Wednesday, August 26, 2009

She's Waiting For a Man to Get a Divorce and Marry Her

Hi, Terry-

I liked your book. It's simple and straightforward in the good sense.

I love it that you dispelled the American cultural myth of the men shortage. Before I came to America, I'd never heard of it either so I could very much relate to your Irish friend.

I have a question about my situation. I'm in my forties (yikes) and have been dating a great man for almost 2 years. I do want to get married and preferably to him because we've had a wonderful time and I love and like him a lot. He's separated, living in his own place, and says he wants to be with me for the rest of my life. He talks about future plans with me. But he still hasn't filed for divorce. He left her and the only contact they have is about the son. Even his mom who likes me asked him about the progress and wasn't very pleased that he had not taken any steps. Life threw a curveball, his son got very sick a month ago, and now he says that his plan had been to finalize his divorce this summer, and now it has to wait. And now he says it will be October until he gets to it. His son is still pretty ill and my bf is very stressed and occupied by this.

Now my part. I've let him know a year ago that I did want to get married. I get very down because I despair of his lack of actions. I'm too afraid to bring it up, probably because I think what he says are all excuses why he doesn't file for his divorce (you read that in all the books on dating, The Rules, it's always an excuse). I've been betrayed before and it does color how I see the situation and I might not be seeing it accurate. I also read too many scary advice emails, The Rules, and everything on the planet that makes it sound that getting married is more difficult than anything a woman could ever accomplish.

He brings up the status of his divorce progress repeatedly (I've asked him about it once) but it might just be out of guilt because he knows it's not right to put it off any longer. I never talk about the future or getting married. Should I? It's really not the same as the man doing it for me. I'm hopelessly confused. I want to get married because it's saying yes to being there for each other, to building a life together and I just can't give myself away to a man that doesn't give me this level of commitment. If he's as crazy about me as he says, then I don't get it that he doesn't move forward. My first husband married me within 3 weeks. In hindsight out of fear someone else would. Do I make it too easy on my bf by never saying anything? He's says all the right things and does the right things (calling me, planning dates), I'm his soulmate, etc. but without the action to get his divorce handled. what does it mean? Every time he says it now, I feel down and think "we'll see."

I'm confused and don't know what to do. I do have a life of my own, I seldom call him (I just can't, it feels better when he calls me), at my age I don't have men swarming around me but men do flirt with me occassionaly. According to the Rules it should progress but I don't feel it does. My fear of being betrayed which is a childhood thing doesn't help seeing what's going on. Let me know what you think. Have I given him the message he can be with me without marrying me? Thanks.


Dear Waiting-

Let me just say I don't think you've given him the "wrong message" about having you without being married to you. I don't think you're giving him a message at all.

A year ago, you told him you wanted to get married, but since then, you haven't brought it up. I don't care what The Rules says; this is your life we're talking about here, and you do have a right to communicate your feelings.

For all this man knows, you're not all that interested in getting married. You rarely call him, you don't make dates, and you've been trained by books like The Rules to say nothing and do nothing.

Yes, he could be making excuses. He may have no intentions of ever divorcing, and maybe all his proclamations about you being his soulmate are hot air. But how are you to know?

The next time he tells you how you light up his sky, why don't you say to him, "You know, I feel the same way about you. I'd like to build a life with you. How do you feel about it?"

Then listen. Watch his hands, his eyes, and open your ears. If he gives you another excuse, then it might be time to pull back a bit, not out of some manipulative The Rules way, but out of self-protection.

This means that you can be there for him some of the time, particularly now while he deals with the stress of his child's illness, but not all the time. Occasionally, when he calls to get together, you should be able to tell him you've already made plans. Fill your time with nourishing activities, whether it's going out with friends, going to a yoga class, catching a ballet by yourself, seeing a comedy. Whatever.

It's not necessary to break up with the guy, but it is a good idea to keep him at arm's length until he figures out what he wants to do with himself.The bonus? If he figures out he doesn't intend to get a divorce, you can settle further into an increasingly comfortable new reality that doesn't include him.

As for you being in your forties, big deal. If you're feeling less attractive about it, then by all means, find a new interest. Learn a new language or something. Learning is the fountain of youth, and developing new interests gives your life another fascinating facet, and it helps keep your mind off you-know-who.

Also: Your betrayal issues. If you find they're holding your back (I'm no psychiatrist, but is it possible that part of the attraction to this guy is the fact that he's not divorced, and therefore you don't really have to worry about a betrayal?), please seek the help of a good licensed therapist.

And, whatever you do, please stop reading The Rules (or any other book that make attracting a good husband sound impossible). The authors do have a point about not being overly available (everybody wants to work a little; women want to work a little for men, too), but the business about not returning calls is complete nonsense.

To me, it all comes down to treating the other person as you would have him treat you. Then ask yourself if he's treating you as you would treat him. If the answer is yes, great. If not, it's time to make an adjustment.