My boyfriend said something incredibly hurtful. How do I move on?
September 5, 2013 6:45 AM Subscribe
My boyfriend and I have been together 7 months. I am female and 36; he is 28. Before our relationship, he had had very little relationship experience, and early on, he was fairly shy about holding hands and kissing in public. A few months in, became very comfortable with it. He is now extremely demonstrative, committed, and tells me frequently how much he loves and cares for me. Yesterday he told me that the reason he was squeamish about PDA early on was because of our age difference. The comment really took me aback and made me feel awful. I don't know what to do.
posted by anonymous to human relations (44 answers total) 3 users marked this as a favorite
To add to what's above: my boyfriend is 28, but in many ways younger due to pretty tough social anxiety as a kid and young adult. A year ago he finally got proper medication for his condition and his life and outlook and everything have gotten much better. But he hasn't had a ton of relationship experience and missed out on a lot that most people learned in teenhood/early adulthood. He's trying to catch up fast.
Our relationship has been a big catalyst for that-- he has transformed pretty radically, in positive ways, in the time we've been together. He attributes a lot of this growth to me-- and thanks me constantly for my patience and understanding as he gains his footing and learns how to have a meaningful relationship. He's told me he regrets that he has to learn a lot of this relationship stuff with me-- he wasn't able to have a "trial run" before meeting me. I feel sometimes a bit like a "teacher"-- which is ok, but means I do quite a bit of "heavy lifting."
The comment he made was in the context of us talking about our age differences; he said that he used to be concerned about it, but that now it's not at all an issue. I asked what he meant, and he said that he'd had some sort of script or narrative about a future girlfriend: someone a few years younger than him, with mutual interests, etc. Then an amazing woman came into his life (me) and it didn't fit the "script" and it took him a while to get used to that, but now he's so grateful and can't imagine life without me. Then he said "Actually, that's the reason I was reluctant about PDA before."
That's where I freaked and started asking myself: What does that mean? That he was ashamed to be seen with an older woman? Is who I am some kind of "obstacle" he had to overcome? (For the record, I'm an attractive lady, and he regularly tells me I'm beautiful.) During this time when he was anxious about being public with affection, we were privately *very* affectionate, and I never doubted he was very into me.
I just feel really unsure of how to feel and what to do. On one hand, I do believe he really truly has changed and no longer thinks this way. On the other hand, he *did* think this way, and I didn't know about it, and I feel angry and sad that somehow he wasn't 100% proud and excited about me from day 1.
I've never had an experience like this before: someone confessing something that they *used* to think and no longer think-- and that thing being very very hurtful. It's in the past, but I'm dealing with it in the present. And if I had known he felt that way at the time I would have been so hurt! (Clearly, he also is not very skilled yet at thinking about how a comment might make another person feel.)
He feels guilty and terrible and started to cry when he saw how hurt I was. I feel like part of me has turned to stone or ice inside. Am I overreacting? I want to regain my warm feelings toward him, but I don't know how to think about this. Or how to proceed.