Reasons I love this letter:
1. It is organized like an old-school CliffsNotes.
2. It involves love making.
3. It references “Twilight” for no good reason.
4. It is about a coping with jealousy, which is easier said than done. So be empathetic and constructive, people.
Q: Hi Meredith,
Here's my love letter, I apologize in advance for its length! Please edit as you see fit ;)
I was in a committed relationship from the time I was 18 until I was 25 (two years ago). The relationship was so committed, in fact, we got married. Then it turned out I was the only one still committed, and the guy left me. I am now divorced. (I am not sure how I can convince you and your readers that while this will likely always hurt, I have since worked through my feelings and have moved on). That said, due to this committed relationship, I do not have a large past in regard to dating/relations. I had only been with two other guys intimately before I met my ex, and those were only a handful of times at that. And unfortunately, in my naiveté, I did not realize how unfulfilled my between-the-sheets life with my ex was.
The set up:
I am now 27 and for the last 2 years have been dating and living with a very wonderful guy (Let's call him "Stan"). Not only are we great friends and partners but [yay!] our between-the-sheets life is wonderful/fabulous/exotic/wild/loving/yummy/etc/and so on! I met Stan very soon after I split from my ex. So again, not much dating history on my part. Stan had a more traditional dating path through his twenties. A few long term relationships, a few short flings, and even a couple of one night stands. His magic number is in the teens. A completely reasonable number for a 29 yo man. I was never bother by the differences in our past until recently.
Three months ago I found old videos of Stan with an ex on his computer. You know, one of those kinds of videos. And like the nonsensically morbidly curious passersby who can't help but gawk at the gruesome remains of a car accident -- I watched them. Not every single second. But I saw/heard enough. (And in case anyone doesn’t know this, if you are taping your activities, it is not ho hum -- a lot of "grilled cheese sandwiches," etc.) To be fair, Stan was dating this girl at the time he made these videos. But I am hurt that when it became apparent we were serious together that he didn’t have the foresight to remove them from his computer. My reaction to seeing these videos was sadness and confusion (not anger). I never had good physical intimacy until I was with Stan. These videos showed my guy having a very wonderful time with another woman. And it made me think of the other women he had wonderful times with as well. I felt very "unspecial.” When I told him what happened, he was very apologetic. He held me and let me cry. He listened to me tell him how it made me feel, and reiterated how special I am to him.
Three months later, I still can't stop thinking about the videos. (Believe me, knowing your partner's past and actually seeing it is VERY different). Sometimes I think I am OK and over it. I tell myself that just because he enjoyed someone else does not mean he enjoys me any less. I tell myself how much he loves me and how wonderful our relationship is. And then sometimes I see a picture of him and another ex (harmless high school graduation photos that never bothered me before) and it just reminds me of the videos and his past. Or I see the bad vampire in “Twilight” holding a video camera in a room full of mirrors talking about great staging and I'm reminded of [what I saw].
Why I am writing:
I've talked about this with Stan a few times since the initial finding and by now he is honestly getting a little tired of it. I feel in a lot of ways that he is right, that I just need to "get over it.” (He has never said it quite so brusquely, btw, but his feelings at this point months after the fact are clear). I am currently trying to just bottle my feelings, and while Stan is none the wiser to my reeling feelings (he talks about children and marriage), I am starting to feel cold and distant because I can't talk to him when I hurt. I am also now more sensitive to indications of his dating history and it is causing some discord in our life -- for example he has scrapbooks of from his past which he wants to show me but I do not want to see because they include pictures of him with various exes (from family events, vacations, etc. I assume) and he is upset because he can't share them with me and keep them in our home.
Should I just get over it? Do I continue to bottle the hurt until the feelings/thoughts fade? Any advice on how to make them fade sooner? Do I drop the issue with the scrapbooks and just let him bring them to our house and pretend to smile and be ok when I see pictures of him with his exes? Any readers experience something similar and got over it??
Your thoughts and feedback are eagerly awaited! Thanks in advance, Mer!
-- Accidental Voyeur
A: AV, (also stands for audio visual ... how fitting ...) I’m telling you to get over it. Right now.
I know the video was weird and upsetting to see, but I’m sure it would be weird and upsetting for Stan to see your wedding pictures. I mean, you made a lifetime commitment to someone before Stan came along. If he can get over that, you should be able to get over old footage of playtime in a hot tub.
It makes perfect sense that Stan had great physical experiences with his exes -- and thank goodness he did. His comfort with sexuality is one of the many awesome qualities he brings to your relationship. What you bring is an ability to love and commit. I mean, you’ve already proven that you’re open to spending the rest of your life to another person. I’m sure Stan values that. I’m sure whatever insecurities you have about your physical past, Stan has about his own history with emotional intimacy. You don’t have to be equals at everything.
You must let this go before you alienate him. To answer one of your questions -- yes, you’re supposed to smile and nod when you see old pictures of Stan and his exes. That’s what humans do -- they fake smiles when they know they’re being jealous for no good reason. Stan probably does this for you more than you know.
As for coping with memories of the videos, all you can do is train yourself to stop fixating on what you saw. Whenever the footage pops into your mind, imagine what Stand did to comfort you after you found it. He held you and told you how special you are. That’s pretty fantastic. He wants to show you his past -- his scrapbooks and such. That’s also fantastic. Stan talks about having kids with you. Again, fantastic.
You’re allowed to tell Stan when you’re hurt. He’s done nothing to indicate that he doesn’t want your honesty. But honesty doesn't mean punishing Stan for living his life before you came along. For every memory in those scrap books (or on his computer), he’s made a new memory with you. Don’t miss out on enjoying those memories because you're fixated on something that doesn't exist in Stan's life anymore. (And for the love of Pattinson, do not let some dumb sex tape ruin “Twilight” for you.)
A thought: You gloss over your divorce in your letter. You tell us you recovered from that break-up with more ease than one might expect. I believe you. But is it possible that some of this jealousy with Stan is about how your marriage played out? Just something to consider. Stan came into your life quickly after your divorce. That's fine -- we can't always choose when we meet new and special people. But perhaps Stan distracted you from dealing with some of those old, bad feelings. Don't let those feelings creep up and ruin the wrong relationship.
Readers? How can AV get the videos of her ex with his ex out of her head? How do you cope with jealousy? Is it weird that Stan kept the video on his computer? Let’s chat -- and remember, keep it PG. Share here. Twitterstein.
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Meredith Goldstein is a Boston Globe columnist who follows relationship trends and entertainment. She offers daily advice on Love Letters — and welcomes your comments. Meredith is also the author of "The Singles," a novel about complicated relationships. Follow Meredith at www.meredithgoldstein.netand on Twitter. Love Letters can be found in the print edition of The Boston Globe every Saturday in the G section.