Dear 100 Hour Board,
I can’t talk to anybody in my life about this but I desperately need help.
I met a boy when I was 16 years old and he was 17. We hit hit off almost immediately and began dating. We lived nearly an hour away from each other, so it was a mostly email and text-based relationship, but we got to see each other maybe once every week or two. I was madly in love with him. We were raw and passionate and fiery. Insert all lame teenage lovey-dovey phrases here, and it described us really well. We talked about getting married all the time and having grand adventures. Traveling the world, living in big cities, doing amazing things.
Then I left home for BYU, over 1,000 miles away, and he stayed home because he was preparing for a mission. We dated long distance for a semester, and he left on his mission that winter. I convinced myself I would wait for him because we were meant to be together.
And then I met my actual future husband halfway through my sophomore year. He is a few years older than me, and our relationship has always been very calm and content. He is not one for big romantic gestures, and is a very stoic and level-headed person. We dated for a year before getting engaged. I broke things off with my missionary, and married my husband my junior year. My missionary got home only 1 month after the ceremony. We have been married nearly 4 years. Our life has very similar to the time we spent dating: very level and content. Comfortable and low-key. We recently found out I’m pregnant with our first child.
I have seen my ex a total of 1 hour in the last 5 years, but I have never stopped thinking about him. He got married a year ago, and I took it hard (even though I had already been married for over 2 years by that point). His wife is very pregnant and due next month, and that was also really hard for me to learn.
Why am I so hung up on this boy that I dated as a teenager? Why do I constantly think “what if, what if?” I hate myself for feeling like this. It’s not fair to my husband, who is a good man who deserves a good wife. It’s not fair to my ex or his wife or their future child(ren), even though they don’t know any of this. I hate to think I’m still in love with a person I can’t have, much less a person I haven’t spoken to in many years. I hate to think I’m making myself miserable, even though I have a very good, comfortable, calm life. I hate to think of the pain I’m causing, but mostly I hate to dwell on what could have been and the life I threw away by writing off my missionary.
What can I do?
-My Name Here
You're not alone in feeling questions or even doubts about choosing someone other than your first love. Past writers have discussed it far better than I ever could in this question. First loves are powerful things, and that's probably why you're still so hung up on yours.
Something I think is important to remember is that we don't have just one perfect person out there for us. There are various people we can get along with, that we can share a life with, that we can fully and completely love. It's hard when you have to choose one person when there are two you love so dearly, and I don't think you should be hating yourself for feeling that way. But don't forget that a life with your old boyfriend wouldn't be better than what you have right now. What is the ultimate goal of life? Happiness. And if you're happy with your husband, then a life with your old boyfriend wouldn't give you anything extra.
I think it's also important to remember how idealistic we all were in our teens (before the dreaded college and adult years hit). The relationship you had probably wouldn't be the same if it had continued. Missions and colleges and plain ol' life changes people. As humans, we often live in the past. We recall formative events, we romanticize past relationships, and we keep reliving those embarrassing moments. But sometimes we forget that people, especially ourselves, change over time. If we were put in the similar situation (same people, same relationships, but today instead of then), we would find that everyone would react and think differently. A relationship we had in the past is not going to look the same today as it did back then. The life you wonder if you threw away is probably very different from the relationship you had as a teenager.
What can you do? Frankly, I don't know. I've never been in your shoes before. But I would suggest taking time to notice the good things in your husband, your family, and your life. Tell them to someone or write them down, so the next time that "what if" thought comes, you can hold up your notebook and say, "if I was with my ex-boyfriend I wouldn't have [ ]." Realize you can't guarantee what a life with your ex would have been. It might have been unfulfilling. Look at the growth and development you've done with your husband, and focus on the changes you've undergone because of your relationship. And if there's something you've always wanted to do, or are wistful of from your past relationship, take the reins and do them with your husband! You mentioned how you wanted to go on adventures. Now's your chance! Whether it's traveling to a new city or treating your spouse to a candlelit dinner, you can make sure the life you have is the life you wanted.
It's hard when we have to choose between two good things. I hope you can find peace and true fulfillment in the life you've chosen, because it sounds like a pretty incredible one.
-guppy of doom