Dear Carolyn: While separated from our spouses, a very good friend supported me and I supported him. We fell in love.
Four years later, I’m mostly content and divorced and he’s still, well, not. I am struggling with what to do.
I get your advice about ultimatums. I have no plans on giving him one, but I think warning him that I don’t plan on continuing to be with someone who is married comes very close. I gave him time because there are kids involved, and he gave me a timeline that has come and gone without any explanation when asked.
I accept that he loves me and doesn’t want to lose me but that he also must not be ready to divorce. Any ideas? Give him a warning? Just leave? I’m afraid leaving will force his hand, plus it will be so hard to do.
Waiting: Ultimatums are a lousy decision-making strategy because they shift responsibility for your choices onto someone else. “If you [act], then I [react].”
You want, always, to be the one who acts. Even if it’s in response to someone else — and what else is there, arguably, since no one lives in a vacuum — frame it as a choice made for yourself based on the facts on hand.
In this case, you have the facts of his loving you, still being married and blowing off his own promised timeline.
Those facts present you with two active choices: Keep waiting, or stop waiting.
Which are you ready for?
Think about it as much as you need, then choose, then take the appropriate action. You don’t “force” anyone’s anything by doing what you need to do.
Dear Carolyn: My husband’s college roommate is one of our favorite people, but his wife is not. She’s super-competitive. Examples of things she purchased after she saw them at our home include the same dog, the same car and the same ring, plus dinners re-created exactly as we did them. We moved away years ago, and when we visit the entire time is taken up with stories about her. We are miserable afterward. We have tried asking her husband about his work, his vacation, etc., but she answers for him!
We hope to move back someday, and she is part of a circle of friends we see regularly. Is there any way we can keep him as a good friend and lose her?
— Lose Her
Lose Her: If you find one, then you can probably sell it to everyone on Earth with a roster of siblings and childhood friends.
Until then: If you want him, then you get her.
But you’re not powerless. You can’t trademark your dog, but you can say kindly, when she speaks for her husband, “Thanks, Rebecca, but I was hoping to hear it from Max.” And variations thereof.
This “competitiveness” seems but a symptom, by the way, of a weak sense of self and worth; do people comfortable in their own skin ever behave like she does?
So use your agency wisely. Ignore the appropriations (minor nuisance), wean yourselves off subtlety in efforts to curb her oversharing — and try taking specific interest in her. Counterintuitive, yes. But she seems more awkward and sad than evil. Attention judiciously given might temper her impulse to grab.