Dear Wendy
Dear Wendy

“I Have a Boyfriend But I’m Still Obsessed With A Guy I Dated for A Week in College”

I’ve been in a relationship for three years with “Paul,” an amazing guy who adores me. Even though theoretically I have everything I have always dreamt of (we have even discussed marriage), I still find myself frequently obsessing over another guy I met four years ago – “Aaron.”

I met Aaron at university, and we hung out every day for the next week. He introduced me to his friends and he took me everywhere he went. I immediately felt connected to him, and it was amazing being together. After a week we kissed and I was in heaven (he looks like my dream guy). For our first night having sex, he had prepared a romantic setting and it was amazing. He was such a gentleman. I didn’t know what to do afterwards, so I asked if he wanted me to sleep there. He said, “Whatever you feel like,” so I stayed to show him he was not just a one-night stand for me.

Beginning the next day, he transformed into someone else. He started ghosting me until he finally agreed to meet me before he left for a long vacation. I asked him directly about us, to which he answered: “I promise when I’m back everything will become clear,” and he kissed me goodbye. I counted the days for his return, but he didn’t even let me know he was back. I saw him a few days later at a bar where I was with friends. I was angry at him for disappearing, so I wasn’t so friendly. After a few days of silence I finally confronted him. He said he is not the relationship type but if I wanted, we could “meet” once in a while. I didn’t agree, so we hugged and said goodbye.

I cannot understand how someone who seemed so perfect changed completely and shut me off after having sex with me one time. I am angry at him for making me feel like we had something special. And I’m angry at me for still obsessing over him and looking at his and his now-girlfriend’s pictures on social media. But most of all, I feel guilty because my boyfriend really doesn’t deserve this.

I keep thinking of my mistakes and what I could have done differently so that he would have stayed with me. I don’t know if I lost true love or if this is just a hit on my self-esteem and ego that I need to get over. Truth is, I had never had a one-night stand or even been dumped before, so this was the first and only time I had to deal with something like this.

If you can offer me any advice on the matter, I would be deeply thankful. — Still Obsessing over My Dream Guy

What you had was not true love. It wasn’t special, you didn’t have a relationship, and Aaron had no interest in you beyond sex. He made you feel like you had something special because he knew that was an easy way to get you to sleep with him. It only took him a week and “a romantic setting” and, boom! Another notch on his belt. When you asked whether you should stay over afterward or go home and he said, “Whatever you like,” he meant that. He was literally indifferent at that point because he had already gotten what he wanted. It was no coincidence that he literally never reached out to you again after that. Yes, he met up with you, but that was only after he ghosted you for a while and before he left for a long vacation. He met up with you because it was the path of least resistance. He told you that after he got back everything would be clear and it was! He got back and didn’t even tell you he was home. I don’t know how much clearer he could have been than that. That you’ve spent the past four years obsessing about this guy suggests not that you have strong feelings for him or that you shared something special – you didn’t – but that you’ve been avoiding feeling true intimacy with anyone else, likely because you hated feeling hurt and rejected and don’t want to feel that way again.

Because you seem to miss things that are very clear, let me point out something else that should be obvious: You do not love Paul. Paul is safe. Paul won’t hurt you because you haven’t let yourself fall in love with him. Maybe there’s potential for that kind of love, but probably more realistically you specifically chose Paul because there actually isn’t potential for you to fall for him. You can enjoy his company and have your ego stroked without actually feeling anything deep and genuine and without risking getting hurt. Here is something else that should be clear, but I guess isn’t: You should not be discussing marriage with one man while obsessing over another. The obsession with Aaron is a distraction. Even Paul is a distraction. What really needs your attention is the hurt and rejection you suppressed and never dealt with.

Until you admit to yourself what happened – that you were manipulated, lied to, led on, used for sex, and then immediately rejected – you won’t be emotionally available for genuine love. What happened to you sucks. But you aren’t alone. It happens to a lot of people, particularly young, inexperienced people. It doesn’t mean you’re unlovable or stupid. It means you fell for emotional manipulation. You were flattered that someone whom you found very attractive and whose company you enjoyed acted like he was interested in you. You liked that feeling and that is what you’ve been obsessed with these past few years. The bad news is that you will never, ever have that feeling again with Aaron. The good news is that once you accept that, and accept that his manipulation is not a reflection of your worth and value and potential attraction to someone else, you will be emotionally available to someone who can make you feel even more incredible than Aaron ever did. Whoever that guy is — and it’s probably not Paul – is the real dream guy.

I’ve got a scenario that could use an outside perspective. My relationship with my mother has been turbulent (at best) and I don’t often find time with her very fulfilling. Recently, she came to visit so she could spend two weeks with her grandson. (She took every precaution to remain safe, isolated before the trip, and got tested to be safe.) It had been a year since she had seen him in person, and her time with him was incredible! She was fun, engaging, and nurturing. Watching her bond with my little guy really helped bridge a longstanding gap between us. I’m thrilled to say that the trip was a success and that I feel closer to my mom than I ever have.

The problem is with my husband. I sensed his annoyance with her, and his attitude did affect the vibe of the entire house on at least three occasions. I did my best to give him space to vent. Also, in anticipation of her long visit, I recommended he take a camping weekend to himself to have space to recharge. Despite that, he still had a bit of an edge (at times) and seemed moody with both my mother and me.

My mother left a while back, and today he mentioned that he realized an insecurity while she was here. He said that her being so invasive made him feel like he was being replaced. That surprised me since he was involved in everything we did, and I asked him why he felt that way. I reassured him that he’s the only father our son will ever have. My husband said he didn’t know why he felt that way, and I asked a follow-up question to the effect of: “Do you think it might be a fear of inadequacy or lack of quality time with our son?” He again said he didn’t know, and then he got defensive and said he wished I was more sympathetic.

Here’s where I may have gone wrong: I explained that I had noticed his behavior and planned on speaking to him about it at a later time and that I wasn’t really able to give him sympathy given that his attitude had bothered me. Was my approach insensitive? Could I have been more sympathetic while still expressing my unhappiness with his behavior? Is feeling jealous of a grandparent a common experience for husbands? — Annoyed By His Behavior

 
Well, that was quite a leading follow-up question you asked him when he said that your mother’s being “invasive” made him feel like he was being replaced. “How so?” or “What do you mean by invasive?” or even “Now that she’s gone, how do you feel?” would all be more reasonable and logical follow-up questions. Asking if he felt inadequate or felt that he lacked quality time with your son when nothing he said directly indicated either of those things makes it seem like those are thoughts YOU have about your husband. I can understand his defensiveness.

I see two things happening here: Your husband showed some annoyance during your mother’s visit that you perceived as directed toward your mother and that bothered you. Something about your mother’s visit triggered something in your husband, and when he tried to express this to you, your anger at him for “affecting the vibe” of your mother’s visit was triggered. Rather than hearing your husband, or asking open-ended questions that would give him space to process and articulate what he was struggling to process and articulate, you asked a very leading question that essentially expressed your take on the issue in a passive way, put your husband on the defense, and essentially shut down the conversation so that neither your husband nor you got any kind of closure on the feelings your mother’s visit prompted.

I would re-visit that conversation with your husband and this time come to it with an open mind. Apologize to your husband – genuinely apologize – for your part in shutting down the conversation the last time you had it. Tell him that you didn’t mean to put words in his mouth. Remind him that you noticed a change in his behavior and attitude during your mother’s visit and it made you feel defensive, but you’ve had time now to process those feelings and want to discuss what happened, this time with more empathy, especially since he says he felt insecure. He’s your husband and you want to know why he felt insecure and how you can support his getting past that feeling. This would be the time to pose the follow-up questions left unasked before: “In what way(s) did you feel my mother was being invasive?” “Was there something specific she said or did that angered you?” “Was there something specific I said or did that angered you?” “How do you feel now?” “What can I so to support you going forward?” “What do I need to know or do before my mother’s next visit, whenever that may be, so we can avoid similar issues?”

When you ask your husband these open-ended questions, your job is to listen. That’s it – just listen. Don’t feed him the answers you believe to be true; let him give you his own answers, in his own words, and if he doesn’t have the words yet or doesn’t know the answer to a question, tell him it’s ok but you would like to re-visit that question again soon, after he has time to think about it. After he’s had a chance to express his side, whether that happens in a single conversation or a follow-up conversation, you need to express any lingering, unresolved feelings you have.

Do YOU think your husband lacks quality time with your son? Would you like him to spend more time with him? It’s ok – important, even – for you to share that. If you were disappointed with your husband’s behavior during your mother’s visit and you’re afraid he’ll behave that way again, even after addressing WHY he behaved that way, talk to him about it: “I didn’t like the way you behaved while my mother was here, and while I now understand the feelings behind your behavior, I’m concerned it may happen again.” This allows you to discuss your feelings in a way that isn’t accusatory. And hopefully, without feeling like he has to defend himself against passive accusations, he can give you a reply that reassures you. Still, before your mother’s next visit, it wouldn’t hurt to address all of this again and discuss what both of you can do to help the visit go smoothly for everyone.

***************Follow along on Facebook,  and Instagram. If you have a relationship/dating question I can help answer, you can send me your letters at wendy(AT)dearwendy.com.

8 comments… add one
  • avatar

    fl_connie July 27, 2020, 10:58 am

    Ltr #1 – If your “dream guy” is a guy looking for more notches on his belt – they really aren’t that hard to find.

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  • avatar

    ron July 27, 2020, 12:00 pm

    “watching her bond with my little guy” — the child is also your husband’s little guy, so “our” little guy, not “my” — was this the attitude you displayed throughout visit?

    “he was involved in everything we did” — but how was he involved? As an equal? Did your mother just take charge? Did you allow, were you pleased by your mother’s involvement, including deviations from your way of doing things with your joint child, that you would object to if your husband deviated from your approach? Does his opinion and approach count less in your mind?

    You have no sympathy, because you disagree with him? One can disagree and still have sympathy. You are not going to get very far in a discussion by announcing you have no sympathy.

    Your husband has lived with your fractured relationship with your mother for as long as you’ve been married, likely for as long as you’ve been dating. You sort of flipped into instantly rebonding with your mother, because you saw her bonding with your child. Easy for husband to be unintentionally side-lined with that dynamic underway.

    Do you actually welcome your husband’s involvement and opinion in rearing your son? As warmly and uncritically as you welcomed your mother’s.

    Your husband seems to have sensed something off, that the four of you were together physically, but he was emotionally excluded.

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  • avatar

    Fyodor July 27, 2020, 1:08 pm

    Two weeks is a long time to have a houseguest. That in of itself is a justified amount of annoyance. Beyond that I could see why having that person basically be with his kid all the time could feel a little disruptive. Finally, rather than acknowledge or respect his concerns you basically implied it was because he as a bad dad.

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  • avatar

    FYI July 27, 2020, 5:56 pm

    You’re “obsessed” because you can’t forgive yourself for being used. You’re turning him into a “dream guy” in your mind to try to alter the reality of what happened, which you don’t want to (or can’t) accept.

    Some people use other people. That’s it. It’s not a statement about you or your worthiness or anything else. You got snookered, that’s all. It happens. Better to be the one who is naïve than the one who uses people, right? All of this is between you and you; it has nothing to do with either that guy or your current boyfriend.

    Let yourself off the hook for getting suckered by a manipulator.

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  • avatar

    NotMyMonkeysNotMyCircus July 27, 2020, 6:26 pm

    LW1: I think there is nothing wrong with a fond memory putting a smile on your face. I had this intense on again off again 6 months experience with this guy that at the time I thought I loved. But he was just a Fuck-boy that was good at turning it on and turning it off. It hurt when it ended. But it ended. I too was never dumped, except by him, and it stung. But he wasn’t the one that got away. He was just one person that I helped me to learn about myself, and to learn about how I wanted to be treated. I knew my value as a person, and he didn’t respect me, but I respected myself enough to move on. This takes time, it’s part of life.
    This person wooed your really quick, and then as quick as he turned it on, he turned it off. There was no relationship, there was no happily ever after. That instant connection he created with you, is a skill he has and he has done with dozens and dozens with others. I guarantee you he is not pining away about your one week experience. You are just a blurry memory to him. Everything that you have built it up to be, is not based on the reality of what it was, it was just in your mind. Remind yourself of this, this is just your creative imagination, like imagining that you are destined to be in a relationship with a celebrity crush, neither is based on reality. So when a fond memory comes into your head about this guy, it’s ok to think, yes I remember liking that feeling in that moment, even ok, to smile at the thought of the great sex. But know, as all relationships, it had a beginning, a middle and an end. And that end is way over.
    Love the person that you are today, and what you learned from it, and move on. Think of these memories as being on a conveyor built going through your mind, yes, lovely, the sex was fun, moving on, next thought. Reframe it, you didn’t miss out on being Mr. Glassbowl’s girlfriend, you dodged a bullet in wondering with whom he was going to cheat on you next. And stop following online what this guy is doing with his girlfriend, move on. Turn your energy to focus on your relationship with Paul. Why do you love him? Do you want to continue to have a relationship with him? If so, what do you want from your relationship with him? Any relationship 3 years in, is not going to be the same as intense getting to know butterflies. Wish you the best of luck.

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  • avatar

    anonymousse July 27, 2020, 9:07 pm

    You’re obsessed with the act he played you with, and that’s really sad. You even know, undoubtedly that he was just being romantic and charming to sleep with you.

    I think it’s probably a good time to enlist help from a therapist. Maybe you love your bf right now, but it’s not fair to him that you’re constantly thinking of a player that was nice to you for a week, a few years ago. You need to get over this and look at the past rationally. I’m sure he was hot, but you could probably date another attractive guy if that’s what you need?

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  • avatar

    Sea Witch July 28, 2020, 7:41 am

    “Dream guy” was playing a game. He charmed his way into your pants, then tossed you aside once he’d “scored”. He’s probably done this with dozens, maybe even hundreds, of women.
    Men like this don’t actually like women very much, they feel contempt for women for falling for their fake romantic nonsense.
    This is why words like “swept off my feet” and “whirlwind romance” are actually big flapping red flags.

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  • avatar

    dinoceros July 28, 2020, 10:21 am

    LW1: He’s not your lost true love. You barely knew him — to the point where your obsession over him isn’t even you being obsessed with him, it’s you being obsessed with the idea of him you created in your mind.

    I think this is a combination of maybe your current boyfriend not being right for you, and you not understanding that you can break up with someone even if they are a good person, if they’re not the right fit. And some other personal issues that cause you to obsess over a near stranger for so long. Therapy would be a good idea so you can figure out why you are stuck on this guy and what that represents to you. I can assure you, it’s not about him.

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