From Hawaii: I am in a solid relationship with a man who is quite a bit older than me. We have been together nearly two years but I have known him for 3. He has, of course, been in many other relationships and was even married for a short period a long time ago.
I often feel like I love him and care for him more than he does me. I think this has a lot to do with the fact that he is the only man I’ve ever loved, so it is different for me than it is for him. I can deal with that. But I can’t seem to handle the jealousy.
Every time he mentions an ex or I see that his most recent ex has liked/commented on something he posts, I get this sinking feeling in my stomach. Not to mention when he shows me pictures he’s taken of women who are much more attractive than I am (he used to do model photography). I don’t think he understands how it affects me, even though I’ve tried explain it.
I know I have low self esteem and that contributes to the problem, but I don’t know how to handle it. He’s the center of my universe and I don’t know what I’d do without him but I feel like he just enjoys having me around, and it wouldn’t be any big deal if I up and left.
These thoughts are increasing my anxiety and making me feel depressed. I’m just not sure what to do or how to approach him and tell him that I can’t handle it when he talks fondly of women he’s been with or women that he’s taken pictures of.
I know this is my issue and it isn’t, in any way, his fault but I can’t keep feeling this way. It’s eating me up inside.
I don’t think this is about “quantity” of loving. It’s more about difference. You are coming to this relationship with a first time love. He’s bringing a history of loving (and losing) other people. That difference will show itself in many, many ways as you develop this relationship.
Neither of you can erase his history. You shouldn’t. It’s part of what makes him who he is. If he separated amicably but finally from prior loves, it is unreasonable to demand that he cut off all contact.
Of more concern to me than the difference in history is that he continues to show you pictures and talk about his past even though you have told him that it troubles you. It may be that he thinks this will help you get over your jealousy. If that’s his motivation, it is obviously not working. But if he gets something out of making you jealous, it’s a big red flag.
Rather than complain about his behavior, see if you can find out why he persists in doing it. Is this behavior perhaps why other relationships didn’t work out? If so, it’s his issue, not yours. Is he really trying to be helpful? Then he needs to find another way to reassure you.
It’s also true that you may be over-reacting. Without more information, I’m not in a position to say.
What I do know is that it takes two to create this kind of impasse. For that reason, I think a few sessions with a couples counselor is a good idea. A counselor can observe how the two of you interact and can make suggestions for getting past this problem.
I wish you well,