Dear Wendy: “I Feel Insecure In My Relationship”

After I read “Not So Patiently Waiting“‘s letter, I became increasingly more concerned about my own situation. I’ve been with my boyfriend for 13 months now, and he has not said “I love you” yet, except by mistake, and the look on his face when he realized what he said was horrible. When we met, he was separated from his estranged wife and I was separated from my estranged husband. We stood by each other through our respective messy divorces, and he moved in with me shortly after my mine was finalized. We haven’t been apart since the day we met and he tells me all the time that he cares a lot for me and wants a future with me. But when I have asked him why he’s never told me that he loves me, he says he told his crazy ex-wife — whom we both have restraining orders against — that he loved her for 14 years and if that’s what love is, he doesn’t want it anymore. Is there something I can do to make him understand that I love him and hearing that come from him would go a long way in making me feel secure with our relationship? — Second Chance

Considering that you met each other when you were both entangled in messy divorces and you immediately jumped into a relationship together without any time to process your respective splits — or to transition into your new lives without your respective spouses — I’d think it might take a lot more than three little words to make you feel secure. More than an “I love you,” what you — and your boyfriend — really need is some time to yourselves and perhaps some professional counseling. It sounds like your boyfriend has a lot of baggage he needs to unpack before he can be emotionally available to you in the way you need him to be. And for your part, you’d do well to examine if/how you may have transferred feelings and unmet needs from your marriage onto your current relationship. I’m not suggesting you and your boyfriend have to split up, but a little distance would do you both a world of good. Maybe it’s time to back up and slow down. Ask your boyfriend to get a place of his own so that you can both have physical and psychological space to process all the changes in your worlds. Right now, you’re like two broken pieces trying to make each other whole again, and the only thing you’re accomplishing is draining each other of any forward-moving momentum and sense of peace your divorces may have given you.

I’m 22, and I have never dated a guy. I’ve always been interested in them, having crushes now and then, but no one has ever shown enough interest to ask me out. Now I’m out of college and exploring the big dating world, and I have an actual date — my first! — planned for this week. But here’s my dilemma: How do I avoid the conversation of past relationships when I haven’t had one? I know that relationships are based on honesty, but I’m actually embarrassed that I have never dated anyone, so I don’t want to tell this new guy and make the rest of the night uncomfortable. I don’t want to lie either, but I also don’t want to scare him off, having him think that there’s something wrong with me because of my lack of dating experience. And am I making a bigger deal out of this than it really is? — Dating Newbie

Yes, you’re definitely making a bigger deal out of this than it really is. You’re young and lots of people your age are inexperienced daters, so you’re not that unusual. Furthermore, there’s no reason your lack of experience has to come up in conversation on your date, or that you need to focus too much on it if it does. If your date asks you about previous relationships, all you have to say is, “You know, I haven’t had any serious relationships yet. I was focused on school for a long time, but now I’ve graduated I’m excited to meet someone I click with.” This lets him know everything he needs to: that you’re open and available to a relationship, but you don’t have much experience — or baggage! — in that department yet. What your date doesn’t need to know is that no one’s shown interest in asking you out before. For all you know, there have been plenty of guys with crushes on you who were too shy or too intimidated to make the first move. The thing to remember about dating is that anxiety is pretty universal — it doesn’t stop if you happen to be a guy, and unfortunately, it doesn’t stop once you’re more experienced. Focusing on making the other person comfortable — asking questions about him, showing interest in his stories — goes a long way in not only fostering a good date, but in helping you forget about your own nerves. Have fun!

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