June 15, 2006

Dear ModestyZone,

My fiancee and I have an awesome relationship. I love her incredibly. Maybe that's the problem. Each of us came to our faith in Jesus in our late 20s, after years of sexual relationships. She would not have done what she did, with those men, and in fact she's rather pure given the context of our society. But it drives me crazy to know what she did. I have tried seemingly every means, talking myself out of jealousy, praying, rationalizing, trying to not think ... and yet this problem persists. I am angry, sad, anxious, jealous, insecure, depressed. I can almost guess what anyone's advice might be; I realize this is more about me than her, and there must be self-esteem issues. But I was wondering if you could shed some insight?

--Driven Crazy

Well, I will certainly try.

I'm not trying to put you on the spot here, but: do you have the same problem with your own past? If not, and you forgive yourself, then you might want to ask--why not my girlfriend? I think that when we truly see a future with someone, the past becomes irrelevant. Well, almost: it only matters in terms of how it got us where we are today.

It's easy to see a future with yourself. You're with yourself all the time, right, so you have to forgive yourself.

In contrast, it sounds like you're not clear about whether you want to build a future with this woman.

In my opinion, love is not this state that you just slip into, magically. It's built by giving but also maintained by consistently appreciating who the other person is.

If you can't simply appreciate who this woman is, and all the little things she adds to your life, then I'm sorry to say this but I'm not sure it's best to be engaged right now.

I worry that unhappiness with a capital U could be around the corner for both of you (if it hasn't already appeared). This feeling of love you have could so easily turn to hatred and resentment--and in fact, it partly sounds like it already has.

But if you do break up, what happens if you get engaged to a different woman, only to discover that you have the same problem with her?

My point is simply that very few people can attain perfection. And the rest of us simply hope for normalcy by ripe old age. Thus, nearly everyone you get close to will come with her very own peckela (from the Yiddish, meaning "little package," usually referring to one's special troubles).

At this point you may be thinking, why should I listen to this person? Here I'm writing to her about Jesus, and she's answering in Yiddish. Still, it sounds like you really have potential to change the situation because you're open to changing your attitude. That's great--attitude is 99% of the battle anyway.

But as you already see, old patterns of thinking are hard to break. It seems to me that you have to be consistent: When you find yourself focusing on her faults, think of yours instead. When you're inclined to dwell on what could be different about her, think instead of the ways in which you might like to grow.

I don't mean to sound flippant, but if you focus on the things you can change--i.e., you and not her-- it just may help you become more future-oriented.

If not, at the very least, you will have greater self-knowledge!

Wishing you all the best,

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