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First Serious Relationship... Should We Date Other People?

Date: 2007-01-13

The Question: My boyfriend and I have been dating for almost seven months now, and I love him a lot. He says he loves me too, and I believe him. We're already talking about getting married after we graduate from college, but I feel uncomfortable sometimes because this is my first serious relationship. He, on the other hand, has had actual girlfriends before, and a lot of them. In fact, he started dating me about a week after his previous girlfriend broke up with him.

Maybe this shouldn't bother me so much, but it hurts so much whenever I think about how he's loved multiple girls before me. It just feels like if we broke up, he'd begin dating someone else right away. He promises this wouldn't happen, but I'm not so sure. It wouldn't bother me so much if I was his first girlfriend also. I feel like if we end up getting married, I'll have wanted more dating experience.

I thought I should talk to him about this, but honestly, what good would it do? I can't change the past, and I'm sure he doesn't regret dating any of his past girlfriends, but I regret not having had more serious relationships. I thought maybe I could talk to him, and we could take a break for a month. I haven't said anything to him yet, but I do want to know whether he'd date other girls during that month, or wait for me, proving he loves me.

I know it's stupid and he shouldn't have to prove his love. And maybe I'm just being paranoid, jealous, and vindictive... but it hurts, thinking of all his ex-girlfriends. What do you think I should do?

The Answer: First serious relationship or tenth serious relationship, the feelings that you're feeling are perfectly normal. They're feelings of 'wanting control'. We all want to subtly, and some times directly, control other people - our friends, our parents, our boyfriends, our co-workers. We want to make them do, act, and say the things that we feel is best.

The easiest solution here is to try to let go and understand that you simply can't control another person. You can love them, and they can love you, but you simply cannot ever control them and make them act the way you want them to. This is an illusion that has shattered countless relationships.

One of the biggest underlying problems in troubled relationships today is that people feel like they "own" their partner. This is the real reason behind jealousy and similar types of feelings. The best thing to do is to just allow other people to be themselves and love them for who they are and not who you want them to be.

It doesn't matter who he's been with before. It's those decisions and those relationships that have made him the person you're in love with. In the same respect, it's your experiences, or lack of experiences that make you the person that he loves today.

If you want to date other people, then that's cool. Just be up front about it, talk about it honestly, and make sure that it's something you both want. But you shouldn't set a double standard and definitely don't use it as a test to see what he'd do. If you bring it up and he honors your suggestion, then that's the deal. Simple. Just be prepared to accept the outcome. If you let the birdie out of it's cage to see if it'll fly away... it just might.

I'd stay away from the marriage talk for now. If and when the time is right, you'll know. Some people get so excited about getting married quickly, we joke that it's almost like locking in a low mortgage rate... "quick, sign here before the rate goes up".

Guess what? There's no requirement for every relationship to turn into marriage. In fact, a lot of relationships sour that way because we all grow and change. Many times, we grow and change in different directions, regardless of what the legal marriage document says. It's a good idea to take enough time to be sure that you're both growing in the same direction.

Live your lives together, enjoy each other, and be happy on your journey together. Tomorrow will come soon enough and in it's own time. Until then, enjoy what you have now.

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