Mark is my boyfriend. I found him on Bumble this past December, we started dating in January, and he’s just moved in with me while he shops for a house to buy and flip into a rental property. I’ll be deploying in January, and while I’m away, he will hopefully be selected for Special Forces. Our career timelines wouldn’t give me anxiety if it wasn’t for one other variable.
Her name is Karen, his childhood sweetheart and long-time best friend. I believe the people who have been and currently are important to you comprise a little bit of your identity, so of course we’ve talked about her and their relationship, just as I’ve told him about mine with other people. I felt like Mark and I were open and very trusting of each other.
But things got shaky and Karen became “a variable” in my mind when Mark took me to his home in New England and there was a big birthday party for him at his brother’s house. Karen introduced herself to me and said goodbye before she left which I thought was nice, but she said something very of- putting as she said goodbye: “Can’t wait to see you in a couple of weeks.”
Confused, I asked Mark if he had plans in a couple of weeks, which loosely would also be when I was taking two weeks leave from my company. He said no and I felt like he was lying. It may have been immature, but privately I opened his phone to his text conversation with Karen and there it was: plans to visit him in the Midwestern city where Mark and I lived. He even sent her screen shots of potential flight itineraries and offered use of his car because he said he could ride around with me.
It shouldn’t have bothered me that a friend of his planned to visit — my nearest, dearest friends from other countries have visited me before. However, it bothered me that I knew their history and he was being secretive about the visit, even when I straight up asked him if he had plans for the specific time window in which he had shared potential flights with Karen.
The confrontation was sad. I thought our relationship would end over it, but Mark seemed understanding. I don’t know what he said to Karen about the visit and it never came up again between us, but she never showed in our part of the country.
Whatever happened, his response made me feel important, like he was choosing me over his past. But this girl keeps coming up. She keeps reaching out to him. She wants to know if I’m his best friend, and in the last message she sent to him she said, “I know we’re best friends but I get it now, bye dude.” He responded like he was trying to salvage their relationship, mentioning he heard a song on the radio they maybe once shared for some special reason.
First of all, I know it’s immature to read someone’s texts. It makes me feel like a jealous crazy person. However, Mark has assuaged this by telling me he wants me to feel like I can because he has nothing to hide. Not that that makes me feel any less guilty, but their correspondence gives me this terrible gut-wrenching feeling that I am a phase and there is a reason Mark can’t — or won’t — shake Karen.
I’ve felt this way once before, and not following that gut feeling led to a horrible disaster. “James” was my boyfriend at university. His “Karen” was a Hungarian exchange student named “Helen” whom he fell in love with at his high school boarding school. I was privy to their relationship and correspondence just like I am to Mark and Karen, but I tolerated it because she was in Hungary while we were going to school in New York, what could possibly come of it? Come to find out, he flew to London while I was in England for training and didn’t tell me. He said he wanted to surprise me, but that didn’t make sense because I was in military training and he didn’t even know our training schedule. Turns out, he was campaigning for Helen to meet him in Europe somewhere, anywhere. When I dug deeper into his correspondences with other women I thought were his friends, I found disturbing things: lots of explicit reminiscing, from songs to sex, and queries to hook up should James and me ever “take a break.” Eventually, these correspondences that I thought were innocent due to the nature of their relationship, or implausible due to distance, inevitably realized themselves in plane tickets purchased and sex on the side. The end of our relationship culminated with my abortion of his baby and his having sex with our mutual friend, which I found out about by reading his texts.
So you could say I have been traumatized.
I feel like I was James’ place-holder while he entertained these deeper relationships with other woman, and I didn’t matter enough to him for him to tell me about a single one of them. I thought he would, but I got an abortion for extending him the benefit of the doubt.
I can’t say I’ve ever had a relationship with anyone outside my family that transcends time, distance, and other relationships. I’m jealous of Mark and Karen for that. While Mark’s good character and heart certainly make James look like he belongs in hell, I’m all too familiar with that wretched gut feeling telling me I’m a phase and that I should subtract myself from a relationship before I get hurt. Do you think I’m a phase for Mark until January? — Fancifully Fretting
I don’t know if you’re a phase and it doesn’t matter what I think anyway. What matters is how you feel, and you don’t feel secure or confident in this relationship at all. You don’t trust Mark, you feel betrayed by his not being honest with you about Karen’s visit, you’re worried that he has a deeper relationship with Laura than with you, and you have a gut-wrenching feeling that you are a phase for him until you deploy in January. I am not positive about the timeline, but it seems your insecurity began before Mark moved in with you. To move someone in with you mere months after meeting is really fast in the first place — especially considering your upcoming deployment and the potential challenges such a transition will pose for your new relationship. I don’t understand why you wouldn’t wait until you’re back home to take such a big step in your relationship, unless you thought this big step would give you the sense of security you lack. But it doesn’t work that way. And you shouldn’t move in with someone you feel any insecurity with.
At this point, you’d be wise to ask Mark to move out and to put the brakes on your relationship until you’re back home from your deployment. You have a lot of issues to work through, not the least of which is the lingering trauma you feel over your breakup with James and the abortion you at least partially blame on him (“I got an abortion for extending him the benefit of the doubt”), suggesting that you may not have terminated the pregnancy if you were only considering your own feelings about it. And now you have these trust issues with Mark, feeling like you aren’t as important to him as Karen is, feeling scared you’re being played like you were played before. It’s a lot to unpack, and I don’t see how you can find the psychic space you need to unpack these things when you’re sharing a home with Mark (and regularly reading his texts) and then again when you’re deployed, which itself requires so much mental and physical stamina.
I guess I don’t understand the rush to move a relationship forward when the state of the relationship itself, as well as your career and unresolved feelings about a previous relationship (and related circumstances), beg for more time and consideration in their current iterations and their effect on your mental, emotional, and physical well-being. It seems like you’re trying to create a synthetic version of stability in your life, and that won’t work. The stability and security you seek is going to happen organically, and only after you’ve emotionally settled your previous pain — the trauma you say you experienced. That may require some therapy. It will surely require more time. So, put the brakes on your relationship. Ask for the time and space you need to address the roadblocks standing in your way of moving forward. And, if there is mutual desire and commitment, work on building the kind of friendship with Mark that, as you say, “transcends time, distance,” absent the romance that can complicate matters that aren’t otherwise as stable and secure as you’d like them to be (and that need to be in order to build a foundation for a long-lasting relationship).
Related: 15 Things Couples Should Do Before Moving in Together and “He Wants to Break Up Before He Deploys”.
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If you have a relationship/dating question I can help answer, you can send me your letters at wendy(AT)dearwendy.com.