I’m in a relationship that’s pretty new and things are going well, for the most part. I think I’m struggling right now because my previous boyfriend was jealous and controlling, which is why I broke up. Even though this new relationship isn’t anything like that, neither was my ex-boyfriend when we first got together. It seems like my previous relationship got worse after we became more serious. It was like I became his property and he would check my phone, ask me where I was all the time, and accuse me of cheating. I don’t want to put those fears on my new relationship, but I feel like I need to find out if it’s going to be like that before I keep going. Is there a way I can find out if he’s going to be controlling like that without accusing him and ruining things?
It sounds like your ex-boyfriend is holding your new relationship hostage, even though he’s not a part of your life anymore. This is a common reaction when you begin a new relationship full of uncertainty.
If you want to find out how safe your new relationship is, then I recommend you open up to your new boyfriend about your fears and see how he reacts. Unless there is something your current boyfriend is doing to trigger those fears, this conversation really has nothing to do with your concerns about him.
If you make this conversation about the fears you have from a previous bad experience and reassure him that nothing he’s doing is triggering these fears, he’ll be more likely to hear your true intention. Let him know you are scared of moving forward because the previous relationship was so painful you don’t want to repeat it.
Healthy partners in healthy relationships make room for fears and worries. There should be plenty of time and space for you to talk through these fears and seek reassurance from him. This is good information for him to know. If you start pulling away because of past fears, even though things are currently going well, that would be terribly unfair to him. It’s better for him to know where you have raw spots.
Keep the focus on your fears and previous experiences. Let him know you’re coming to him with this information because you don’t want to lose this relationship, but you can feel yourself becoming nervous about moving forward because of what happened previously.
We all have bad experiences in relationships that negatively influence other relationships. There is no way you can predict his future behavior, but you can watch to see how he reacts to you when you’re vulnerable. Does he become defensive? Does he talk you out of your fears? Does he criticize you for being afraid? If any of these things happen, pay attention more closely, as you need to make sure he’ll protect your vulnerability and reassure you with his compassion that you’re safe with him.
You can find out a lot about a relationship by simply being vulnerable and authentic about your fears. If you hold back, you’re already deciding he’s going to hurt you, which may not be the case. Open up and give him a chance to show what kind of a partner he really is.
Geoff Steurer is a licensed marriage and family therapist in private practice in St. George, Utah. He specializes in working with couples in all stages of their relationships. The opinions stated in this article are solely his and not those of St. George News.
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