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TherapistMarryAnn, Therapist
Category: Mental Health
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Experience:  Over 20 years experience specializing in anxiety, depression, drug and alcohol, and relationship issues.
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I am in my fifties and was in a relationship for five years

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Hi -
I am in my fifties and was in a relationship for five years with a woman that was a narcissist. During that period, she broke up with me about twenty times and treated me horribly, but I kept letting her come back. Finally, I was able to end the relationship, and several months later met a woman whom I fell in love with.
Three months into that new relationship, my former partner begged me to see a counselor with her to resolve our issues. I was very conflicted at the time - and still loved the former partner as well - even though I knew she was bad for me. I felt however, that because this other relationship was new, I owed my former partner the chance to see if we could work things out. We did go to a counselor twice, and as I predicted, it was useless, since my former partner was not willing to examine her problems. At that point, I was unwilling to continue any counseling.
In the meantime, my relationship with the new woman - who was in love with me - continued. I did not want to destroy the new relationship by taking a break, though I still felt a lot of guilt over the breakup after five years. While the new woman was out of town, unplanned, the former partner called in asked to have a friendly drink. I turned her down three times, she was very persistent (just meet as friends, I am dating other guys) and I finally agreed to meet. I had no intention of going back to her. However, she tried to seduce me when I took her home. I left - with nothing happening.
Later, my new girlfriend learned about the meeting, read emails the I had sent to the former partner (she used my code to get into the phone) ... In those emails I had told the former partner that I loved her, and that I missed her. I just felt so guilty about hurting her. The emails were surreal, in the sense that they expressed my pain over the loss of the relationship (e.g., I am in X today and was just thinking of you because we had gone there togehter). But, while the emotions were still there, I knew it was over for me at least. However, I never called my former partner or ever attempted to meet with her at any time while I was with my new girlfriend. I turned her down on every occasion in which she contacted me - but that one.
Over 18 months, the total time I spent with the former partner was around four hours, and no sex was involved. Nevertheless, my new girlfriend broke up with me and we did not communicate for two months other than my repeated attempts to contact her by email and apologize. I also spent a lot of time in counseling trying to figure out what happened that allowed me to be sucked into the narcissitic relationship.
My new girlfriend and I have gottent back together, but she cannot seem to get over the "infedility". I have not seen or heard from the former partner in 9 months, and I assumed she has moved on. I really love this new girlfriend and have made it clear that I would like to spend my life with her (I have been divorced once). It has now been over a year since we met. However, she cannot get over the betrayal. I have apologized profusly, and made it abundently clear that I just was having trouble ending the former relationship - there was no intention of meeting with the former partner or getting back. I rejected every attempt from her other than the one I mentioned. However, my new girlfriend cannot get over the pain of having read those emails.
Now, she has decided that she can never get over the breach of trust. I have offered to go to counseling... I have made it very clear that I love her a great deal. Nevertheless, she wants to consistently is negative about the relationship - even though we have a lot of fun together. We have had some miscommunications which led to us/me being angry over small matters, and not talking for a short period. I have offered to change, and get a lot of communications coaching to address any concerns. I think my reaction stems from the experience with my former partner who routinely ordered me out of the house ove inconsequential matters, and would lead to us not talking for a period of time - until she came back to me.
I feel that I was very assuring with the new girlfriend - and wanted her to know my level of committment. But, i am not sure what to do now. I keep telling her that I really did make a choice to be with her, that I could have gone back to the former partner, but always chose her. There is no sexual infedility, the only problems resulted from my guilt over ending the former relationship. Otherwise, I am very loyal.
Is it over - what is the answer? In my view, relationships like she and I have are hard to find - and I would never have offered to marry her if I was not committed. But, we can't seem to get past the events of November. My own psychiatrist said it was not a good idea to discuss it since it revisted the pain - but we spent six hours on the phone last night.
Hello, I'd like to help you with your question.
It sounds like you have done all you can to help your new girlfriend deal with what happened with your former girlfriend. If you have offered counseling, talked to her for hours about the situation and have been willing to do whatever is she needs. Yet she still cannot get over the issue. In that case then it is no longer a relationship problem from between the two of you. Her inability to deal with the past shows that she has an issue that has been triggered, probably something from her past, that does not allow her to move on.
Everyone begins relationships with baggage from their past. They may have experienced trauma of some kind, abuse or trust issues. They also might have personality problems (like you experienced with your former girlfriend), depression or anxiety. Often, these issues get thrown into the relationship and become part of the interaction between the partners. It can become complicated and difficult to sort out. You don't know what is from the past and what is being caused by the relationship.
It sounds like that is what has happened with your new girlfriend. All of the things you have done to address her issues with trust have not worked. She is continuing to highlight this issue between you most likely because she has past issues of her own, probably dealing with trust. In that case, it is going to be difficult for you to resolve the issues just by what you do in response because it is not your fault that she is feeling this way. She has only transferred her feelings onto this issue. The cause is in her past.
The key to dealing with your new girlfriend's feelings is to talk to her about why she mistrusts so much. Not why she mistrusts YOU but why she has an issue with mistrust in general. Talk to her about her past and see if there is something there that she feels causes her not to trust you even though you have addressed this issue already many times.
Also, talk to her about going to therapy and getting help for this issue. If she refuses, there is little you can do. Some people do not want to face their issues, preferring to make them someone else's fault. But if she will go, you can help support her either by going along or just being there for her.
She can also learn more about trust. Here are some resources to help:
The Courage to Trust: A Guide to Building Deep and Lasting Relationships by Cynthia Lynn Wall LCSW and Sue Patton Thoele
Building Trust: How To Get It! How To Keep It! by Hyler Bracey Ph.D.
I hope this has helped you,
I hope my answer has been helpful to you. If you have any more questions, please let me know.
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Customer: replied 4 years ago.

Thank you. I feel horrible since i know that I really blew something special. I just had a hard time saying goodbye to the former girlfriend. However, you had advised me a couple of years ago that the relationship was abusive. Later, after I left, I learned from two pyshciatrists, that she probably was a "vulnerable narcissist". You were very helpful then as well.

Thank you! I am happy to help in any way.
It is very easy to get pulled into a relationship with someone with a personality disorder. One of the main symptoms is manipulation so they are very good at knowing what to say and how to get you to respond.
What you did was a mistake, yes. But you have since realized this and tried to make amends. But there is only so much you can do. The rest is up to your new girlfriend. And if she does have past issues, she needs to address those so she can see this issue more clearly.
It might also help you to learn more about narcissism type behavior. If you can see how easy it is to be pulled in by someone with that diagnosis, it may help you explain it to your girlfriend as well. And it may help you with the guilt you feel over what happened to see it can happen to anyone.
Here are some resources to help:
The Wizard of Oz and Other Narcissists: Coping with the One-Way Relationship in Work, Love, and Family by Eleanor D. Payson
Disarming the Narcissist: Surviving and Thriving with the Self-Absorbed by Wendy T. Behary
The Object of My Affection Is in My Reflection: Coping with Narcissists by Rokelle Lerner
TherapistMarryAnn and 2 other Mental Health Specialists are ready to help you
Customer: replied 4 years ago.

Hi -

I may want to get some additional advice from you. However, I am not sure I want it all posted on the website. Is this necessary?

Sorry, Just Answer is a public site. You can talk to the moderators about your options for keeping the question private.

If you have a new question, the site does require you to start a new question page, but if you wish, you can request me to assist you. Just put "Kate" at the beginning of your new question.