Tell Me About It: Fix yourself first, then mend fences

Question: Dated for about a year, fell hard and fast, moved in together after about six months, and were beginning to talk about getting engaged.

But I messed up several times (by being inappropriate with other men). Two months ago, an incident happened that was the last straw, and he moved out.

I really do love him and want to be with him. Over the last two months, I've tried to repair the relationship. I've realized how damaging my behavior is, and I feel ready to make a real change.

He says he still loves me but isn't sure the relationship can be repaired. I understand trust has been broken, but I think the relationship is worth fighting for. I feel counseling and reflection have helped me see I can be a better partner, but I'm not sure how to show I'm sincere. Maybe I'm deluding myself and it won't happen. Then again, maybe I'm being shortsighted.

Answer: You're being shortsighted, yes, but in a much more dramatic way than in the best-case scenario you give.

I'd even call it rush-sighted. You moved in at six months, talked engagement in less than a year, managed to fit inappropriate behavior with more than one man in that brief window, and apparently overlapped two months of counseling and reflection with a deliberate push to get him back.

Slow down and recognize that thinking about this just in terms of this guy, or any guy, is being shortsighted. This is about repairing your relationship with yourself.

That's what your behavior is telling you: The impulse to be with a guy is a distraction, a symptom of your not being at peace with yourself.

When you treat therapy and reflection as a way to get your favorite distraction back, you're missing the point. The best partners know and like themselves well enough not to need the validation of others.

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