Dear Rosie & Sherry,

I just ended an 8-month courtship with my girlfriend. When we first dated, she was perfect and I thought we would have been engaged by now. We had our problems in the very beginning, and went through several short-term break ups. But we kept rekindling, thinking something was going to change.

She was jealous of me, not trusting, and had the ability to turn everything around on me. There were incidents in my past (involving dating) that bothered her. She told me about her past and sometimes I thought she would make up stories just to get me jealous. We would usually get along fine for 2 or 3 days before we had a big fight. Every day, some little thing bothered her and I just got used to it. I began to think that she would start fights just to see if I cared enough to fight back. I told her I loved her, called when I said I would, and welcomed her friends and family.

I suppressed all the negative stories and warnings I received from people saying that I should stop dating her.

I miss having someone in my life, and I was in love with her, and part of me still is. I would like to reconcile, but I know that is impossible.

I have sought out the advice of my friends and family, they have all said to make a clean break and end contact. I haven't seen or spoken to her in a week. Some days are easy and others are hard. The thought of her with someone else disturbs me and I don't know why. Maybe I am being selfish. For me being 28, she was my first real love.

I am trying to chalk the whole thing up as a learning experience and move on, but part of me feels I shouldn't. Any suggestions?

Dirk

Dear Dirk,

The advice that you received from family and friends is right on the mark. When a courtship is over, the best thing to do is make a clean break, give yourself some time to grieve, and move on in your life.

Even though it is counterproductive to constantly look back at this and think about "what might have been if...", there are many ways that you can learn from this experience. In your case, we believe that the most important "lesson" you can take with you is that if a date requires a great deal of repair work from the outset, it isn't meant to be.

Certainly, everyone needs to invest time, effort and emotional energy into their developing courtship, and they will undoubtedly encounter issues they need to resolve. But for the most part, their courtship should be an enjoyable one and should not filled with arguments, anger, mistrust and breakups, or require the assistance of a therapist or counselor to help it "jell."

The courtship you described with this woman fits a pattern that many couples experience. They are instantly attracted to each other, but as time goes on they see that they aren't as good a fit as they originally thought. Usually, it's because their values or goals are not in sync, or their personalities aren't really compatible. Or, it can be that one of them has a serious negative character trait that becomes apparent later on (or that the other person tried to ignore at first but eventually realized that he or she could no longer do so).

This touches on another "lesson" that we hope you can gain from your experience. Some people may perceive a problem in a friend's or relative's dating pattern that will adversely affect the way things turn out. The friend or relative may be so blinded by infatuation that they either cannot see the problem or pretend it doesn't exist. Most people are reluctant to interfere with a budding romance.

So here's what you need to remember: When someone does voice a concern, they generally have a strong reason for doing so. Sure, if just one friend or family member whose judgment you trust voices concern it may be that they simply do not get along with your date, or that there are issues such as jealousy, rivalry, etc. at play. However, if two or three people voice their concerns, it's a good idea to look closer at your dating and see if the point is a valid one.

Aside from the painful "lessons" of this experience, there is something positive you can take with you. Before you were dating this woman, you may have wondered if you were capable of developing a loving relationship. Now you see that you can fall in love, that you have the insight and ability to improve a courtship, and that you are ready for commitment.

In the near future, we hope that you meet a woman whose goals, values and personality are compatible with your own, and that the two of you enjoy a courtship that blossoms into a loving, enduring marriage.

Rosie & Sherry