Dear Carolyn: My husband of 55 years fell in love with another woman. Now two years after the heartache, amicable separation and divorce, they have an established household together. I love living and traveling alone. My life is full with many friends and activities.
I am wondering about our continuing “friendship” (something he wanted very strongly), which includes texting every few days. He does favors for me and is available for emergencies. The 50-year habit of telling a spouse the trivia of your day is very strong, but I indulge it only minimally.
Among family and close friends, however, the general opinion is that we haven’t “moved on” — that I am still emotionally married to him and that he is “having it all.” I am not overly concerned with what other people think, but want to be mentally healthy about the situation.
Ex-Spouse: If you’re confident you’re not holding out for any more from your ex — redemption, revenge, remarriage — than you’re currently getting, and confident he’s not hiding you from his new partner, then where’s the harm? “Moving on” is for people who are suffering where they are.
Re: Exes: I have remained friends with my ex-wife since divorcing a few years ago. I have zero desire to get back with her and she lives far away with her fiance.
This drives my new partner nuts and she is asking for me to cut off all contact with my ex. I consider my ex to be a close friend who knows me well and we support each other, so eliminating her from my life completely seems excessive. I recognize my new partner needs to be my priority now so I am unsure what to do.
Anonymous: No, what you need is for a partner to trust you. Mutually. PLEASE recognize that.
Her asking you to cut off a friendship that apparently isn’t a threat to her says her trust in you is zero, which means your chances of happiness with this new woman are at zero, too. No, not an exaggeration.
Insecure people may have many other lovely qualities to them, but as partners they’re hell, at least until they (1.) recognize they need to grow up/get well, and then (2.) do grow up/get well. Expecting or hoping they will do this while in a relationship with you is how people wake up to life partners who snoop and eavesdrop and insist they end perfectly healthy friendships and accuse them of cheating incessantly despite having zero proof of this besides their own certainty that everyone’s out to cheat on them. I feel claustrophobic just typing that out.
Possessiveness and jealousy and being forced to make your new partner a priority because That’s What One Does (vs. because you love, trust and accept each other as-is) are all steps down a road where you’re denied the right to be yourself, out of a misplaced sense of duty. (See yourself 20 years from now here: bit.ly/Leashed.)
Please consider therapy, solo, and in the meantime read the quick, direct and eye-opening “Life Skills for Adult Children” by Janet Woititz and Alan Garner. It’s a 10-buck, 100-page aha moment of why this one ain’t the one.