Monday, December 28, 2009

Holidays With His Ex

Dear Terry:

My boyfriend of 10 months is 55, and I am 32. We have a lot in common and really enjoy each other's company. We are happy and our relationship is progressing normally; we are able to talk about everything and work through issues with respect and compassion for each other. We both feel that we are heading towards being married in the future.

My question is about the relationship he has with his ex-wife and their daughter. The daughter is 19 and goes to college on the other side of the country. He was married to her mother for over 20 years and they had an amicable divorce. In fact, they are still friends. I trust that.

But, what do you feel is an appropriate relationship for all of us to have? I don't want to spend holidays with his ex, but his daughter wants to see both her parents on holidays. My boyfriend feels torn.

Is it too much to ask that she will have to visit each parent separately? I don't have any real animosity toward the ex, I just don't want her around for every holiday. I realize that in a few years from now, once my relationship with my bf is not "new", I might feel differently about his ex being around...but right now, I'd prefer a little distance. I also have an 8-year-old son (whose father is not involved). I want to have a "family" and, honestly, I don't want that to include his ex-wife.

His daughter is certainly included (if she wants to be), but do I have a right to insist that holidays are not spent with the ex? I am very willing to spend time with the ex for functions dealing with their daughter (graduation, parties in her honor, etc.) but I think that's where the line should be drawn.
I would love your advice/suggestions! Thank you.

-Maybe Later I'll Feel Differently

Dear Maybe Later-

First off, let me apologize for responding to your question on December 28th, but since Christmas lasts until January 6th, you may still be waiting for my answer.

I completely understand that you want your first Christmas with your boyfriend to be special. Who wouldn't? You've been with the man 10 months, and you're talking about marriage.

That said, I wouldn't insist on anything with regard to his ex-wife or his daughter. They've worked out a routine that so far has worked for them, and heaven forbid the daughter interpret your understandable desire for family time as an attempt to wedge her mother out of the picture.

Instead, I would tell him, "I really admire the way you and ____________ have handled your divorce and the way you've raised _______________. I would like a little time alone with you during the holidays. Is there a way we can work that out?"

Then wait for his answer. He may need time to think it through. After all, he's had a routine that used to make everyone happy, and now he needs another plan. Would you be amenable to spending Christmas Eve but not Christmas Day with the ex? Or New Year's Day but not New Year's Eve?

The daughter goes to college far away, so she doesn't get a lot of Mom and Dad time. As she gets older and gets involved in career, relationships, and perhaps marriage and children, she may require even less (if she gets married, she'll probably be expected to spend some of the holidays with her husband's family).

Let me repeat: I do think you're being reasonable (because, really, what guy would want to hang out with your ex every holiday?), but I would take a long view here.

After all, you're the one he plans to marry.

Monday, December 21, 2009

He Wants to Commit...Just Not Now


I've dated this this man for 3 years, but before hand we were best friends and he waited on me while I explored, and that damaged him pretty badly. We broke up because of me, yet again and (let's just say I learned the hard way) I want to commit to him. He says that he has aspirations and goals to marry me, have children with me, and settle down with me, but right now he needs space.

One second he invites me over, and we're together for weeks, and then one day he flips out and decides to run away for space. I don't know what's going here, and I don't know what could be going on inside of his head, because he can only tell me "I want to be with you, but I'm not ready for this relationship yet. When I'm ready, I'll ask. And yes baby I want to start a clean slate with you."

What is going on? What am I supposed to do and think?

Help please!

-Want to Commit

Dear Commit-

It sounds to me like you nailed it when you say that you hurt him. He gets together with you for a while, and then he gets scared and retreats. He's afraid of getting hurt again.

I don't know what you can say or do to make him trust the relationship. I do know that actions always speak louder than words, so it's probably best to give him what he asks for: Space. And tell him how you feel, something along the lines of, "I'll miss you, but I know you need this."

(Question: When he takes his space, is he free to date other people? Are you? If you don't know, please ask him. If he's dating, he can't expect you not to date. If he's not dating, don't date. The goal is to build trust.)

He says he'll come around when he's ready, but there's no guarantee he'll ever be ready, so you have to face that possibility. (I really wish I had more to offer you here.)

Ask yourself if you're truly willing to take a chance on this guy by being patient, or if you'll get itchy and start looking around again.

I'm thinking good thoughts for you. Good luck.

Tuesday, December 15, 2009

He Loves His Wife, But She's Always Annoyed at Him

Hi, Terry-

I'm kind of confused as to what to do.

I've been with my wife for over 10 years. We met in 1998 (started dating August of 1998), got engage in 2003 and finally married in 2005. We've been together the whole time. For both of us it has been a commitment since the first date.

Slowly and slowly more things I do annoy her. I made a sandwich the other day, and she was upset that there were some crumbs left on the counter top. And I really do try to do a good job of not being sloppy. I haven't always been good with that, but it certainly wasn't because I was trying to be evil or rude.... it just wasn't something I was that aware of. But I'm making an effort to be more considerate.

She gets annoyed that I leave my closet door open. I didn't see the issue with it, so instead of making it an issue I just complied. Now it's some crumbs I left on the counter top.

It's hard dealing with at times because it's a really crappy feeling to view yourself as this big clod of a nuisance that just annoys the person you care about so much.

I don't really have a lot of friends anymore. So many moved away after graduating from high school and then college.

It's hard at times not to be overwhelmed with a feeling of being alone.

Thanks for any insight.

God bless.

-Becoming Depressed

Dear Becoming-

From your email, I can tell you're a loving and caring guy, the type of man who makes his wife's happiness a priority. Take comfort in the fact that a lot of women would love to find someone like you.

When one spouse starts getting annoyed with the other over little things, it may mean the relationship needs a little air. It's possible your wife is getting too much of you right now (please don't be offended by this; it's human nature to take just about everything for granted. We all do it, unfortunately).

You say that you've lost touch with friends, so the best thing you could do is make some new ones. You can do this pretty easily by pursuing an old or new interest; you're bound to meet new people at a class at the Home Depot or on a local sports team for men your age.

If you haven't already, join Facebook to reconnect with old friends. (Since I joined, I've been invited to several reunions. In late January, I'm scheduled to meet up with a bunch of friends from my childhood neighborhood. Haven't seen some of the them in decades.)

Caveat about Facebook: Avoid becoming too friendly with former girlfriends. The goal here is to reinvigorate your relationship with your wife, not destroy it.

If you make more of a social life for yourself, you'll give your wife time to herself, which will give her time to think about you. Small absences do make the heart grow fonder. And when you come home from seeing a friend, you'll have something fresh to talk about with her.

If you have a cell phone and are in the habit of calling your wife repeatedly during the day, limit your calls. Call if you're going to be late, but save the "How was your day?" conversation until you're looking her in the eye. If you call your wife too often, what will you talk about when you see each other? Cell phones can be deadly to romance.

When you're regularly giving the relationship air, it's very possible your wife will stop taking you for granted. At this point, it'll be fun to go out (alone) together for dinner or for something else you both enjoy. Dates really help bring back the spark, especially when you actually have things to talk about!

(Finding a decent babysitter can be stressful, so please help.)

As for the bit about the closet door being open and the crumbs on the countertop, they do seem like small things. But if you have children, your wife is likely cleaning up after them. It's no fun to clean up after other people.

However, if she doesn't do it, and someone shows up unexpectedly at your house, they will most likely judge her (not your or your children) a slob and a rotten housekeeper. She's under some pressure to keep the place looking just so.

I want to reiterate that you do sound like a wonderful guy. I hope this helps, and I wish you every happiness in the world.


Friday, December 11, 2009

Things to Know Before You Agree to Marry Him

Dear Terry,

I always feel happy reading your blog and your newsletters as well! I read these two points in your newsletter:

1) "Which brings us to YOU. How do you feel about infidelity? If it's a deal breaker for you, don't marry a man and assume it's a deal breaker for him."

2)"If you want a faithful guy, marry a faithful guy. If you want (or don't want) children, marry a man who's on the same page."

Now, you could ask a man if he wants kids after marriage or not? When do you ask this? Is it when you decide he's the one? Is it when he proposes ?

Now, the tougher part - How do you find out if a man's faithful? Please don't tell me we can ask the man to find out if he's faithful or not! If he's interested in the girl, his answer would always be yes!

And how do you ask this question? I know many faithful great married men, but then there are also some who cheat after 10 yrs of marriage, etc. How can you find out for sure the man would never ever cheat ?

Eagerly waiting for your reply ....

Keep me Anonymous

Hi, Anonymous-

About having kids: When you've been dating a man for a while, you're probably going to be invited to his family's house. He'll be invited to yours. Chances are, one or both of your families will have a few kids running around, and you'll see how the guy behaves around them.

You'll see if he likes them, and if they like him. Shortly after I started dating my husband, we went to a barbecue at my friend's house. She had a couple of kids and commented how good he was with them.

I passed along the compliment, but at that point, I didn't ask him if he had any plans for fatherhood.

Later on in the relationship, his sister visited from Canada to go to a wedding and asked him to babysit. I spent the day with him and his nephews. The children clearly loved him, but the subject of his having his own children had never come up between us. So, at that point, having spent many months together, I said (casually), "You really are great with kids. Do you want your own some day?"

I didn't ask him if he wanted them with me. I just let him answer.

When we started talking about getting married, I made it clear that I was open to having children, but I wasn't positive I could have them (I had no reason to think I suffered from fertility problems, but many people do. For all I knew, he did). I asked him if we were to find out we couldn't have children, would he be okay with it? I asked him if we could have children, would he be happy with two of them?

As for being faithful, there's a lot you can tell about a person by the way he looks at, behaves around, and talks about other women. If he's got a friend who's cheating on a girlfriend, what's his attitude about it? What's his attitude towards women in general?

What about his character? Does he keep his word? Show up when he says he's going to show up (and I don't mean just for you, I mean for friends, employers, etc.)? Is he prone to twisting the truth, taking the bigger half, that sort of thing? These may not be definite indicators of a potential cheater, but they are red flags. It does indicate that the guy puts his own interests before people's.

It helps to watch how his parents treat each other, or if they're remarried, how they treat their spouses.

Again, when we started talking about the possibility of marriage, I asked my then-boyfriend how he felt about cheating, if he'd ever cheated before, if his parents had a good marriage, that sort of thing. We had a discussion. He wanted to know the same things about me.

I said I don't respect cheaters, and I wouldn't stick around if he ever cheated on me. He said, "That's fair because if you ever cheated on me, I'd divorce you."

There are never any guarantees in life, so this discussion didn't guarantee we'd never cheat on one another. But having it did let him know where I stood. I knew where he stood. And knowing where we stood decreased the chances of nasty surprises.

I want to reiterate that this conversation came after we'd been together a while and had become serious. I spent much of our early relationship watching my husband to see if his actions matched his words. If they hadn't I would have let him go. The conversation would not have been necessary.

As for your question about men who cheat ten years later, I do believe that character is a good indicator about whether your guy will turn out to be one of these. Occasionally, people do change and others just make mistakes, so again you can never say never, but a man with character isn't going to go on a business trip with the intention of scoring a little side action.

I really hope this helps.