Murphy’s Love: Dear Storied
Advice on Intimacy and Relationships
I had a pretty promiscuous period in my late teens and early 20s, when I dated a lot of the wrong kinds of guys and found myself in very embarrassing situations. Today I am in a stable, long-term relationship with a man I love more than anything in the world. We’re both about to turn 30 and I am pretty sure he’s planning to propose as part of the festivities. I want to marry him, but I worry about my past coming back to haunt me. I have told my boyfriend about some of the things I did back then, but not everything. I know I was pretty irresponsible and am lucky I came out of that period with my health (yes, I’ve been tested) and some self-esteem. I know my boyfriend loves me for me, and that he doesn’t think a thing about my past, but I worry that someday someone will tell him a story about me that will show him he was all wrong in choosing me. I’m not sure I can live my life waiting for the other shoe to drop.
– Storied Past
I feel so much for your situation, because all of us could look back on a mistake we made and cringe in the way it sounds like you are cringing now. I’m sure that most of us would be doubly embarrassed if the Love of Our Life was made privy to all of those details as well. What seems uncommon is the sense I get that you might be considering forgoing a marriage to someone you “love more than anything in the world.” Does that seem like a reasonable exchange? Trading your long-term happiness for some embarrassing details?
I can imagine your response would be more about the content of those details, and I know that, to you, they probably seem earth-shattering and irreconcilable. If we are talking about ongoing, intrusive thoughts of your own unworthiness and fear of being found out, I obviously recommend that you find a professional to talk this through. But if Boyfriend is the person you are imagining building a life with, shouldn’t that image also include the gifts of honesty and forgiveness, when necessary?
I’m not suggesting that you sit Boyfriend down and detail your past in timeline format. But an honest conversation about how you’re wrestling with these feelings of insecurity and fear would be a great step as you build a foundation for this partnership you want to last a lifetime. That “foundation” that we therapists are always talking about? It’s actually made of moments when disappointments were followed by the kind of forgiveness that deepens a couple’s commitment.
I think you’re halfway there. You already know how fully you value this relationship (some couples never get that far). Now put in the effort to let Boyfriend show you how much he values you.
Stacy Notaras Murphy (www.stacymurphyLPC.com) is a licensed professional counselor and certified Imago Relationship therapist practicing in Georgetown. This column is meant for entertainment only and should not be considered a substitute for professional counseling. Send your confidential question to firstname.lastname@example.org.