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Should I stay with my girlfriend, or sow my wild oats first? Add to ...

The question: I’m a guy who loves his girlfriend, but that doesn’t mean I’m not attracted to other women. I’m in my 20s and making good money. Is it a bad idea to sow my wild oats now, before I’m fully committed?

The answer: Umm … the fact that you are asking whether you should “sow your wild oats” – with your financial situation being one of the highlighted reasons why – tells me you need to do some serious thinking about what you want at this point in your life, and what you want to do about your relationship. Out of fairness to your girlfriend, this is something you should figure out sooner rather than later.

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There’s no judgment here: How you approach dating, and whether you have regrets about not dating more people before becoming more committed, is something only you can answer. Some people can be immensely happy, fulfilled and have no regrets despite having only one partner in their life; others feel that the best thing they could have done was to get dating “out of their system” before they got married or started a family.

Don’t become overly distressed just at being attracted to someone. I see many people in my patient practice that are in loving, committed relationships, and who remain faithful to their partners, but find themselves attracted to others. These feelings are a natural part of being human; they often pass and usually mean nothing.

It’s not whether you are attracted to other people that’s a problem – it’s what you do based on the attraction. Ask yourself: Do you find yourself getting too caught up in the attraction? Do you start to fantasize about being with someone else on a regular basis? Do you have thoughts of wanting to cheat on your girlfriend? If so, these are strong signs that you are not ready to be settling down at this stage in your life.You say you love your girlfriend. Do you picture being with her long-term? Could you imagine yourself married to her, or having children with her? Does the thought of her in your foreseeable future create positive feelings (comfort, peace, security, happiness, joy)? Or do you find yourself feeling anxious or stifled when you imagine this?

And finally, how do you feel when you think about ending the relationship with your girlfriend? How do you feel when you envision her dating someone else? Keep in mind that dating life may not be what you imagined it to be, that you’d need to have a clear break in your relationship in fairness to your girlfriend. Realize that she will likely move on and may not be there if you were to decide to go back to her.

Ultimately you need to trust your gut feeling and go with what seems to be the right thing for you. If it is dating other people, end things with your girlfriend in a respectful way and move on. You’re better ending things now when you are still young, and before things get more serious.

Dr. Joti Samra, R.Psych., is a clinical psychologist and organizational & media consultant. She is the host of OWN: Oprah Winfrey Network’s Million Dollar Neighbourhood and is the psychological consultant to CITY-TV’s The Bachelor Canada. Her website is www.drjotisamra.com and she can be followed @drjotisamra .

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