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Hey, Carolyn! So my girlfriend and I started dating five months ago, and fell head-over-heels for each other very quickly. However, after about two months she started getting really jealous for no reason, and comparing me to her ex-boyfriend. He cheated on and lied to her a bunch of times. She worries all the time that I will cheat on her. I hear about him constantly now, and the stuff they used to do together.

She has gone from a super-loving and fun girlfriend to someone who honestly isn't at all a joy to be around. For a while she was jealous, but now it's like talking to a rock. She's withdrawn and not caring like she used to be, which she explains as "loving me so much she is just so scared something is going to ruin it."

How do I help her get over what this guy did to her, and get her back into being just as in love with me as she was when we started dating? I know she loves me still and always says she's feeling bad about how she's acting, but this is an every-weekend ordeal. It goes from being amazing one week to almost breaking up the next. Any advice? I'm 23, and this is the first time I can say I'm truly in love, so this is something I really don't want to lose, but every day I'm becoming more and more bitter due to losing what we had in the beginning. Any help would be appreciated!

— D.

D.: Your girlfriend is not healthy enough to be in a relationship with anyone right now, and you can’t fix that.

Even if that’s not her “fault” — meaning, even if we stipulate the ex is to blame for everything (when it’s rarely so simple) — it’s still not healthy for either of you to stay with the other under these conditions.

She needs to untangle her feelings without new strings getting caught in the snarl, and she needs to work on this solo until she stops seeing her ex in everything her new boyfriends do. It’s a matter of simple fairness, both to herself and to the people she dates, because a fear-jealousy-withdrawal cycle is a torment no one deserves.

You, meanwhile, need to stop giving your consent to this mistreatment, which at least verges on emotional abuse. She’s punishing you for her ex’s sins! How is that okay? Her apologies beat defending her behavior, of course, but she’s also not doing anything to stop it, get help, get better, protect you.

Please also recognize the three warnings in your wanting to “get her back into” that quick, intense “love.” First, newness doesn’t come back. Second, you don’t “get” people to feel things. It’s not in your power, it’s not your place.

Third: Quick, intense attractions actually aren’t promising, particularly when they quickly yield to an intense something else — jealousy, anger, fear, detachment, whatever. This isn’t two discrete things — love and temporary love-thwarting crisis — but instead one thing — emotional volatility.

Meaning, you didn’t “lose” anything. You have chaos.

Please urge her to get therapy, and consider some — separately — for yourself. It’s not always intuitive how harmful it can be to keep wanting to fix someone. Or, how loving it can be to leave.

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