I cannot decide between two women

I used to judge this kind of person but now I have become one

Illustration: Neil Webb via Getty Images

Illustration: Neil Webb via Getty Images

 

PROBLEM: I have read one of your responses to a similar question and I would like to ask for advice. I had been dating a girl for almost three years, and then I got new job and fell in love with one from my work, and we started dating. But after one month I understood that I had made a mistake, and I returned to my ex. Surprisingly, she forgave me.

Two weeks after that I broke up with her again because I started having an affair with the girl from work. We started dating again for a month, and then she went to study abroad. We stopped our communication a month after, because I had started an affair with the girl I had been with at the beginning. She forgave me again and said she loved me and is ready to be with me. But I didn’t want to hurt anybody again and I don’t want to start any relationship before I know what I want.

I guess I love both of them, even though sometimes I question what love is. I feel torn apart. I miss the girl who is abroad a lot; I think about her every single day. But I can’t imagine my life without the girl I have been with for so long either. I never thought I would be in a situation like this. I used to judge this kind of person, but now I have become one.

ADVICE: It is very gratifying to be so wanted by two lovely women, but of course there is potential here for three people to suffer. Three years is a long time to be with your first girlfriend – usually enough time to know if the relationship is sustainable in the long term. Was something happening that allowed you to fall in love with someone else?

When we are in love, we can become our best selves – generous, kind and open – which makes us very attractive. It is possible that the other girl from work was very attracted to this version of you, but now you have to add uncertainty and lack of fidelity to the list of characteristics you are demonstrating.

You say that you do not want to become “this kind of person”, but without sustained action this is exactly what is happening.

Are you looking for “the one” or the right thing in your life? Do you fear that if you choose one girl you will miss out on the other possibility and regret it forever?

In adulthood we usually develop the ability to follow our word. We take on a job and turn up for it every day even if we don’t feel like it. In the same way we realise that, although we might want many things, having something worthwhile usually involves self-discipline and follow-through.

Falling in love is the easy part, but following through on it requires self-development. We have to give up being single in order to be in a couple; we have to put the other person’s needs first at least half of the time; we have to make plans based on the couple’s future rather than on the individual.

All this stretches us beyond our selfish selves, and yet the return on this is often fantastic: think of all the giving-up parents have to do for their children, and yet it is often described as the most wonderful and enduring experience people can have in life.

You have to make a decision and stick to it if you want to become the kind of person you would like to be. Are you being honest with these women? Are they hooked on the drama of being chosen or not chosen? Think of a relationship where the base is uncertainty and how that might be carried into the future: suspicion and regret could become the hallmarks of the relationship.

What drew your attention away from your original relationship, and is that issue still within you? For example, if you have a need for excitement and risk, can that be met in other aspects of your life? If not, you might continuously put someone who loves you through a series of unbearable rejections with the result that you despise yourself and feel out of control with your feelings.

As you have made and changed your mind a number of times, be sure that you will follow through completely on your next decision. Even if this means taking time off from relationships until you are thinking and feeling more clearly, it would be better than the see-saw you are on at the moment.

  • Trish Murphy is a psychotherapist. Email tellmeaboutit@irishtimes.com for advice. We regret that personal correspondence cannot be entered into
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