How To Handle a Love Triangle
(This Q&A was originally featured in the #AskAthena Self-Help Column in Cosmopolitan Magazine)
I hope you are doing great. I have been struggling with this change in my relationship. My ex whom I used to love and care with all that I had left me for another guy. Unfortunately, this guy didn’t support her in anything (he also wasn’t very loving towards her either), so I used to assist her even when they were together. The problem is that they’ve broken up and now she wants me back, but I have moved on. My current partner is a loving and caring lady and she treats me like a top priority. What should I do because my ex is saying that she has changed and she will love me like before?? – Thanks, Dennis.
From your question, it is clear that you are feeling conflicted and that your past break-up was a painful experience to go through. It’s also apparent that you may be dealing with low self-esteem. It sounds like your ex broke your heart and then continued to take advantage of you. After all she left you for another man, only to have you support her whilst she slept with him. Ouch.
Sometimes, brutal honesty and looking at things for what they are and not how you wish they would be can be a helpful in moving forward.
It means facing how you really feel, no matter how uncomfortable the experience. So how do you feel about yourself? Do you think you are worthy of an intimate, loving, satisfying relationship – where you can receive love as much as you give it? From your question, you made it clear that your current partner loves and makes you a priority. So what’s missing for you? Try to be honest here. Maybe your current partner just doesn’t do it for you (that’s more than okay) or maybe you are just not used to being made a top priority. You’ll have to reflect and answer that one for yourself.
What, I can say though, is that if your ex hadn’t just broken up with her partner, do you think she would be knocking on your door? Your history seems to suggest otherwise. Whatever she is going through and how she is allowing others to treat her – is her business – you are not required to rescue or save her. (If you feel like you need to ‘fix’ or ‘rescue’ others – you may be dealing with some issues of co-dependency – reach out and get some one-on-one support from a licensed psychotherapist).
So you need to look at your behavior, why do you feel pulled to step in and assist her?
Or maybe it’s familial wiring.
It’s best to work this out with a therapist who can be objective and help you to see what may be out of your awareness.
In the meantime, here are some self-reflective questions to think about:
1. How do you feel about your current partner?
2. How do you feel about your ex?
3. How do you feel about being single?
4. What would a meaningful, loving, respectful relationship look like to you?
5. Do you think you are worth being treated well?
6. What beliefs around love did your family teach you and do you see any of these beliefs being played out in your life right now?
And here are some resources for you:
◊ Watch my video interview with licensed psychotherapist Terri Cole on Real Love and Healthy Boundaries.
◊ You can access my free audio course, on how to shift behaviors that keep you stuck.
◊ Dr Harville Hendrix and Helen Hendrix have written phenomenal books on how to get and keep the love you find.