Happy New Year.
The first song I heard in 2010 was George Michaelís ďFreedom.Ē I think thatís a good omen for us. "All we have to see Ö is that I donít belong to you Ö and you donít belong to me Ö" I think George wrote that one about checking his boyfriendís text messages.
Another reminder: Reserve the night of Feb. 12 for a Love Letters event. Details to come soon. Get a babysitter or a hair appointment or whatever it is you need to do.
And the first of the year is a biggie Ö
Just found out about this column and thought it would be a good way to get some advice anonymously, so hopefully I can get some type of response. Anyway, Iím a 25-yo, single male and had to deal with a situation when I was 19 that still affects my relationships to this day.
My sophomore year of college, I got a friend of mine pregnant. We were left with a big choice to make that would change us both. She decided that keeping it would cause more problems than not, so we decided to get an abortion. I was on the fence about it, but didnít stop her. We didnít talk much after it was done, probably due to immaturity and efforts to move on with our lives. The way I handled it still makes me cringe as I write this six years later.
The whole situation changed how I view relationships, sex, etc. more than I could have thought. I still carry a certain amount of guilt about it today (My Catholic upbringing may have something to do with it) and think about what I could have done differently to make it a better situation. But more so, I am terrified of another unplanned pregnancy.
Due to the experience, even with necessary precautions, I still think "Did I do enough to protect myself? What if something fails again? Is she responsible with her birth control? Would she lie about it?Ē All these questions -- no matter how ridiculous -- enter my mind. This has strained past relationships. I push women away after a period of time (I have not had a relationship for longer than a couple months), even really nice ones.
Abstinence is unrealistic, so even my fear is overcome by human nature sometimes. The number of women I have been with since is not out of control, but its enough to see an obvious pattern. Meet, date, woman wanting commitment, slowly push away, end. Repeat. I tell myself itís just that I havenít found the right one, but I think itís deeper than that.
I have dealt with this internally, havenít told anyone, aside from a close friend, about the whole thing. Iím not a real "emotions on my sleeve" kind of guy. But, I need to figure this out somehow, so here I am. There is a new person in my life that I like, and I donít want her to end up getting hurt like the others.
There are numerous issues to deal with here, but I just need to take some first steps in dealing with them. I am interested in your opinion and readers that may have been through a similar thing. Am I crazy for thinking this much about it? Is it common to be haunted by a past decision like this? Is this a trust issue? Sorry for the long winded/sporadic letter, but itís honestly the most Iíve said/written about it since it occurred.
Any help would be appreciated.
– Still dealing, Boston
A: SD, I bet it felt good to write that down.
Youíre right -- thereís a lot to deal with here. To answer one of your last questions, yes, itís quite normal to be haunted by traumatic relationship experiences, especially when youíve gone out of your way to avoid processing them out loud.
Youíve suppressed these emotions for so long that itís hard to tell whether your serial dating is normal, non-committal behavior (and really, it might be), or if itís an effect of the confusing abortion experience.
My big advice is (drum roll): therapy, therapy, therapy. You donít have to tell anyone youíre seeking professional help. You can be very Tony Soprano about it if you want to be. But you have to spend some quality time figuring out whatís going on in your head and why. Thatís basically what youíve asked us Ė ďWhat is going on in my head? Whatís my motive?Ē And we donít know. We canít know. You have to talk and talk and talk until you figure that out for yourself.
My second piece of advice (softer drum roll) is to tell this new woman everything you told us in this letter. Youíve hinted that you like her and that you donít want to blow it. Disclosing your fears will force a grown-up discussion about birth control, will establish some emotional intimacy, and will be good practice for you, in general. You have to get used to talking about how you feel. Otherwise, you wind up regretting decisions six years later, misunderstanding your own feelings, and avoiding accountability for your dating behavior.
Talk to her, talk to a professional, talk to friends. You canít really know yourself until you allow other people to be mirrors. Itís honestly the most Iíve said/written about it since it occurred. That just doesnít work. Weíre pretty good mirrors here at Love Letters, but I bet there are people in your life who would do an even better job.
Readers? Can he blame his serial dating and relationship stress on the experience six years ago? Are they related? Am I right to say that bottling his emotions has made a mess of his head? Thoughts? Share.
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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.