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The Star / Asia News Network
Sunday, Feb 19, 2017
"Dear Thelma" is a relationship advice column that appears in The Star, a publication that is part of the Asia News Network.
Five years ago, I fell in love with X. It was all roses and rainbows until we started fighting. There were days where we argued non-stop but nothing has ever changed the way I feel for X. The more time we spend together, the more I feel for X.
However, there were days when I felt unappreciated and there were days when X neglected me but I hung on. I just cannot imagine life without X. I guess memories of the good times we had together, overshadowed the bad times.
There were days when I woke up feeling like I could not take it anymore. But I convinced myself that it was all right – life’s like that. So our relationship survived the ups and downs. We’ve been together for five years now.
After four years with X, I started my first job. Then I met Y. I knew I had to do something to get X’s attention. I wanted to make X jealous, so I became very pally with Y. We went out on dates together.
Two months ago, I invited both X and Y to a party. Though I managed to make X jealous, I wasn’t given the attention that I craved for.
Eventually, things between Y and I got more intense. Y asked me to be his girlfriend and I agreed. We have been together for a year now.
I think it is time for me to make a decision. I have been dating both men. Do I choose X or Y? Y treats me like a princess and he would do anything to make me happy.
On the other hand, X continues to neglect me. He has scant regard for my feelings. But the love I have for X is very special. I can’t seem to love Y, as deeply as I love X.
I want X to promise that he would not leave me in future. I am willing to cross oceans for X.
I am so confused. What should I do?
Perhaps the first thing you should consider when trying to decide what you really want, is to understand that love and attention are two different things. The problem between you and X is not one of lack of love.
It is common – and probably to be expected – that any two people who come together will have differences. Arguments are to be expected as a natural consequence of that. Arguments are not an indication that the love between two people is not strong. The mark of a strong relationship is not the lack of arguments, but how they are resolved.
Your problem with X seems to be centred around your insecurities. You have been together for five years, and yet you still feel that he does not love you. Just because you feel unloved, it does not mean that X does not love you.
You tried to make X jealous by winning Y’s heart. You are dating two men. Many would agree that what you are doing is cheating on X.
It seems unfair of you to expect X to promise that he won’t leave you in the future when you are driven into the arms of another man now.
What is it that you want from X? What do you mean when you say you want his attention? Instead of complaining that you do not get attention, it would be more fruitful for you to spell out the ways in which you would like attention to be showered on you.
In the case of Y, you have to bear in mind that you feel loved because you are still in the honeymoon phase of the relationship. The relationship is new. You are just getting to know each other and emotions are high and “hot”. This will wane. And then, what would happen?
Most experts agree that there are five phases in a relationship. The first phase is the honeymoon phase which is characterised by romance and passion. The next phase is when the cloud of romance is lifted and people start to see each other for who they really are, warts and all. This stage can be very challenging.
The third phase is when things get more stable and the couple start dealing with the day to day routines. Conversations centre around who needs to do what rather than how beautiful one person thinks the other is.
The fourth stage is where commitment comes in. Each party sees that the other person is only human and has shortcomings. They realise that they chose to love and be with them. They commit to a life together.
The last stage is when people find bliss. They see each other for who they are; they accept each other and do not want to change the other person. They understand that they are truly committed to the relationship and want to build a life together.
Most of our education on relationships come from movies and television shows. Most movies and shows focus on the first stage, and this has resulted in the romantic notion of relationships which is being held as the hallmark of all relationships. It must be remembered that movies and television shows are meant to entertain. They are not a reflection of real life.
You seem to want your relationship with X to be in the first phase, when it has moved to the second phase. You may think this is what relationships are supposed to be. X seems to have grown in the relationship, while you haven’t.
Your needs are not being met, and this needs to be addressed. You need to figure out why you need all this attention, and what this attention really means to you. It would be better for you to tell X how you want him to show you attention, instead of focusing on the fact that you are not getting attention.
Your demands must be realistic, of course. You cannot expect to be the sole focus of X’s life. That is not healthy, either.
Now you find yourself in a bind, but the victims in this scenario are X and Y. You have to admit that you have been selfish in this whole episode. If you were really keen on Y, you should have let X know and broken off with him first. Or, you should have let Y know that you are seeing X. Instead, you focused on what you felt and wanted. Now you risk hurting two people.
You cannot come out of this unscathed. You will have to be honest with X about it. As much as you want to decide between X and Y, they also have the right to decide if they want a future with you.
If X decides to accept you despite the fact that you had cheated on him, you can’t blame him if he loses trust in you. The same goes for Y.
No one can tell you how to decide in this situation. It is best that you understand what it is that you are experiencing and decide from there. Whatever your decision, it is incumbent upon you to be honest and come clean with both X and Y about what you have done. This is as much about them as it is about you.