Virginia Ironside's Dilemmas

 

Dear Virginia, I was very unhappy when my boyfriend of three years suddenly dropped me. It’s taken me six months to get over him and I still don’t feel I’ve recovered. I really thought we might get married. Now I’ve got a new boyfriend, who I like a lot and who’s kind and considerate. In many ways he’s a much nicer person, but I still hanker after my old boyfriend. But my ex got in touch recently and when we met he said he’d made a terrible mistake and wanted to get back together. Do you think I should risk it? I feel so torn – can’t stop thinking about him! Yours sincerely, Moira

Virginia says... I can't help feeling very wary, I'm afraid. It's quite true that, knowing you're getting seriously involved with someone else, your boyfriend might have suddenly realised what he's lost. He may have looked around a bit and discovered that actually there's no one who comes up to your standards anywhere to be found. He may wish he could put the clock back.

But – and this is a real possibility – he might be one of those unhappy people who, the moment they get too close to anyone, wants to push them away. These people are known, rather scathingly, as "commitment-phobes" but as one who is myself extremely cautious about getting too close to anyone, I feel they should be pitied rather than condemned. Ask yourself: what was his relationship like with his mother? If he isn't relaxed with her, and feels ambivalent about his parents, it's probably because at some point in his past they hurt him deeply. Or, to be accurate, he felt they hurt him deeply. Whether they did or not doesn't really come into it. That way, he associates love with agonising pain. It's a horrible situation. He's longing to get close but at the same time terrified of being hurt. In the same way as children of abusive parents often go for abusive partners, because the abuse feels, in some distorted way, like "home" to them, so people like your boyfriend can really only love people when they're quite a few degrees away from them.

At this moment, you're a few degrees away from your ex. Now the boundaries are clear and you're not completely involved with your boyfriend, it could be that he suddenly feels free to love you – as I'm sure he does – because there's no risk of being too close. The moment you left your boyfriend – who you admit is much nicer than your ex – and started talking marriage to your ex, he'd scarper again. And he probably wouldn't even know why.

I'd have coffee with your ex. In public. In the cold light of day. Don't even dream of making it an evening date and a make sure you leave on the dot. Ask him if he wants to get married. If there's any shilly-shallying at all, or mumbles about "waiting and seeing", forget it.

But if he says he's certain you're the one and starts talking about rings and weddings, then you might consider it. But whatever you do, don't rush into anything. You've got too much to lose. "Niceness" may not feature as a top characteristic in your list of what you want in a boyfriend, but it's exactly what you want in a husband. And father of your children.

Readers say...

Move on without him

A reality check is in order here. After a break-up that caused you so much pain, you should not risk being hurt again by this guy. He took up three years of your life, which was more than enough time to make a serious commitment. He had his chance, and now he's simply toying with you. Today you're older and wiser: for your own self-preservation, you have to take control of you emotions. Let him go, and focus on your new relationship. Move on and don't look back.

E Forbes

Edinburgh

Give him a chance

I know a woman who dumped a lovely boyfriend for spurious reasons after a happy two years together. Six months later, regretting it, she called him, and when he readily, and forgivingly, agreed to meet she was so overwhelmed with relief, she had to lean against the wall to prevent falling to the ground.

That woman was me. That forgiving boyfriend has been my glorious and beloved husband for 30 years. We all make a foolish decision sometimes. Don't hold it against him.

Felicie Oakepace

Birmingham

 

Next week's dilemma

Dear Virginia,

I've got two friends who I really like, but they often find it hard getting on with each other and are always falling out. Elisa showed me an email she'd written to Valerie, written in the heat of the moment – but luckily she hadn't sent it – and I said she couldn't possibly send it and I re-wrote it. She sent it off and now Valerie has received this email, and has asked me how to reply. In one way I feel pleased with myself to be playing the role of peacemaker, but in another way I'm feeling I'm betraying both of them and wish I hadn't got involved. Can you advise?

Yours sincerely,

Eleanor

What would you advise Eleanor to do? Email your dilemmas and comments to dilemmas@independent.co.uk. Anyone whose advice is quoted will receive a £25 voucher from the wine website Fine Wine Sellers (finewine.sellers.co.uk)

Life and Style
ebookNow available in paperback
ebooks
ebookA delicious collection of 50 meaty main courses
Latest stories from i100
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?

ES Rentals

    Independent Dating
    and  

    By clicking 'Search' you
    are agreeing to our
    Terms of Use.

    iJobs Job Widget
    iJobs General

    Recruitment Genius: Parts Advisor

    £16500 - £18500 per annum: Recruitment Genius: One of the leading Mercedes-Ben...

    Recruitment Genius: Software Developer

    £27500 - £35000 per annum: Recruitment Genius: This is an exciting opportunity...

    Recruitment Genius: Telemarketers / Sales - Home Based - OTE £23,500

    £19500 - £23500 per annum: Recruitment Genius: Experienced B2B Telemarketer wa...

    Recruitment Genius: Showroom Assistant

    Negotiable: Recruitment Genius: This global company are looking for two Showro...

    Day In a Page

    Fifa corruption: The 161-page dossier that exposes the organisation's dark heart

    The 161-page dossier that exposes Fifa's dark heart

    How did a group of corrupt officials turn football’s governing body into what was, in essence, a criminal enterprise? Chris Green and David Connett reveal all
    Mediterranean migrant crisis: 'If Europe thinks bombing boats will stop smuggling, it will not. We will defend ourselves,' says Tripoli PM

    Exclusive interview with Tripoli PM Khalifa al-Ghweil

    'If Europe thinks bombing boats will stop smuggling, it will not. We will defend ourselves'
    Raymond Chandler's Los Angeles: How the author foretold the Californian water crisis

    Raymond Chandler's Los Angeles

    How the author foretold the Californian water crisis
    Chinese artist who posted funny image of President Xi Jinping facing five years in prison as authorities crackdown on dissent in the arts

    Art attack

    Chinese artist who posted funny image of President Xi Jinping facing five years in prison
    Marc Jacobs is putting Cher in the limelight as the face of his latest campaign

    Cher is the new face of Marc Jacobs

    Alexander Fury explains why designers are turning to august stars to front their lines
    Parents of six-year-old who beat leukaemia plan to climb Ben Nevis for cancer charity

    'I'm climbing Ben Nevis for my daughter'

    Karen Attwood's young daughter Yasmin beat cancer. Now her family is about to take on a new challenge - scaling Ben Nevis to help other children
    10 best wedding gift ideas

    It's that time of year again... 10 best wedding gift ideas

    Forget that fancy toaster, we've gone off-list to find memorable gifts that will last a lifetime
    Paul Scholes column: With the Premier League over for another year, here are my end of season awards

    Paul Scholes column

    With the Premier League over for another year, here are my end of season awards
    Heysel disaster 30th anniversary: Liverpool have seen too much tragedy to forget fateful day in Belgium

    Liverpool have seen too much tragedy to forget Heysel

    Thirty years ago, 39 fans waiting to watch a European Cup final died as a result of a fatal cocktail of circumstances. Ian Herbert looks at how a club dealt with this tragedy
    Amir Khan vs Chris Algieri: Khan’s audition for Floyd Mayweather may turn into a no-win situation, says Frank Warren

    Khan’s audition for Mayweather may turn into a no-win situation

    The Bolton fighter could be damned if he dazzles and damned if he doesn’t against Algieri, the man last seen being decked six times by Pacquiao, says Frank Warren
    Blundering Tony Blair quits as Middle East peace envoy – only Israel will miss him

    Blundering Blair quits as Middle East peace envoy – only Israel will miss him

    For Arabs – and for Britons who lost their loved ones in his shambolic war in Iraq – his appointment was an insult, says Robert Fisk
    Fifa corruption arrests: All hail the Feds for riding to football's rescue

    Fifa corruption arrests

    All hail the Feds for riding to football's rescue, says Ian Herbert
    Isis in Syria: The Kurdish enclave still resisting the tyranny of President Assad and militant fighters

    The Kurdish enclave still resisting the tyranny of Assad and Isis

    In Syrian Kurdish cantons along the Turkish border, the progressive aims of the 2011 uprising are being enacted despite the war. Patrick Cockburn returns to Amuda
    How I survived Cambodia's Killing Fields: Acclaimed surgeon SreyRam Kuy celebrates her mother's determination to escape the US

    How I survived Cambodia's Killing Fields

    Acclaimed surgeon SreyRam Kuy celebrates her mother's determination to escape to the US
    Stephen Mangan interview: From posh buffoon to pregnant dad, the actor has quite a range

    How Stephen Mangan got his range

    Posh buffoon, hapless writer, pregnant dad - Mangan is certainly a versatile actor