‘She worries about me cheating because of how we met but I think that’s unfair’ (Picture: Neil Webb/Metro.co.uk)
‘When I met my new girlfriend I was still in my last relationship but I was unhappy and was avoiding ending it.
‘My new girlfriend knew this when we slept together but is now getting jealous over a friend I was texting recently.
‘She says she was initially annoyed because I was ignoring her but then she became angry when she found out I was talking to a woman she didn’t know.
‘She has admitted that she worries about me cheating because of how we met but I think that’s unfair.
‘She knew my situation so she can’t really take the moral high ground. Her defence is that she wasn’t the one in a relationship.
‘I’ve also had my moments worrying about her losing interest in me.
‘We’re going around in circles. What do you suggest?’
The stories we tell ourselves about the way we met are important.
‘Although your origin story isn’t a very happy one, it isn’t an uncommon one,’ says James McConnachie. ‘Did you know that Romeo was in love with another girl when he fell for Juliet?’
But what also matters is how we tell that story and your story is currently divisive and defensive.
‘You’re calling her “unfair” and she’s mounting what you call a “defence”,’ McConnachie adds. ‘If you can admit that you are both bothered by how you got together and both feel a little insecure, it will bring you together.’
Meeting each other in the shadow of an existing relationship means your foundation will feel unstable.
‘The first step is to change this interpretation of each other’s complaints,’ says Dr Angharad Rudkin. ‘When she says you’re spending time on your phone, she means she feels unloved. When you say she can’t take the moral high ground, you mean she’s making you feel guilty.’
If you can both agree you will try to understand what the other is actually communicating, you will begin to untangle this confusion.
‘Neither of you is sure who to trust, what it means to be faithful or to cheat, or what your expectations of each other are,’ says Rupert Smith.
Often, when we have a sense of going around in circles, it’s a familiar experience.
Smith continues: ‘The tricky path between independence and coupledom is never easy but it’s even harder if you’re stuck with unresolved problems. Individual and/or couples counselling might help you work out what to expect and demand of each other.’
Another way to build up trust is to consciously put each other’s needs first. ‘Rather than focusing on what you are getting out of it, focus on what you can give to the relationship to improve it for her,’ Rudkin adds.
Start telling your story differently too, suggests McConnachie. ‘Try this: you were unhappy and you found each other in spite of all the obstacles,’ he says.
‘Remember, what counts most in any story is how it ends.’
Rupert Smith is an author and counsellor
James McConnachie is the author of Sex (Rough Guides)
Dr Angharad Rudkin is a clinical psychologist
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