I'm dating a girl, we're in love, and we have both stated that we want to be married and that we have never felt a love like this in our lives. We have talked extensively about marriage, our futures, and how strong our love is for each other. Now, we were moving forward with engagement (ring purchasing, talking to parents) and out of the blue, she told me that she has feelings for her ex-boyfriend and she doesn't know what that means.
She said it may be nothing, but she misses him and doesn't know if that means she cares for him or just that she misses something comfortable. She said she wants to talk with him, and I don't like that idea. He has stated many times that he wants her back, but we can’t just ignore this. Two questions:
1. Are these thoughts normal for a girl to have before she gets engaged or married (she's been in some bad relationships)?
2. What do we do?
Rachel's Take: Have you heard the phrase "getting cold feet?" Of course you have, and for good reason: It's completely normal to have some doubts about your mate when you prepare to take the marital plunge - bad relationship history or not.
Your girlfriend is being honest with you. In revealing her feelings for her ex, she is telling you a truth that is confusing and probably painful for her. She is including you in an inner-conflict she is working through, and she is probably hoping you’ll be her partner and support her in resolving this conflict by pulling her closer rather than pushing her away or punishing her with your jealousy or fears surrounding this guy.
If your girlfriend says she wants a future with you and needs to talk to this guy to figure out a way to move forward with that future, you need to support her! Help her verbalize what she expects to get out of the conversation. Think through the logistics of the conversation. Does she need to do it alone or with you present? Does it need to be face-to-face or on the phone? If face-to-face, discuss the location – public probably better, a place without significant emotional history probably better. If on the phone, does she need you to give her space or does she want you in the next room?
Most importantly, you need to absolutely positively honor and trust her. You do not own or control her and cannot forbid her from talking to anyone and expect her to do anything but run (with good reason!) in the opposite direction. By all means, communicate extensively with your partner about your own thoughts and feelings that this conflict brings up, but ultimately, let her do what she needs to do. If things turn out as badly as you are imagining they can, be grateful you found out her true character before marrying her.
Since you’re already moving toward engagement, one option is to have an unhurried engagement rather than deciding to get married and doing it as fast as you can organize your ceremony. If you move forward, the engagement can give you both the time and motivation to get your ducks in a row. Sign up for premarital therapy or counseling to give yourselves a safe space to identify and challenge the dynamics of your relationship, talk about money! and kids! and careers! and how close you need to be to your families! and the role of in-laws!, explore how each of you respond to and work to resolve conflict, clarify goals and expectations, and learn new perspectives and skills to boost communication and strengthen your connection to your partner.
Engagement is big business with everyone trying to get the most enviable ring, outdo each other’s over the top proposals, posting creative, immaculate engagement pictures on social media, planning the most amazingly Pinterest-able wedding, etc. Therefore, another option is postponing your engagement. There is nothing preventing couples from attending premarital counseling before your engagement, and it might actually make things easier. Engagements are a declaration of intent and can be called off if counseling illuminates irreconcilable incompatibilities. Calling off an engagement, however, totally sucks. By working through the counseling pre-engagement, you relieve yourself of the added social and financial pressures that go along with planning a wedding.
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