‘My girlfriend moved in after a breakup – but am I her first choice?’


‘Something was off’ (Picture: Neil Webb/Metro.co.uk)

It’s time once again for our weekly Sex Column, our regular series where experts advise struggling daters on navigating the choppy waters of romance.

Last week, we helped out a woman who’s struggling with jealousy due to her partner cohabiting with their ex.

This time, we’ve got another awkward live-in situation on our hands.

This week’s dater split from his girlfriend after three years together, but then moved back in and things were rekindled.

Still, he’s a bit uncertain about how his partner really feels – is she just settling for second best?

The problem:

‘I’ve been with my girlfriend for three years. We separated for two months last year because she said she wasn’t feeling the same about us and that something was missing for her.

I was still happy and in love, although I felt something was off and asked her if she wanted to talk a few times.

‘She eventually moved back in, saying that she still loved me, but I can’t move on.

‘Although my impression is that there’s something missing within her and that she realised life with me wasn’t so bad, I can’t shake the feeling that being with me is not her first choice.

‘I’m reading into small things, distracted when we have sex and going back over our past all the time.’

What the expert say:

Although it’s tempting to speculate about what’s missing within her, it would be more helpful to start with yourself.

‘You sensed that something 
was off a long time ago 
but you’ve put all the responsibility for that 
on to her as if it’s impossible for you to imagine that part of 
the problem might 
be within you,’ says Rupert Smith.

You talk a lot about her feelings but we don’t know much about your own.

‘You’ve become so anxious about what she wants, you’ve forgotten to ask yourself what you want,’ says James McConnachie.

Instead, you describe yourself as ‘not her first choice’ and being not ‘so bad’.

‘If that’s the view of yourself that you’re bringing to the relationship, it’s little wonder that frustrations and distractions are arising for both of you,’ says Smith. ‘Are you familiar with this feeling of being not good enough? Have you ever felt that you come first – with your parents, friends or previous partners?’

To move on from this place of rumination, do your best to focus your attention on taming your mind chatter so that it isn’t constantly tormenting you with the past.

‘It’s perfectly natural that you feel hurt and worried by what she has done but you need to train your brain to focus more on the here and now,’ says Dr Angharad Rudkin. ‘When you’re with her, tune into all of your senses, whether you’re having sex or just having a chat.’

Communication will be very important moving forward, so continue having honest conversations with each other.

‘You know she had doubts. Maybe you don’t really know what lay behind them and when we don’t have the full picture, the anxious imagination can fill the gaps,’ says McConnachie.

She might struggle to open up, 
so be patient and remind yourself of her internal states and your insecurities.

‘Some people find it hard to identify and communicate what they’re feeling, and she may have been traumatised, not been taught how to connect with her feelings or simply have different ways of seeing the world,’ says Rudkin.

None of this means that your relationship is hopeless but anyone’s chance of a fulfilling one is to focus on the relationship they have with themselves first.

The experts

Rupert Smith is an author and counsellor

James McConnachie is the author of Sex (Rough Guides)

Dr Angharad Rudkin is a clinical psychologist

Got a sex and dating dilemma?

To get expert advice, send your problem to lisa.scott@metro.co.uk

For more sex and relationships content join Jackie Adedeji and Miranda Kane for our weekly sex positive podcast: Smut Drop. It’s a whole new world of sexpertise where no topic is off limits.


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