is not a thing that will build your relationship.

      Second, researching solutions/cures/scripts is labor. Asking her to do the research to fix your problem for you is super inappropriate. You need to be taking responsibility for this. Do it yourself. I’m you want to know more about why this is problematic, I recommend looking up “emotional labor.”

    4. “you think that your advice may be wreckless?”

      Helping to avoid a future wreck? Yes, I think you may be right there.

    5. 1. This is useful information. Unfortunately, it wasn’t included in the letter your fiancé apparently wrote on your behalf. CA is an advice blog not a mind-reading service.

      2. Think of how many free therapy services you could have Googled all by yourself in the time you spent writing a rude response to an internet stranger who offered your fiancé some free advice!

      3. You do know that there is an entire suite of healthy levels of communication between “distant and possibly abusing alcohol” and “hey, let’s make my irrational hang-up our pet project”, right? Also, you are right, menopause has sweet fuck all to do with anything in this situation.

      4. This is an anonymous advice blog. By definition, the advice giver does not have complete information. When someone gives you advice that’s not applicable to your situation, ignore it and move on with your life. Relationships don’t break up because internet strangers think that maybe they should.

      By the way, did you know that CA recently posted a list of free/low-cost mental health services you can access in the US and Canada? Just before that she answered a question from a Letter Writer who couldn’t stop having intrusive thoughts about her girlfriend’s sexual past. Sounds like both of those things might be more useful to you than lashing out at folks who mean well and who are offering the best advice they can based on the information available.

      P.S. Maybe do your own homework in future – much easier to avoid misunderstandings that way.

      P.S.S. This letter was not about your fiancé. Stop deflecting. Own your shit.

    6. The thing you seem to be missing here is it doesn’t matter what excuse you’ve given yourself regarding why you are dumping these unfair feelings on your fiancee. The fact is that you are dumping these unfair feelings on your fiancee and expecting her to work to fix it. That is not the appropriate way to deal with your feelings, no matter why you have them.

      I am a jealous, possessive person by nature. I also spend a good amount of energy making sure that does not become anyone else’s problem. I suggest you make a truly honest effort to do the same.

    7. “If you could take some constructive criticism from an admittedly jealous and possessive fiancé” yeeaah no. You’re skewed right off the bat to go “my feelings are normal and okay”, that’s like taking advice from why theft is bad from people that steal. Your standpoint is not going to be useful in this matter – I don’t trust your version of her being ‘more jealous’ either. You’ve already established you’re jealous over not being the first partner of someone that’s in her fucking forties. That’s extremely jealous. She literally cannot top you there unless she is doing the same or worse and she’s expressed no issue with your being the first of several other people, so…yeah, I’m going to wager her ‘jealousy’ is probably just made-up, instigated via triangulation etc or a pretty goddamn normal reaction being conflated for something its’ not.

      I’m going to disagree on the therapy thing and bring up the Lundy Bancroft book because this isn’t a mental health problem, its’ a screwy values problem. You see nothing wrong with having dated several other people yourself yet when your significant other does it that makes you jealous to the point of accusing her of non-existent shit like “still in love with her ex” despite the fact they’ve been out of contact for almost a decade. Literally, they are not in contact, it was a bad experience for her, they _divorced_. Why are you accusing her of still loving him? He’s gone.

      PS: the phone theft example was a thing the captain came across personally. So uh, did you do the rest of those examples or…?

      @ LW, if I sound mad its’ not a beef with you personally, I just cannot stand jealous double-standard dudes choosing to behave badly (Accusing you of still being attached to someone else counts as a behavior/choice and not ‘oh no the mental illness’) for the life of me. They ruin friendships, they ruin relationships.

        1. Yeah same, its’ the “you Did Thing Too so it magically all evens out so everyone being accountable equals no one being accountable” fallacy. (Like how can she be possibly be “far more possessive, jealous and insecurere” he’s fucking accusing her of being in love with an ex that treated her badly that’s been gone for eight years. 😐 )

          for extra ‘wow not cool’ I don’t know how bad the ex was but if there was any kind of trauma bonding going on its’ just…really fucked up to level “wow you still have feelings for x” at a person like its’ something they’re doing on purpose. Its’ been eight years, they’re not in contact, they’re not going to be an item again so why bother shoving ‘here take care of my feelings’ at her with the bonus accusation of…I dunno, that she’d act on feelings at her? Like why is he bringing this shit up.

    8. 1. Okay
      2. Okay
      3. Wait, WHAT?
      4. “Jaded toward men” WTF?
      PS. Funny, “stealing her phone” is exactly what I was thinking. Really?
      PPS. Oh HELL no.

    9. I am doubly worried now that we know this is not a safe space for the LW and the dude is in fact reading this…

      LW just remember that you do what you want and anything you do is okay. And also, the only love of your life is, and will always be, yourself. ❤ Take much care, live and learn, and listen to your good and bad feelings.

      As for fiancé… ugh. Please leave? Or please seek help yourself instead of making her doing it? Because this is YOUR problem. And you are old enough to deal with it.

    10. –“You are joyfully preaching to the choir regarding who created the problem with their insecurities and who is responsible for getting passed it.”

      Are you implying that any portion of the responsibility for the insecurities and getting past them is not yours? Because, dude, it’s all you. Her responsibility goes as far as anyone else’s in a loving relationship: she acts and speaks in a loving way to you. The End. It’s your responsibility to fix your insecurities or find a person that doesn’t make you insecure, even if that means limiting yourself to middle aged virgins. (Not “limiting” in the sense that they aren’t lovely people worthy of relationships, but just that it’s not a very big dating pool.)

      –“My fiance far more possessive, jealous and insecurere than I am and im not giving up on her. I accept it and do what I can to give her the reassurance she needs.”

      Assuming this is true, dump her ass. Can you not see that your “reassurance” about what’s in your heart and mind does jack for her insecurity? A relationship where you’re both setting impossible goals for the other isn’t a single bit better than when only one person is being the jerk.

      1. Tbh the “but she’s more jealous than meee” just reads as trying to smear her name to make himself look better. (and well, more of the abuser double-standards thing where “I’m allowed to have feels but if you have any feels past the line of ‘dismantled robot’ you’re being hysterical and bad”)

    11. Is this…really real?

      Like, is it possible this is a sort of performance (however inappropriate and arguably in bad taste)?

      Because I gotta say:

      The tone of moral superiority while fussily pulling out an endless string of new red flags, clown-style, is so exaggeratedly un-self-aware that it feels like it could only be a parody. I startled smiling when DE brought up menopause, and then outright chuckling as the comment veered further and further away from personal responsibility into mansplaining, self-aggrandizement, defensiveness, and negging.

      By the time I got to the second postscript, I literally laughed out loud.

      If you are a sort of internet Sacha Baron Cohen, DE, please accept my applause.

      If you are not: You are being a *literally* laughable cliche of toxic masculinity. Don’t be that cliche.

  19. LW, I’m sorry, but your house is full of evil bees.

    This would be a huge red flag in any relationship, but you are both in you 40s, and that just . . . the dude has had at LEAST two decades — and that is giving him a LOT of slack — AND multiple prior relationships to get used to the idea of being in a relationship with another human being. 40+ is MORE than old enough for him to expect that anyone he is going to be with is going to have had prior experience. Why has he not made peace with this yet? Why has he insisted on replicating this circumstance with all his prior relationships? (It seems unlikely it was a mistake that all his prior relationships were like this.) He needs to investigate that. With a therapist.

    It’s great that he knows his limits and that this is a problem, I guess, but it is not fair of him to expect you to help him do this emotional work,nor is it healthy for you to take it on. He is pushing this emotional mess further INTO the circle, piling it on you. You are letting him. You don’t have to let him. What he should be doing is pushing it OUT. Specifically, he NEEDS therapy. This is actually not negotiable. You are not capable, full stop, of giving him what he needs here, which is clarity and growth.

    Put the brakes on. Do not marry him. I say just get out altogether, because I truly do not believe that a 40-year-old grown-ass man who is jealous of his fiancee’s past marriage is emotionally mature enough to have a healthy relationship.

    I get that you love him. But the truth is that we can love people who are so, so bad for us, and they can be bad for us and still not be bad people. Calling things off doesn’t mean he’s a bad person, doesn’t make YOU a bad person, and doesn’t mean that neither of you really cares about the other.

    Although I rather suspect that, under it all, he is not a good person.

  20. The Captain’s advice is perfect here. This letter has all of the red flags. If on the off-chance you’re reading this, LW, or anyone else in a similar situation, and thinking “but you don’t understand, it’s not that bad”…even a much milder version of this wouldn’t be okay. It’s not your job to manage someone else’s emotions. His jealousy can’t be your problem. A good therapist can help him sort out these feelings!

    But notice that I said /good/ therapist, and he needs to go in with a mindset similar to the one that the Captain suggested. I’ve seen too many abusive men go into therapy with their own twisted version of the events and come out with an even more abusive mindset, now bolstered by the credibility of the therapist’s authority.

  21. “There was nothing good about my past but my fiancé doesn’t believe that. He thinks I am still in love with the ex. I am not!”

    It’s possible to not be in love with someone/not be in love with someone sny more, and also to have had good things about the relationship. If someone is just willingly volunteering that there was nothing good that’s one thing but I think it would be bad if it were a matter of needing to defend one’s self to the point where reasons need to be pulled out, rather than a definitive statement of non-love (and corresponding actions such as failing to go see the ex, or whatever) being enough.

    “He admits to being jealous and possessive and needs to feel like he is #1. […] He wants to be able to get over this hurdle about my ex..”

    Either he puts in the work about how he approaches this, or he is never going to feel #1 enough. This isn’t your fault nor can you make him feel a certain way or make him address it for himself. I want to ask him – if he wants to get over it, how much googling has he done, as a first pass? I think even someone eho doesn’t recognize they may need professional help can still google about a problem they’re having. Or does he expect you to manage it for him?

    (I would also have a couple of questions for him about that whole double standard thing..)

  22. Also, LW, you state that there was “nothing good” about your past relationship.

    His insistence on holding that “nothing good” relationship against you is deeply fucked up. And it is also potentially very damaging, if that prior marriage harmed you. To be asked to defend a bad relationship . . . that’s beyond sick.

    Are you getting the support you need to process and move beyond that, so that you can begin fresh? And are you really willing to spend years of your life with someone who treats a failed relationship that may have really HURT you as something that diminishes your trustworthiness.

    You had a past ungood relationship. You NEED to be able to talk about that with him. You need to be able to share with him what you have learned about yourself and your tolerances, you need to be free to talk about how it hurt you and how it benefited you (if it did). I just left a 20-year toxic relationship, and I have HAD to be able to discuss it with my current GF, because she NEEDS context for me. It was a HUGE part of my life, I was married to him for longer than I was not. I try not to process the damage with her and bring her into the body-burying portion of my recovery, I have a therapist for that, but she DEFINITELY needs to know and deserves to know the facts. And I NEED her to. That is something you deserve to have. Someone who accepts your past. Who isn’t threatened by it.

    God, LW, this sounds worse and worse to me the more I think about it. He has a lot of work to do before he’s ready for a relationship. You CANNOT do it for him, although he will probably try to ask you to. (And already sounds like he sort of is.)

    Just be careful.

  23. Hey LW, did you know your fiance is in the comments talking about how you’re far more jealous and insecure than he is, but he’s standing by you cos he’s such a great guy? And that he wants his ego licked for telling you about his jealousy instead of descending into alcoholism like feminists want? And none of this is really his fault, he has a sad about getting old? And also the Captain is wreckless (sic), doesn’t know what she’s talking about, and is bitter and jaded?

  24. LW I am very sorry to read your letter and support the Captain’s advice and that of the awkwardeers in general.

    I’d like to add one thing from my own experience. I had a situation with a colleague that turned very nasty. Persistent, personally-directed, childish bullying that drove me out of the department where I study for quite some time and poisoned most of my interactions with other postgrads in the department. One of the key things this colleague did was tell me things, ostensibly about myself and what I thought, that were simply untrue and based on their agenda, and then when I corrected them, they refused to listen to me as an authority on myself.

    Your fiançé is telling you how you feel about your ex and refusing to accept your responses which are based on your authority on yourself and your feelings, and I would suggest that is something to be wary of.

    Jedi hugs if you would like them. I wish you all the best. 🙂

  25. Dear LW, My former husband made a large chunk of my marriage to him miserable through his continued insistence that I was “cheating on him” with someone who I didn’t even have any real history with. The Captain is spot on about bystanders; a lot of people were hurt, and I couldn’t really be friends with the man concerned any more afterwards.
    There was also a photograph of me as a bridesmaid in which the best man, who I met on that day and never before or since, had his arm round me because we had been told to pose like that by the photographer. My ex created a whole narrative about how he was “my boyfriend”.
    The Captain also makes an excellent point about the Venn diagram, and about how feeling any of it’s your fault is an abuse script. My ex was one of the most vicious, poisoners abusers ever to have poisoned and abused. I’m sorry, LW. I hope you can dodge a bullet here. I really wish I had.

  26. “When my fiancé and I first got together I made the mistake of discussing things from my previous marriage….He has always been the first for the woman he has married or dated. He has never been with a woman that has much of a past in regards to relationships.”

    LW, why do you blame yourself for talking about your past when he has done the same with you? You not only know about his exes, but their sexual histories and relationships. If you talking about your ex is a sin, he’s got at least 7 more rosaries to do as penance.

    I said this to your fiance above, but I’ll say it again: there is nothing you can do to prove to him that you love him. He can’t know what’s in your heart and mind–he just needs to see your words and actions in context and trust that the love is behind them. Maybe he’ll someday get to the point where he can, but not through you saying how much you hate your ex everyday and showing him your call history and never being in a 50 mile radius of anyone you got to second base with.

    To be blunt, it sounds like you’re his first relationship after he aged out of being able to find virgins to date. At best, he really loves you and is trying to make this work, but he is simply incapable. The only things that will make him capable are him seriously entering solo counseling, or learning through your dumping him that behaving like a turd doesn’t work.

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