It’s time for The Sex Column, our weekly advice series where we get the experts to resolve your dating dilemmas.
Last week we chatted with someone whose partner never apologises or admits to being wrong.
This week, our dater is convinced her boyfriend isn’t over his ex. The clue? They still live together.
What should she do? Carry on? Or have a frank conversation about not wanting to be second best?
Or should she see this as an instant red flag and run a mile?
Let’s see what the experts think.
‘I’ve been in casual relationships for years and I’ve now met someone I’d like to commit to, but he’s going through a breakup and is still living with his ex, which I’m finding confusing.
‘I asked to see him recently but he had plans with her. He says their relationship has been sexless for years and that he has told her about me, but I still felt jealous and insecure.
‘I’ve just changed jobs and my last role involved frequent travel, which made it hard to meet someone and have a healthy routine. Also, I’ve felt insecure about my body for years.
‘I’m looking forward to being settled, redecorating and getting a personal trainer, but I’d like a relationship with him too.’
What the experts say:
When we feel jealous, we fear the loss of someone or something. You care about him and that’s why you feel this discomfort.
‘But when jealousy sits on top of insecurity, it can become overwhelming,’ says Dr Angharad Rudkin.
Although your previous job allowed for only casual relationships, it protected you from the relationship rollercoaster and all its complexities.
‘Now there are no reasons, or excuses, not to meet someone,’ Rudkin continues.
Your new position will allow the time necessary to invest in a relationship, but this investment comes at a price: feeling vulnerable.
‘Unfortunately, as is often the way with the bumpy route to love, you’d like to invest in someone who isn’t in the best place for a relationship,’ she adds.
You describe your boyfriend’s set-up as ‘confusing’.
‘Perhaps the only confusion is between your hope and his reality,’ says James McConnachie. ‘Have you heard of confirmation bias? It’s a cognitive flaw we all have: a habit of mind that makes us interpret evidence so that it supports what we already believe or want to believe. We see what we want to see, in other words, and I wonder, is he being honest?’
None of us can tell you just how ‘ex’ his ex really is, or whether he does want a new relationship, but you can choose you even if he doesn’t.
‘You’re clearly not getting the experience of someone putting you first or prioritising your needs,’ says Rupert Smith.
‘Is this a feeling you’re familiar with from earlier relationships? I also wonder if there’s a connection between feeling “second best” and your insecurities about your body.’
When it comes to separation, forcing someone to move any quicker could risk the past relationship becoming unfinished business.
‘So, tell him you’re not going to accept a half-relationship,’ says Rudkin. ‘Ask him to get in touch once he has entirely decoupled and focus on those wonderful things: making your home beautiful, nurturing your body and getting fit.’
When we desire connection, it’s tempting to latch onto the first individual we develop feelings for, but insecurity means we aim lower than we deserve.
‘Consider adjusting your sights,’ says McConnachie. ‘If you aim what feels like a little high, you’ll end up bang on target.’
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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