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The Coaching Situation

My boyfriend and I started going out together about 5 years ago. We met at work where we worked in different departments. He was the first boyfriend I ever had. We both live with our parents. He is 27 and I am 24.

He's a friend with an ex-girlfriend. They went out together 10 years ago, broke up, and got back in touch a year later when they became friends. When we first started going out, he used to go out with her and her friends once a week. I didn't like her. But what really bothered me was when she made comments to my boyfriend about their past and touched him. I tried going out with them a couple more times, but she was always showing off how well she'd done at work, or some guy who fancies her, or some holiday she was going on.

I felt she was in competition with me to show me that she knew him better. I turned down invitations to her various parties. I always hated it when they'd meet each other. When she would call him one day and say she was upset because of a personal crisis, he'd go round to her house, or she'd go to his. I had trouble with this for 4 1/2 years. Every time he met I was conscious of it all night, making horrible pictures in my head. I'd hate the idea that they might say goodbye with a hug and a peck on the lips. Fuming all night, so that by the time he called me on his way home, and it was more often than not after midnight, I'd be in a bad mood with him.

Sometimes I'd be so mad, because I wanted to see him myself that night but he'd never cancel with her, and he'd call me afterwards and I'd lose control, shout down the phone, and make bitchy comments about their intimacy. He'd laugh at how jealous I was acting. That hurt a lot. And when he'd heard about 2 minutes of this he's get annoyed and say "What's wrong with you?" and repeat my name over and over, in the tone you use to tame a wild animal. It was so patronizing and was always hurt by the fact that he never, once sympathized with me. It made me extremely paranoid about myself and how dysfunctional I was. Whenever we talked about this, which wasn't often, he'd say it was all in my head, that she's just a friend, and I'd always eventually take the responsibility for the argument and back down.

Despite all this I must say I trusted him 100%. I truly believed that he simply wouldn't do that to me. He had few girlfriends in his life and had found the girl he wanted to be with. So to feel reassured I'd always remember this whenever I felt down.

Last year I covered his job, while he went on an annual 2-week holiday with a friend. I discovered a letter in his desk written by a girl declaring her love for him with many intimate details. I started to investigate it. I was in a complete state of shock and total disbelief. I was trying to find evidence to prove his innocence. Before I had put enough pieces of the puzzle together, he called me. I asked him who she was. He made up what I knew afterwards to be a lie.

When I had dug up every correspondence with this girl, I found they had met on the internet 5 years ago. She lives in a different country. They wrote sporadically to each other and 2 years ago he arranged to meet her since he was visiting where she lived. He booked a hotel and they spent 1 night together. They did everything but intercourse. She tried to cut contact between them after that, but he wrote back that nothing bad happened and that he didn't want to lose contact. They'd corresponded as recently as 1-1/2 years ago. Finding all of this out has been the most traumatic experience. I called him while he was still on his holidays and broke up with him. When he returned he asked to see me. We met and talked. I asked him to tell me the whole story without telling him everything I knew.

This time he told me the story exactly as I knew it to be. I had told myself not to feel sorry for him, but he had thought about this for 2 weeks and started telling me all these things he'd realized he'd done wrong, the things I'd been thinking about and noticed but had never said. That he wasn't patient and accepting enough of me, and he didn't do enough to make me feel special and sexy. He wanted a second chance. He described a new relationship I'd only dreamt of. I made 2 requests: that he break contact with that girl and that he go see a shrink. He agreed to my conditions and I decided to give it another go. After all, I had invested a lot of my time in this relationship and wanted to see it work as much as him.

At the end of last year I decided I couldn't take it anymore. We'd been getting on well at first, but pretty soon our relationship seemed to be back to normal. I started to feel jealous, needy, and irrational again, all these bad feelings about myself. Everything everywhere reminded me that he'd been unfaithful and had been physical with another woman. We talked and decided to break up. We stayed out of touch for 1 month. I was miserable at first, but was doing surprisingly well. Then an overwhelming curiosity about how he was doing and sexual frustration led us to spend one night together. This started a chain of dates that ended up either at his or at my house. After two months of deep, honest conversations, fun times, loving and caring and sharing, we got back together.

We've now been back together for 3 months. They've been amazing! I didn't expect I could feel as in love as I am. He's been seeing a shrink for 6 months and although he hardly ever talks to me about it, he seems to be doing much better. There have been changes, mostly a renewed respect for each other. But the one thing that doesn't go away is my jealousy of his ex. She recently invited him to her party, in front of me, but did not invite me. She said that for 5 years I never came to any of her parties and it made her feel rejected by me. I was irate that he accepted that and didn't insist I come with him as I'm his girlfriend. Just last weekend I was invited to a garden party she was having. I dreaded it for 3 days. I was so nervous and I really didn't want to be near these women who I dislike so much. But I knew I had to be there, to be seen with him.

I'm having trouble trusting him, I'm having trouble accepting these girls in his life, that they'll make indecent moves towards my boyfriend, and feeling secure about myself enough to not let this worry me. I want peace of mind. I don't want this issue to be part of my relationship with him anymore. I've had enough. Something has got to change. I've come to this conclusion many times before, but have never managed to take the necessary following emotional step. Classically, my head and my heart are not in agreement.

The Coaching Response

To make changes in a relationship, you first have to make sure that you're not just seeing what you want to see. Many times we ignore what's happening in our relationships because we feel so desperate for love that the alternative of not being loved is more unbearable than the lies we subconsciously tell ourselves. On the same token, we need to avoid making assumptions about our partners based on the fears we have.

Changing another person is not an option because it doesn't work in the long term and they become resentful at the attempts to change them. A person must want to change on their own, separate from you. Start by seeing what you can change in yourself. To do this you have to be willing to be honest with yourself and be willing to let go of the need to be right. If you change some of your perspectives internally, you'll find that some of your issues will diminish.

Start with the other women that you don't like in your boyfriend's life. Whenever we dislike somebody and have judgments on them, it's a strong signal for us to find out why. All emotional reactions occur from triggers that happen outside of us, yet the emotional reactions are already inside of us. Have you ever wondered why when you're in a really good mood, you're more tolerant and don't mind the people you can't stand at other times. Well, it's not because those people have suddenly changed, it's because you've experienced a shift in your emotional perspective.

When I sent you questions, the reason you gave for not liking those girls were loaded with judgments you can use to look at yourself. Your insecurities come out around these women not because you think you're better than them, but because you see yourself as inferior to them. That's why they are so threatening to you. They dress a certain way, act a certain way and talk a certain way. When you see this, you feel that they have something you don't and that lack might be seen by your boyfriend as a reason to not want to be with you.

To change your perspective, look at yourself with complete honesty. What don't you like about yourself? What things do you think you could be rejected for? Keep writing down the answers to these questions until there are no more answers. You'll see what you don't like about yourself and what you judge yourself for. We tend to judge other people to the extent we judge ourselves. If you're a harsh critic with unkind words about you, you're the same way with others. That changes when you feel better about yourself. Use the judgments you have on others to see how hard you are on yourself and change your experience of the world from the inside out. These girls are who they are; they are neither good nor bad. How you react to them tells you a lot more about yourself than about them.

You can use a similar way of thinking to look at the trust issues in your relationship. The degree to which we trust others is in proportion to how much we trust ourselves. The mistrust you have about your boyfriend reflects how you don't believe in the decisions you've made in your own life.

There are two directions for a relationship to go in after a partner has been unfaithful in the relationship. The relationship will either break under the strain of what's happened or the relationship will reach new levels of intimacy and trust as both partners deal with the reasons and consequences of the affair. You'll have to work on your own trust issues, the same way your partner must look at why he looked outside the relationship for physical and emotional gratification. For the relationship to keep growing, you both need to be able to communicate on a deeper emotional level. Yet you need to learn how to do this with yourself first.

Learn how to communicate differently than you are now, which involves seeing yourself more clearly and understanding yourself better. You'll need to look deeply into your fears and take them apart so that they have less impact on you. I recommend that both you and your boyfriend seek some coachingtogether so that you both learn how and why you communicate the way that you do. You also need to do some individual coachingto work through these fears that have taken over your life.

Whether or not you should stay in that relationship is a decision that takes a lot of reflection. If you do leave, you'll carry forward your fears into your next relationship. So it's a toss-up to decide whether you can work out their issues in this relationship or if you need to start fresh and work out your issues in a different environment. In both choices there are risks and there are rewards.

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