“My boyfriend won’t leave his ex. Should I end it?” Proper Advice from a Psychoanalytic Viewpoint

I’ve been seeing a guy for about a month and we have a great time together. But he has a girlfriend he’s been with for two months. He keeps saying he’ll leave her for me and that he just needs to find the right time, as he wants to stay friends with her. Should I end it?

This problem appeared in Cosmopolitan.


 This one is so short that it would be hard for anyone to give helpful advice that isn’t a quick knee-jerk reaction: Yes, leave him, but not because he won’t do what you ask quickly and obediently enough, but because you are damaging yourself by being with someone whose attention you feel you have to fight for. This is a power game, not an equal partnership.


 You sound very young and perhaps you are looking for a quick, shart solution that will mean you need not have any thoughts or feelings on the subject of your relationship, an obvious impossibility. You blame the boy for the situation and you want someone else to fix it. 


 You seem to be inviting, asking someone to tell you to end this relationship. You say ‘we have a great time together’ rather than suggesting anything deeper. The relationship is extremely new, but you tell the reader that the ‘guy’ has been seeing someone else for slightly longer. When you say ‘he keeps saying he’ll leave her’ it seems that you have brought this up many times or that he has. ‘He just needs to find the right time’ sounds a bit wheedling on his part, as though you are pushing him to leave her.


 You say ‘Should I end it?’ rather than saying ‘How should I talk to him about it?’ or ‘Should I stop seeing him until he leaves his other girlfriend?’ which strongly suggests that you can see only one solution and that you would rather end the relationship than tackle the obvious problems.


 You say that he wants to stay friends with the other girl. I wonder how you would feel about that even if he does stop being her boyfriend? You seem to have chosen to start a relationship that does not sound very serious (‘great time’) with someone you know to be attached to someone else. The triumph over the girl sounds like the most important thing to you, not your actual relationship with the boy. Rather than focusing on whether or not this boy is going to do what you have pushed him into saying he’s going to do, or whether or not you should leave him, it might be a better idea to examine your own motivations.


 Are you entering into a relationship with someone unavailable in some kind of reenactment? Was one or both of your parents always unavailable to you? Is it a masochistic tendency that makes you go into self-destructive situations in which you know you will get hurt? Or perhaps you intend to triumph over the other girl, to win someone else’s boyfriend and feel powerful as she is crushed (in your fantasy)? This would be an Oedipal issue, suggesting either that you might have sided with your father against your mother or that you would like to have done, but were crushed yourself.


 Clearly this is wild conjecture as there isn’t much information to go on in your note, but you do seem to feel powerless and have a strong desire to feel powerful. It sounds as though your feelings are more to do with power and weakness than with looking at the real people involved, including yourself. Either you gain power by triumphing over the other girl or by leaving him and walking away. Neither course of action is likely to bring you comfort or satisfaction unless you are prepared to have a good look at what you yourself really want and need from an intimate relationship.

Proper Advice via Skype or Email: anna@blundy.com





About Anna Blundy

Honorary psychotherapist with a Masters in Psychoanalytic Theory and another in Psychodynamic Clinical Psychotherapy. Novelist - Author of the Faith Zanetti quintet - The Bad News Bible, Faith Without Doubt, Neat Vodka (US - Vodka Neat), Breaking Faith, My Favourite Poison. Also a memoir of my father, Every Time We Say Goodbye and my most recent thriller - The Oligarch's Wife
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