I met someone in my early 20s, just after I left university. He was my first serious boyfriend and I felt could talk to him about anything and we did lots of things together and I thought we had a good relationship. We lived together for a few years and then he wanted to break up, saying he didn't think it was working out. I was very upset and moved out but we stayed in touch and got back together. Two years later we got engaged and were planning our wedding. I'd moved back in again but 6 months later he changed his mind and I had to move out and start over.
That was 3 1/2 years ago and I still don't think I am over it. I got very depressed after we split up the 2nd time and had to go to counselling. Things got better after that and a change of job helped a lot in terms of getting back my self-esteem and confidence. I've now got to a stage where I find that men are interested in me again but every time I go out with someone, I just make comparisons to my ex fiancé and never find they match up. That's not to say he wasn't without his faults and I'm not looking for perfection. But I am worried I have unrealistic expectations or am just simply still in love with someone I can't get back. Perhaps, more worryingly, I find I get depressed when I get into a relationship. It brings back a lot of memories and I start to lose my confidence again when I feel that it should make me feel the opposite. I would like to get married and have children some day but I feel that's impossible when ironically I feel more confident and happy when I'm single.
I'm not really sure what to do. Do you have any advice?
It's important for all of us to do the things that make us feel happy and you say that being in a relationship doesn't do that. In that case, it seems to me you need to be very careful not to push yourself to enter a relationship without being ready. I understand that you would like one day to have a family but in a sense that's not a very good reason to have a relationship. It's much more important to feel happy with a partner before you start thinking about having children. I know that there's a lot of pressure on women to have children 'before they run out of time' and while I'm not denying the existence of a biological clock, I think women often worry about it far more than they need to. So wait until you feel ready.
More generally, it is perfectly understandable that your relationship with your ex fiancé has really hurt you. He sounds like someone who had serious emotional problems as he obviously cared for you but was unable to commit himself. That kind of experience can be very damaging for your self esteem and your trust in your own judgement and you should be proud that you have come out of it as well as you have. In terms of finding someone new and comparing them to him, you need to remember that the ability to love and commit yourself to someone is about the most important factor in making a relationship work and clearly this was a quality your ex was seriously lacking in. So he was very far off from being perfect. Unfortunately, we are all prone to a terrible misunderstanding when we are faced with rejection -we think that if someone rejects us that means he was better than us. This leads to the combination of low self esteem and the adoration of the person who hurt us. In reality he rejected you, because he wasn't capable of sustaining a mature relationship.
In terms of why you are unhappy when you enter a relationship, could it be that you are getting together with men who are not good for you and may in some way resemble your ex? A relationship, as you have pointed out, should be making you feel happier and more confident or there's no point to it. But that will only be true if you go out with people who are loving and caring, who respect and admire you, not people who are rejecting and overly-critical.
I hope that helps, Paula