Relationship can be sum of its parts — or something greater
Q: I just met my boyfriend's ex and was pretty blown away — she is beautiful like a model and perfect in every obvious way (funny, they have great chemistry, she's smart and about to become a doctor). No problem, he broke up with her for a reason, right?
Well, actually it turns out the reason the relationship ended was that he was constantly insecure she was GOING to break up with him, and she got tired of reassuring him. My boyfriend also said he never worries about that with me because I'm more of a "real girl." Read: not strikingly beautiful, not likely to dump him for something better.
I'm sure that's not how he meant it to come across but that's what I interpreted, and now I'm the one who is insecure.
I wish I hadn't met the ex at all. Any suggestions?
Here's why I'm a nonbeliever in love at first sight. There are two ways to be in love.
One is to fall for the individual, and that can include looks, mannerisms, voice, beliefs, talents, education and a whole lot of very important attributes.
The other way is to fall for what you and this person create together. Seamless conversation, easy laughter, a need to explain yourselves that verges on zero, a mutual and rewarding sense of purpose, a lack of self-consciousness, emotional security, and both the knowledge that you can take this person for granted and the certainty that you don't want to, because you want to give as fully as you receive.
The first kind of love — love on sight — lends itself to looking over one's shoulder for rivals. If I'm blown away by this beautiful/smart/compassionate person, the reasoning goes, then others will be, too — and surely one of them will have a lot more to offer than I do.
It's a valid concern, since there's always someone better. Plus, attributes like looks, mannerisms, voice, beliefs, talents and education are, in fact, out there for prospective rivals to see.
The second kind of love, on the other hand, is one of a kind, takes a while to grow and often isn't visible to others. The way you enjoy, encourage and appreciate each other, to the mature couple anyway, is of far higher value than landing a model or an M.D. Think "alchemy" — the transformation of common materials into something precious.
Whether someone "better" than you covets your partner is of much less consequence in this case; your easy laughter and emotional security will be a constant reminder that your superior rival would have to create a better relationship with your beloved than you do, which is less likely (and why emotional affairs are so painful).
So, Anonymous, the way to deal with that sweet-talking dude of yours is to ask yourself which love you have — one of attributes, or of alchemy? Is each of you fine with the other and grateful to have checked a few boxes, or are you each other's oasis?
The former is very tough to admit — so it's actually good you met the ex, and got this unexpected chance to take a hard look at your life. If it's alchemy you want, then it'll be worth both the pain and the wait.