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Should I stay with my boyfriend of 4 years?

by Dr. Marie Hartwell-Walker

Lately, I’ve been thinking so much and I really don’t know what to do anymore. I’ve been stressed out like crazy and it’s hard because at the same time, I’m taking summer school and have a midterm to worry about as well. The issue is, I’ve been dating a guy since high school and as of this year, it’s been 4 years since we were together. He was such a great guy and for the first 2 years, we hardly fight. Until after the 3rd year, for some reason I messed up the relationship (I admit) and I was seeing another guy. After the long-term boyfriend found out, he flipped and our relationship has become rocky since then. When he found out, he became suicidal and I felt really bad. I love him but I dont know if I should be with someone who feels suicidal. He claims that I am what keeps him alive. (He has serious medical issues and relies on medication everyday) So, I continued staying with him, lying that I am not seeing the other guy. Through our rough times, the long-term boyfriend made every effort to make me happy and for christmas, gave me a puppy. Despite what I’ve done to him, he continued loving me. As happy as I was, I was deeply guilty for hurting him and being with someone else. I dont know why I did this and I cried and cried constantly because I dont know the answers. I thought to myself, maybe he was too clingy? maybe I wanted to see how dating others would feel like? I don’t know. This has been dragging on for months, juggling between the 2 guys. The reason I stayed with the new guy was because he supported me with school, something the old boyfriend didn’t do. School is very important to me so that was something I really like. Until last week, all the secrets and lies I kept were finally exposed. My long-term boyfriend was upset and the other guy went ballistic. Until now, I look back at what I’ve done and I know what I did was wrong and I feel so worthless, pathetic, depressing, and just horrible. I became so depressed for hurting the two and hurting myself.
I was so hopeless of myself that I sought counseling at my school to help me. Crying my heart out, I admit to her what I did, I accepted my guilt, and I asked her how I can move on pass this. Now, I don’t know if I should be with him again. He knows that I lied and cheated, but he said he wants to be with me still because we have gone through so much together. Now that the relationship between the long-term boyfriend and I are literally hanging on a thread, I am starting to miss him like crazy and I am looking back at all the memories I had with him. It hurts me so bad that I did this to him–cheating on him. He spoils me with gifts, helps my parents when they need help, and was ALWAYS there for me. I had a reality check during this moment, and realized that I cheated was probably because I wanted something more, but he was too nice to me to let go. He did everything as a great boyfriend should, except we do not have the same ambitions. Only difference between me and him is, I go to a university, and he goes to a community college. I want to be successful and I want to be either a nurse or a doctor. He, however, does not know what he wants and is very lazy in school. I am still so young to be in this situation and stress out like this and I really do not know what to do at this point. If I do choose to be with him again, will this affect my future? Will we be the same like before? He does make me happy and I can not forget about him. Everywhere I go, everything I do, EVERYTYHING reminds me of him. I can’t continue everyday thinking about this while I have midterms and finals to study for. I created such a mess and I don’t know what to do. I am tired of crying everyday and it’s creating such a huge impact on myself, my self-esteem, and my education. Please HELP ME!

I’m so glad you are seeing a counselor at school. Please continue doing so. She will have a much better and more complete understanding of the situation than I can possibly have with only a letter to go on.

If you haven’t already, you might want to explore with your counselor just how much of what you feel for your long-term guy is present love and what part is more about past history and guilt. You were only 16 when you got together. The relationship that was perfect and perfectly wonderful when you were 16 may not be what you want and need now.

It’s normal for someone your age to be exploring relationships and sorting through what you do and don’t want in a partner. I suspect that your long-term boyfriend’s suicidality made it hard for you to be honest with him about wanting to break up or at least to take a break. You must both know that if your fears about his medical issues and suicide threats are what tip the balance so that you stay with him, you are not going to last. Love that isn’t freely given never feels right.

Do stick with your counselor. Stick with her for at least the next 6 months. It will probably take that long for you to figure out what you really want and how to best handle things. You deserve the support.

I wish you well.
Dr. Marie

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