Dear Carolyn: I’ve been divorced one year after a four-year marriage. We shouldn’t have gotten married; I knew that at the time, and I accept that I made a huge mistake when I full well knew better. I’m intent on NOT repeating that mistake.
I’ve recently attempted dating again, and the issue is that if a guy says anything my ex-husband could have, would have or did ever say – opinions about life, relationships, politics, family, etc. – then I completely lose interest. They could be otherwise amazing and share just one unacceptable view with my ex, but as soon as the words come out of their mouths, I’m done. I can hear it coming sometimes, and in my head I’m begging them not to finish the sentence.
Am I being too hard on myself, and everyone else, looking for someone who has absolutely NOTHING in common with my ex? Or do I need to decide and isolate which of these opinions are truly deal-breakers – things that contributed to the hostility between me and my ex – and worry about those? Or is any flag a flag, even if it’s more pink than bright red?
– Color Blind in Tenn.
A: There are two possible origins to such reflexive rejections: Either these men are revealing key similarities to your ex-husband and, therefore, you’re right to stop seeing them – or you’re overreacting to perfectly innocent statements because you’re still not fully healed.
Two possibilities, but they point to only one piece of advice. Trust this reflex, don’t try to override it.
Why? Because if it’s a red flag about the guy(s) you’re dating, then the reason not to override it is obvious.
And if the red flag is about you, then it might be tempting to try to “fix” it, to talk yourself into being more rational about – and fair to – the men you date, before you’re ready for that. Any effort to fix it would involve forcing yourself to proceed with dating while tuning out your “No!” voice, and while knowing you can’t trust your own reactions to people. And that’s like diving into the deep end without knowing if you can swim.
With your history of getting married even as your little voice screamed “nooooo” – when you “full well knew better” – that’s like diving in knowing last time you sank like a stone.
I realize I advise this to the point of self-parody, but please find you before you go looking for someone else.
Weigh what these men have said, yes, to see why you reacted so strongly. More broadly, though: Learn to hear your inner voice, to heed it, to look back to see whether it was right and to tweak your understanding of it accordingly. In the meantime, learn to live the life you have instead of trying to push it somewhere else.
Wedding causes problems
Dear Carolyn: My older sister is in her 60s and getting married for the first time. We are all thrilled for her.
Since she was single when her nieces and nephews were growing up, she took great effort to establish personal relationships with all of them, and she is a favorite of theirs.
We just found out they are planning a small, quiet wedding with only their siblings and spouses invited. As I expected, my daughter is disappointed and hurt. I believe most of her cousins will be also.
Should I say something to sis that her nieces and nephews (all adults) would love the chance to celebrate with her, or MYOB?
A: What not to say to a loved one: “You’re doing things wrong and should do it my way instead.”
What to say to a loved one: “I care about you and want to be with you, through celebration or loss, yours or mine.”
So if you know for sure the cousins want in, then it would be kind and useful to tell your sister that her nieces and nephews want to celebrate with her somehow – if not at the wedding, then at a party on a later date (that you, ahem, host for the couple?). Then ask her – and heed – what she thinks.