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DrJackiePhD, Doctor
Category: Relationship
Satisfied Customers: 347
Experience:  I have been doing research in relational/interpersonal communication since 1998. My Ph.D. is in interpersonal communication.
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Ive been with my girlfriend for almost 3 years now and Im

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I've been with my girlfriend for almost 3 years now and I'm 20 years old.

I feel like I want to see other people because I haven't had the opportunity to meet other girls since I turned 18 because I've got a girlfriend.

But if I do break up with her. What if i realise i've made a terrible mistake and I will never meet anyone as good as her and i try to get her back but she doesn't want me back.

DrJackiePhD :

Hi, I'm Dr. Jackie, and I can help you if no one else has already been on to help you.

DrJackiePhD :

I can answer via Q&A (email) if I don't see you back online.

Hi, I'm Dr. Jackie. I wasn't sure if you were going to come back online or not, so I decided to answer via Q&A (email). Please let me know if you would like to get into the chat mode if you think I can help.

From what you have said, I am reading between the lines and believe that this girlfriend has been your only serious relationship. Three years is actually a long time, especially when you are in your teens and early 20's. And your dilemma of wanting to date others to explore is completely natural--just as is your fear that in doing so, you might risk this awesome relationship you are in.

I can share with you a few things to consider from researchers who have devoted their careers to relationship research.

First, you have probably heard the expression relating to setting an animal free, like a bird. If it wasn't yours in the first place, it won't return but will find its true home. If it IS yours, it will return. Researchers have found this is true even in human relationships. That is, if you truly have a real relationship that is full of mutual trust and respect, then it should be able to stand the test of a "break." I'm not saying it won't be painful or hurtful, especially on the part of the one who does not initiate the break. But after 3 years, if your relationship is solid, you should be able to talk and express your feelings and be honest that you are young and want to explore a bit. If you are afraid to tell your girlfriend this, then I suspect your relationship is not as communicatively open and that there may be other fears or desires that are not made known to the other person. Would you want to continue this way or would you rather work through these, especially if it would mean a more satisfying relationship in the long run?

Another thing to continue is to look at satisfaction in your relationship. Several relationship scholars over the decades have developed an umbrella of theories that help explain relationships in costs vs. rewards known as "Social Exchange Theories." These theories all have the idea in common that you need to look at what you are putting into the relationship (time, effort, money, etc.) and then what you are getting out of it (joy, satisfaction, love, monetary rewards, etc.). If your costs outweigh your benefits, then you are in an unsatisfying relationship. And just the opposite holds true--if your personal beliefs that your rewards are more than your costs, then you are satisfied.

One of my favorite social exchange theories actually looks at indicators of satisfaction in a bit deeper detail. That is, it forces you to consider all your past relationships (if you have them) and compare them to your current relationship. If your current relationship scores higher than any in the past, this is a plus for your current relationship. However, the comparisons do not stop there. The model forces you to consider hypothetical or potential relationships. This means that the pool of people you come into contact with regularly need to be considered--people you go to school with, people you may work with, any people in your social networks, people you might meet at church, etc.--you need to consider your attraction or potential attraction to any persons within any of the people in these circles. Now compare your current relationship to what you may imagine with one or more of these people in your circles. While this is hypothetical and probably harder to compare, at least try. Again, can you see yourself satisfied with someone you know from work; or as you look harder at your current relationship, are you more satisfied there?

There are other models I can share with you as well that can help you consider other things/aspects about your relationship that perhaps you have not considered before. Please let me know if you would like that.

For now, think again about how solid your relationship is. Every relationship can benefit from a break; if it is strong, it will only be stronger after the relationship is reunited. If it is not strong, perhaps maybe it is not as mutually satisfying for both parties and maybe the two need to further consider what they want.

I hope this has helped, and I'll be glad to share more if you would like.


--Dr. Jackie
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