Dear Carolyn: I made the mistake of looking up my boyfriend’s ex-girlfriend and discovered she’s beautiful and accomplished. They broke up over a year before we got together. She writes to him once or twice a year to wish him a happy birthday or say hello.
I can’t help feeling insecure even though my boyfriend has assured me he has no feelings for her beyond a general fondness for her as a person. I have zero reason to disbelieve him. I know he loves me and that we have a future together. So how do I get past this ridiculous insecurity?
The way to beat insecurity is to beat it the right way, and assurances of his love for you – or his lack of interest in her – aren’t it.
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A side-by-side comparison of assets isn’t it, either, even if you win big.
Such assets help people meet, but most (healthy people) choose mates for other things – the ability to converse easily, enjoy and work toward the same things, feel understood and appreciated, bring out the sides of ourselves that we like, and trust each other with vulnerabilities.
If he and Jessica Rabbit lacked that kind of rapport, and he ended things when he figured that out, then she poses no threat to you.
If they did have that rapport, if he knows it, if they broke up only because she foolishly failed to recognize how well they fit together, and if she wakes up one day soon to an epiphany about her mistake — that’s four “ifs,” for those keeping score at home — then she does indeed pose a threat to you. A threat that has roughly zero correlation to her hotness and/or world domination, and everything to do with their just being right for each other.
Maybe advisory pep talks aren’t your thing, so try this, too: Your relationship with him will probably end anyway, simply because the vast majority of romantic relationships end for one reason or another. A breakup’s underlying cause is always, ultimately, between the couple themselves; someone like this ex is only destructive when there’s a weakness to exploit.
Embracing this belief that all breakups occur from the inside is, counterintuitively, a way you can help feeling insecure — because it frees you from having to worry about threats from the outside. Your job is to be fully present in and open to your life with him. The rest takes care of itself.
Dear Carolyn: I have been lax about sending holiday cards for years, mostly due to not having much news, positive or otherwise, to tell. As a result, it seems I have been dropped from people’s yearly correspondence lists.
I want to be in touch again to let them know I’m thinking of them, but I don’t want to send a “Debbie Downer” note! I could just send cards and say, “Best wishes,” but that’s rather impersonal. Any suggestions?
Stuck in Neutral
The card issue is easier than you’re letting it be: “Sorry I’ve been out of touch! I miss you and think of you often.”
I suspect feeling stuck, though, is more important than you’re letting it be. Write down five things you can change — big, tiny, previously ruled out. Start the to-do list of the person you want to be.
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