What do I Want?

By Dr. Marie Hartwell-Walker

Q: I was in a relationship that spanned 12 years and we were in the middle of wedding plans when I cheated. It wasn’t a one-time thing and it continued as I proceeded with the wedding plans. I eventually called off the wedding and ended the relationship with my boyfriend. I thought I had realized that we had grown apart and wanted different things. I was learning more about myself and realizing that my boyfriend was not giving me things I wanted and needed. For instance, he never made an attempt to buy my wedding band. Since we never went through an engagement where he would have given me a ring, I thought he would do this for me. I even told him which ring I wanted. I just wanted him to surprise me. That just wasn’t him. He is against all the ‘status quo’ and I realized that I was very much status quo. I also started to over think the fact that we were together for so long and never made any steps towards a future. I started to think that this relationship couldn’t be right. I also needed to believe that the only reason I could cheat is because my relationship must be wrong.

Since then I have continued the relationship with the guy I was cheating with. I put all my energy into him and gave him all of me (which I also did in my other relationship that caused me to feel lost). We have been together for over a year now and he is convinced that we will be together. Nobody knows that we are together and truthfully I wouldn’t want my ex to find out because it would hurt him. This new guy wants to move in with me since we are together and it seems to make sense. I informed him that I wasn’t ready and it has caused problems. We fight a lot and I always tell myself that I don’t really want to be with him. But, I’m not sure if I’m trying to convince myself of that or if I really feel that. I also have trust issues with him since we started by both cheating. I have checked his email accounts before and found emails to his ex stating that he misses her. When I confronted him, he admitted it was wrong and stated that he does not want to be with her. He stated that he is the one trying to move in with me. I find myself pushing him away. He is very considerate which my ex was far from but I am still sad. I’m not sure why since I do love him. I can’t tell him that I miss my ex and that I’m not sure I want to be with him because he would leave and I’m not sure what I want.

I cry daily and have to hide it. None of my friends know what I am going through since I am hiding the fact that I cheated and the fact that I’m with a new person. I miss my ex tremendously and am angry at myself for cheating and causing him so much hurt (even though he doesn’t know about the affair). I think about him everyday and want to write him and see how he feels. But I don’t know if that is the right thing to do. And I don’t want to cheat again. I don’t want to be hurtful to the new guy in my life. The last I heard, my ex still wanted to get back together with me but that was over 4 months ago and of course he didn’t know about the affair or my relationship. I am upset that I didn’t give him the chance to give me what I wanted. I’m upset that I just bailed on this very loving relationship. Since this new relationship is so much harder, all I think is that I should have tried harder the first time. I think that I’m a horrible person and can’t seem to get over my actions. I know that I tend to dwell on my mistakes but this is over a year of dwelling and sadness. I feel that it is getting worse and I’m not sure how to make it better. I have tried to contact a therapist but can’t seem to find one that my insurance will cover.

I also feel that I am too old to be going through this now. I’ve never believed that age was a big deal, but I’m starting to realize that I want a family. I want to be loved and to love. I want to be happy. Am I sabotaging myself? Why did I cheat? And do I really want my ex back? Or am I sabotaging myself again? I feel really overwhelmed and don’t know how to deal with it. Please help. I’ve written before but my email was really vague.

A: I did the math. You may have been with guy #1 for 12 years but you met him when you were about 16 or 17 years old. My guess is that you really did grow apart but that you didn’t have the self-esteem, or the heart, to leave a man you had virtually grown up with. You did something drastic (cheating) to push yourself out of the relationship. In my opinion, your mistake then was to attach to guy #2. You skipped over an important developmental period. Most people spend their early 20’s exploring relationships and figuring out what they do and don’t want in a partner. What you really need is some time to find out who you are separate from a relationship and to date a number of men so you can eventually make a good choice. And, by the way, a healthy relationship is one that you can share with your friends.

If you are too scared to get out into the world on your own, it might be helpful to work with a therapist for awhile. A therapist can give you some support and perhaps some practical advice as you learn more about yourself and relationships.

I wish you well.
Dr. Marie

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Last reviewed: By John M. Grohol, Psy.D. on 17 Nov 2008

APA Reference
Hartwell-Walker, D. (2008). What do I Want?. Psych Central. Retrieved on December 21, 2014, from http://psychcentral.com/ask-the-therapist/2008/11/17/what-do-i-want/