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Boyfriend said "I love you" to another woman

Dear Alice,

My boyfriend and I have been going out for more than four years; we decided to break up at the beginning of college. He started to go out with another girl where he goes to college. He went out with her for a month and broke up with her. Two months later, we got back together again and everything was great. But then he told me that they had sex a few times and he told her he loved her. He tells me it was just a rebound relationship and that he was confused and didn't know what he was doing.

Ever since then, I've felt very insecure. I know he has not done anything wrong since we were not going out at the time, but I feel so insecure that I have to know what he is doing every single minute of the day. I get very jealous. I wish I could trust him more. He would never do anything to hurt me. He loves me so much he even wants to marry me. I wish I could put it all behind me. What bothers me most is that they had sex and that he told her he loved her. I don't know how to forget about it and go on.

Sincerely,
Insecure

Dear Insecure,

Navigating through relationships, both new and old, can have their challenges. Even though you and your boyfriend were broken up at the time, that doesn’t mean his rebound relationship is something that’s easy for you to get over. You have the right to your feelings. However, if you want to move forward in your relationship, you may want to take some time to process these emotions and rebuild your confidence. This will hopefully help you heal and restore trust in your partner.

Starting by expressing your emotions, whether it's to a trusted person in your life, in a journal, or on your own, can be really impactful as it's wise to allow yourself to actually feel your feelings rather than suppressing or only trying to problem-solve them. Allowing yourself to cry, laugh, curse, get angry, or all of the above may help you clarify what might be at the root of your jealousy and insecurity. If you prefer to work through your feelings with someone other than your boyfriend first, you could talk with people in your life who you trust and who support you such as family, friends, or a mental health professional. 

You may also find it helpful to practice different behaviors to build or maintain your self-confidence. Focusing on eating balanced, nourishing meals, getting plenty of sleep and physical activity, and participating in activities you find meaningful may help you feel more centered and happy with yourself. Those feelings may transfer over and help you feel more confident and happy with your partner and relationship.

Insecure, these situations often take time and reflection. You might reframe this as an opportunity to build a deeper connection in your relationship. You could think about these questions for yourself and discuss them with your partner: What about his rebound relationship makes you feel insecure? For what reasons do you feel like you can't trust him? Have you and your boyfriend worked through the reasons you broke up in the first place? Now that you’re back together, are you both getting what you need and want from the relationship? What can your boyfriend do, say, show you, that will help you to trust and feel comfortable, safe, and able to be vulnerable again? Thinking through these questions can be a time to think critically about yourself and your relationship. While the future is always uncertain, you may find it possible to feel confident and comfortable with the present and be at peace with the past.

You may also take some time to think through whether or not it's something that you can get past. As much as you love and care about him, you're also not obligated to stay in a relationship with him if you find that you can't move past his experiences while you were apart. Just as you recognize that he wasn't violating any boundaries you had set in your relationship since you had broken up, you're also entitled to set your own boundaries and what you can or can't move past. 

Good luck,

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Last updated Jul 12, 2022
Originally published Mar 18, 1994

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