Jealous of His Ex-Wife
Q: I'm divorced and have been dating a divorced man for more than four years. He hasn't seen his ex wife in almost seven years, though they were married 15 years (no kids). I obsess over whether he loved her more. He tells me that while he once had feelings for her, it wasn't what he feels for me now. He tells me that I am the greatest love of his life, and he seems really genuine. But while we were just friends and he was only separated from his wife, he use to tell me how much he adored her, how beautiful he thought she was, and everyone in his family tells me how much he used to do for her. At the beginning, he called me his ex-wife's name several times, which really hurt. How can I not feel insecure? I feel guilty for feeling this way. I never loved my first husband anywhere near the level I love my fiance. We're getting married in two years, and I don't want to carry this "baggage" with me. -- Lara
Dr. Susan: While it's natural to want to be the only or best love of your partner's life, it's hardly reasonable to expect his life to have started when he met you. Your long-term retroactive jealously troubles me. After four years of dating this fellow, I'd think you'd be more certain of his feelings. I wonder if both of you aren't as passionate as you might be in talking about your feelings. You're waiting another two whole years to marry? Lots of caution and holding back there, it seems to me.
I think you can believe your fiance. Surely he loved his first wife a lot, and now surely he loves you a lot and in an entirely different way. He spent many years with her, so why deny that she's a part of his past and has something to do with how he turned out? When he calls you the love of his life, and his behavior doesn't dispute that, why not accept the compliment and relax as much as you can? Even you probably felt more for your first husband than you can bring to mind now. That's how our brains work: the new love replaces the old one, and that's a fine thing. You're building a relationship now that is unique for both of you. My own husband was especially thrilled when we finally hit an anniversary that had us together longer than I'd been with my first husband. Give it time. And if you continue to obsess, consider some professional help to find out if perhaps some other underlying issues are really upsetting you.
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Susan K. Perry, Ph.D.
Susan K. Perry, Ph.D., is a social psychologist, relationship expert, and bestselling and award-winning author. Her books include Loving in Flow: How the Happiest Couples Get and Stay That Way, and Kylie's Heel, a novel for adults.
Pamela G. Chollet, Ph.D.
Dr. Pamela Chollet has a Ph.D. in clinical psychology and Master degrees in educational psychology and fine arts. Her passion has been helping people face and get through those times when they feel trapped and unable to move forward.
Anna Charbonneau, Ph.D.
Anna Charbonneau, Ph.D., is a clinical psychologist, stress management expert, and author. If you're feeling overwhelmed, stressed out, or struggling to make changes in your life, Anna can help.