This week, one reader says that although her boyfriend has shown his commitment to her, she worries she can't get over his past as a player. Another reader asks what to do about her boyfriend's family who has strong religious views. Relationship expert Dr. Gilda Carle cuts through the fluff with her love advice in TODAY.com's "30-second therapist" series.
Q: My boyfriend is trying his utmost to show me that he is committed. In a way, he wants me to be his partner in his remaining life. He is good looking, passionate and very caring. My problem is his past! It looks like he had a hundred sexual affairs, some of them a bit unbelievable and unacceptable. I am concerned. He seems to be quite serious with our relationship. But I wonder whether I can deal with this. It’s not just a few past relationships. I could count thirty off the top of my head! —Loving a Romeo
Dear Loving a Romeo,
The skeletons in our closets push us to grow. When you talk about Romeo’s past being “a bit unbelievable and unacceptable,” you wisely admit it’s “my problem.”
Girlfriend, there are two ways of looking at this picture: 1) “With BF’s past sexual appetite, I fear he’ll repeat his past.” Or, 2) “BF’s past has made him into the committed, passionate, and very caring guy he is with me.” Which is your stronger belief? And what supporting data do you have?
My Gilda-Gram™ advises, “The phrase, ‘This is my problem,’ is depleting. But the phrase, ‘This is my power,’ is invigorating.” Change your language, empower your insight, and over time, your man’s behavior will show you what your future holds. Just be sure the romance unfolds gradually. —Dr. Gilda
Q: My boyfriend of 3 years comes from an extremely religious family, the kind that ends up happily pregnant on their wedding night or soon after. We talk about marriage and children, and we both want them, but not right away. He tells me that his family will get over it, or he will deal with them, but although they are extremely kind and loving, they are the silent judgmental types. I'm not sure if I can handle their passive aggressiveness without my becoming furious. I have already had words with them, after which my boyfriend told me I handled the situation poorly, and I agreed. I'm worried that once we're married, they will feel they can be more open with me about their feelings on marriage and religion, and I won't be able to take it as calmly as he and I would like me to. I love him, and I love all of them, and there are a lot. But how do I handle the situation without causing WWIII? —Fearfully in Love
Dear Fearfully in Love,
What scares you is whether your guy will defend you against his opinionated tribe, and “deal with them” as he promises. When you had words with his family, did he become “silent” and “judgmental” like the others? It’s prudent to raise this issue now before current actions forecast future behaviors.
He chose you because you’re different than what he knows. But while opposites attract, they can also distract—unless you discuss them. In her song, “A Woman’s Rant,” Jo Dee Messina sings, “Men, they climb the ladder, while the women pave the way.” Since you’re the one hurting, you’ll have to pave the way to enact one voice to the critics. Knowing your man is on your side will not only calm your fears, but build a solid bond.—Dr. Gilda
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Dr. Gilda Carle is the relationship expert to the stars. She is a professor emerita, has written 15 books, and her latest is “Don’t Bet on the Prince!”—Second Edition. She provides advice and coaching via Skype, email and phone.