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Question

I am about to be married to a great man. We really love each other deeply. My struggle is that I’m bothered by a past crush he had before we met. I’ve told him about my past boyfriends and then he was open to me about this girl he was in love with. Whenever I see pictures of his friends hanging out in groups on Facebook, that girl is in the photos. They started out as friends and then she confessed her love for him. He wasn’t ready at that time, but over time, he developed deep feelings for her. She had moved on by that time, so they never worked out. I don’t know why, but I feel jealous and insecure about his feelings for her. I torture myself wondering what would have happened if the girl would have said “yes” to him. It’s likely they would be married now. He reassures me that no one can take my place and that his feelings for me are much deeper. My mind knows that my fears and insecurities are silly, but I can’t seem to shake them. I don’t want to ruin our relationship with my fears that he secretly wishes he could have her. How can I remove this girl’s image from my mind?

Answer

I’m glad you’re taking responsibility for your insecurities and not blaming them on your fiancé. Obviously, he’s done nothing wrong by having feelings for another woman long before he met you. If he was still battling his feelings of attraction to her and couldn’t fully commit to you, then you would have an understandable reason to feel insecure. However, as you already know, it is your responsibility to manage your insecurities so you can have a healthy relationship.

My guess is that you feel insecure because his love for her wasn’t reciprocated, so he had to move on. It’s easy to convince yourself that you are his second choice. Knowing that his heart was holding out for her can leave you wondering if he would rather have her instead of you. It’s an understandable insecurity. However, it’s also unfair to believe that just because he loved her first doesn’t mean he can’t love you now.

He obviously had to move on after he realized she didn’t feel the same for him anymore. It’s just the way it worked out. Neither of them did anything wrong. He wasn’t ready for her when she held out her heart. Then, the tables turned and she was no longer interested when he was ready. Consequently, he needed to be able to free his heart to make room for a new love.

All of us, including you, take the risk to put our hearts in someone’s hands, hoping they will reciprocate. When two people respond to each other’s bids for connection, love grows and takes root. This is happening between the two of you right now, which is such a thrilling and beautiful experience.

As my late grandmother used to warn me, please don’t “borrow trouble.” There are enough anxieties you’ll face in your future marriage that deserve your best focus and attention. Here are some practical suggestions you can consider as you work to manage your anxieties about his former crush:

  1. Take a break from social media. There is nothing wrong with spending less time on social media if you can’t keep yourself from obsessing about his past life. He has a right to keep memories of friendships, but if you can’t tolerate it, then give yourself permission to take a break until you feel healthier.
  2. In Jacob 3:1, the prophet Jacob invites us to have a “firmness of mind” in our relationship with God. I also invite you to have a similar discipline of mind when you think about your relationship with your fiancé. Recognize when your mind begins to obsess about lies and insecurities that simply aren’t true. Gently redirect these thoughts back to the truths about your relationship. Perhaps you can have him write a letter to you that you can review in these moments. You can also write down truths about your love for each other that can help you redirect your anxiety.
  3. Even though your fiancé has done nothing wrong, he can still help reassure you in your insecurities. Never accuse him of doing something wrong by having loved this woman. Take ownership of your own fears and allow him to naturally reassure you when you’re feeling anxious.
  4. Consider seeking professional counseling to help you understand and manage your nagging insecurities about your relationship. Your mind may be prone to anxiety, rumination, and insecurity. This may be caused by past experiences of betrayal and loss or it could simply be a vulnerability you experience as part of living in a fallen world. Either way, do everything you can to lift yourself about the damaging effects of unfocused fear.
  5. Instead of focusing on whether he really loves you, be proactive and show him how important he is to you. Do things to show your love for him. Don’t live beneath your privilege of being his fiancé. Take your proper place in his life and claim every blessing that is yours in this relationship. Build a beautiful relationship with him instead of chasing the ghosts of a girl who moved on long ago.
  6. Recognize that your fiancé is someone who takes love seriously. He didn’t just jump at the opportunity to be in a relationship with this other woman. He sounds like someone who is deliberate in his commitments. Accept his love as real and committed.

You have a wonderful opportunity to grow in love with someone who is committed to you. He’s focused on building a future with you and I want to invite you to do the same. Part of the human experience is taking the risk to express our affection for someone who may not return it. He’s had the experience, as have you. Now, you’re both committed to each other. The search is over for both of you. Please don’t bring her back into your lives. She moved on and he moved on. Focus on building your marriage into a safe haven for both of you.

 

Geoff will answer a new family and relationship question every Friday. You can email your question to him at geoff@lovingmarriage.com

About the Author

Geoff Steurer is a licensed marriage and family therapist in St. George, UT. He is the owner of Alliant Counseling and Education (www.alliantcounseling.com) and the founding director of LifeStar of St. George, an outpatient treatment program for couples and individuals impacted by pornography and sexual addiction (www.lifestarstgeorge.com). He is the co-author of “Love You, Hate the Porn: Healing a Relationship Damaged by Virtual Infidelity”, available at Deseret Book, and the audio series “Strengthening Recovery Through Strengthening Marriage”, available at www.geoffsteurer.com. He also writes a weekly relationship column for the St. George News (www.stgnews.com). He holds a bachelors degree from BYU in communications studies and a master’s degree in marriage and family therapy from Auburn University. He served a full-time mission to the Dominican Republic. He is married to Jody Young Steurer and they are the parents of four children.

You can connect with him at:
Website: www.lovingmarriage.com
Twitter: @geoffsteurer
Facebook: www.facebook.com/GeoffSteurerMFT