Dealing With The Past
Sometimes we find out something about the person we love that changes how we feel—in spite of our certainty that we love them. What do you do when you’re torn between mind and heart? Here is our advice to Oscar.
Oscar from Jacksonville, FL writes:
“Here is my question. I thought my wife was this sweet, innocent woman whom I fell head over heels for. And she is to me. We always get along and haven’t had a problem yet. So here is my question. Recently her ex has been a butt head; he posted over 100 pics of my new wife all over the internet with her name and hometown. We worked to get them off but he keeps posting them on the internet. Since he has posted them and she told me about them, which I had to beg her to, things have been different. She didn’t want to tell me because she didn’t want me to see them or look at her differently. But I am afraid I am looking at her differently. The problem keeps coming up and slapping me in the face and I start to wonder who this woman is I fell in love with and married. I also know I cannot punish her for her past as we all have had one and I did not live an innocent life before her. So is it normal for me to be having thoughts of “yeah, we should probably split,” and me questioning myself over who she really is? I am so confused right now; thanks for your help.”
Hi Oscar. Your confusion is completely normal, let me assure you of that. At the same time, I see strong indications of clear thought in you. Sometimes that can make things feel even more confusing, can’t it? Intellectually you know this woman is one you love, but emotionally you are caught up in those photos and those past events. You wonder why you can’t tell your heart what’s going on and get it to respond to what you know to be true in the present.
While your situation is very specific, I think a lot of people can relate. Any time we find out something we didn’t know about a person who is important to us, or any time we realize something new about ourselves, we see ourselves and the other person differently. Not only that, but anytime someone you are with does change (and any time you change as well), the relationship shifts again. This is part of being human. People do change. Relationships reflect those changes. That much can’t be helped. What can be helped is how you choose to let that change manifest and affect you.
It can be disturbing finding out your wife used to be someone you wouldn’t have found attractive in the past, perhaps even someone you couldn’t have loved. At the same time though, the seeds of positive change were always in your wife, even when she was involved with whatever it was—she had the potential to change, to grow, to become better. In a sense, perhaps you look at her past and see that past latent in her now, as something which has been put aside, but which nonetheless exists. I would urge you to consider her choice. In all of us is the potential for good or ill; but it’s what we choose to act on that makes us who we are.
Right now, you are the one with that choice. You can’t choose not to see your wife differently, but you can choose how to see her differently. Instead of looking at her past sins as a taint on her present being, think of what this demonstrates to you—that she has chosen to change for the better, and displayed a tremendous ability to grow as a human being and better herself. All partners in relationships will be faced with continuing changes, and the fact that your wife has already displayed such a wonderful change for the better I think gives you a great indication that she will continue to grow into someone you will respect more and more. This is an opportunity for you to do the same.
I know it’s tougher than it sounds. I also think you probably are looking back on your own past indiscretions with some shame, and you feel that shame for her—but that’s really about you. Forgive yourself, and you’ll find it easier to forgive her. Choose self acceptance and accept your wife for who she is too. Your wife’s ex wants to break you up—he calculated how this would play on your emotions, but you’re both stronger than that. Use this event to strengthen your relationship. It’ll take time for your emotions to clarify, but with time I think you’ll both be doing better. I wish you both the best.