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Category: In Search of a Happy Ending

Is my boyfriend a cad?

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Q. I’m 24 and have been seeing a man I really like for the last few months. I met him at a singles’ party. He’s 27, good looking, smart, and I have a good time when I’m with him. I assumed because he went to this party that he was looking for a relationship, but there’s a problem. He isn’t very reliable. He’s canceled dates last minute, forgotten to call me when he says he will, and doesn’t always ask me out on weekends. My friends say that he’s probably seeing other women, but we’ve already been intimate and I really didn’t think he was the type to sleep around. I’m not sure what the best way to handle this is, but I’m tired of waiting by the phone and not knowing if or when I’ll have plans with him. I’m not comfortable with confrontation, so what do you think is the best way to find out whether he’s playing the field or if he’s just not the responsible type? Should I be checking his phone texts when he showers, like my friend suggested? Or follow him to see where he goes when he cancels on me? I would hate to have to do either. Would love your advice on this.

 

A. You bring up a slew of concerns so I’ll address each one independently.

1. Just because you attend a singles’ party, doesn’t mean you are serious about finding a relationship. He could have gone for countless other reasons. Some people use those parties as merely another conduit for meeting people or socializing.

2. I know it’s not easy to find a man you really enjoy being with, but that’s not an excuse to accept bad behavior from him. Canceling dates last minute, leaving you hanging by the phone, and not making weekend plans with you are not the signs of a thoughtful man who wants a steady, solid, and honest relationship. These are the signs of an immature and selfish man who hasn’t learned the proper way to treat people.

3. If you want to know where someone is coming from (i.e. if he’s dating others), you cannot be afraid of confrontation. Confrontation doesn’t have to be dramatic. It can be as simple as asking the important questions—and that should be done before you become sexually involved. You cannot just assume that he’s being monogamous unless he tells you he is, and plans to be, while you are together. That said, since you are already sleeping with him, you have the right to know if he’s engaging in sex with others. The way to find out is NOT to snoop in his personal things or to stalk him. The way to find out is to ASK him. If you have a strong sense that he’s lying to you, then it’s time to say good-bye.

4. If you find out he’s not seeing others and may just be spending time with friends or family, there is still a rather large problem: his inconsiderate nature. If you don’t demand that men treat you with respect and thoughtfulness, you could easily end up with a cad who throws crumbs to you when it suits him. Is that really what you want in a partner? I doubt it. If I were you I’d ditch this guy like yesterday’s rubbish and move on knowing that I didn’t settle for less than I deserve or let someone else define my self-worth. If you’re not ready to give him up, then I strongly suggest you have that important conversation and share your feelings and concerns with him. If he truly cares about you, there’s always a chance he may learn the error of his ways and make some drastic, positive changes. If he doesn’t, then you have your answers loud and clear.

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How much is “enough” sex?

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Q.  I’ve been married to my husband (who is also my best friend) for nine years and we have a very good marriage. It is the second time around for both of us, and we have children (all over 16) from our first marriages. There’s lots of love between us, but over the past few years, the number of times we have sex has dwindled down from a couple of times a week to a couple of times a month (unless we are on vacation and therefore very relaxed). We both work, are tired, and have our share of daily stresses, and unfortunately our sex life often takes a back seat. Although in theory we’d like to spend more non-sleeping time in bed, we are both usually satisfied with the amount of time we do (or don’t) spend there. However, after seeing how obsessed the world seems to be with sex, I’m wondering if there’s something wrong with us that should be worked on. Are we unknowingly doing damage to our relationship? Should we be being more adventurous? Is having sex two times a month enough for two caring partners? I would love to know what you think.

 

A. In my observation, it’s the couples that don’t agree on how often they want sex that end up with problems in their relationship. When one partner’s sexual urges greatly outweigh the other’s, unhappiness, resentment, and insecurities can result. Sex is a wonderful way for a couple to bond and reconnect, but how often you feel you need to do this is up to you and your husband. When I read your question, I noted a few things. First, you and your husband are best friends. Those are the best kinds of love relationships because you truly care and look out for each other while making a great team. Second, you said, “there’s lots of love” between you. Therein lies the most important thing in a healthy marriage—love! And third, you are both on the same page when it comes to your carnal desires, so there isn’t strife between you because of the amount of time you spend in the bedroom. Therefore, I really don’t think that having sex a couple of times a month should worry you. I’m willing to bet more couples than you think do the same and just don’t talk about it because they, too, have let our oversexed society dictate their feelings of inadequacy. As long as you keep the lines of communication open with your husband to make sure you both remain on the same sexual wavelength, your relationship should stay strong. And if either of you should begin to feel that you truly desire more sex, I say plan one of your relaxing vacations and go!

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The Case of the Disappearing Date

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Q. I’m a 25-year-old woman who lives in a big city where it should be easy to find a mate. Unfortunately, though, I’m finding it almost impossible. I’m attractive enough that I can get dates pretty easily, but they don’t ever turn into solid relationships, even when I think they are going really well. For example, I recently dated a man I met at a restaurant. He was so attentive and seemed very interested at first. I went out with him four times. We kissed a lot, but didn’t have sex. He told me how pretty I was, and how much he liked me. Then, out of nowhere, he stopped calling and texting. It’s not like he was pressuring me for sex and I said no, either. This is not an uncommon occurrence. It’s happened not only to me many times, but to several of my friends. We are baffled. We know there is supposedly a man shortage, but does that mean that they just all want to play like kids in a candy shop? Any ideas on what these men are thinking, or if they are thinking at all?

A. Well, I guess things haven’t changed much in the last 20 years, unfortunately. Yes, I’ve been a “victim” of the mysterious, disappearing man, too. In fact, this “common occurrence” is probably even more pervasive than you might think. I have two bits of good news. The first: My many experiences have afforded me a more useful perspective I can now share with you. The second: I finally found a man who never stopped calling so they do exist!

There are many reasons a man who seems interested in you may suddenly go astray. Here are my TOP 10:

1. There’s someone else in his life you don’t know about.

2. He’s got too much going on right now to get involved more seriously.

3. He’s starting to have real feelings and is too frightened to pursue them.

4. He’s unsure of his feelings (or yours) and stepping back out of fear.

5. He likes you, but not romantically, and wants to avoid confrontation about it.

6. He’s selfish and doesn’t think beyond his own desires at any given moment.

7. He’s inconsiderate and unreliable, in which case, good riddance to bad rubbish.

8. He may have realized before you did that you’re just not right for each other.

9. He likes to keep things light and fun and sensed you wanted something more serious.

10. He’s been abducted by a UFO.

Whichever one of these reasons makes you feel the best, grab onto it and assume that’s the right one, because ultimately it really doesn’t matter why he never called you back. The fact that he didn’t means he wasn’t Mr. Right.

 

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5 Ways To Tell if You’re in a Healthy Relationship

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Negotiating the road to a healthy romance can be one of the most challenging endeavors in our life. If our primary relationship with our partner is detrimental to our happiness, or worse—toxic—it can destroy the foundation of our wellbeing.  Maybe that’s why so many people share their concerns about this with me. Whether you are married, in a long-term relationship, or even just beginning to date, knowing what makes a good and solid union can be the best tool you have to finding true happiness and contentment. So if you’re ambivalent about remaining in a relationship, or wondering if it’s wise to invest your emotions in a new one, here are some positive signs to look for.

1. You communicate thoughts and feelings to each other easily and often

There’s a good reason people say that being friends first is the best way to begin a romantic relationship. (I can vouch for that!) Do you feel safe sharing your thoughts and feelings with your partner, the way you would with a supportive friend? Do you receive in return a loving and thoughtful response, and the feeling that your partner will always have your back? And is your partner the first person you run to with good news, or even with bad? If so, then there’s a very good chance the two of you can forge a strong and supportive team. This will make facing life’s challenges less arduous, because you’ll bolster each other throughout them. You’ll also enjoy all the time you will be spending together, because don’t we all want to hang out with our best friends?

2. You trust each other

If you find yourself “checking up” on your partner because you have a feeling he is doing something naughty behind your back, then one of two things is happening. Either it’s true, and on some level you know it, or it’s not, but your own insecurities are rearing their ugly heads. Either way, something’s amiss and needs to be addressed. In a healthy relationship, trust is earned over a period of time and is based on the actions of your partner, the same way it would be for a close friend. When you are able to trust, you’ll be able to enjoy time away from each other without worrying that your partner is up to no good. If he has already proven himself to be an honest person who loves you and has your best interests at heart, trust will flow naturally, the way it should. If not, it may be time to move on.

3. You can fight without tearing each other down

Healthy fighting is an important part of a sturdy relationship. It should go without saying that it should NEVER be physical, but during a fight, it’s also very important that you maintain a level of verbal respect for each other. You can argue about things without attacking each other personally. It’s okay to disagree, but being truly disagreeable can be a real relationship buster. Name calling, berating, and “hitting below the belt,” should not be the way you express yourselves, because once the fight is over, you will always have those hurts between you—and those can last a lifetime.

4. Your mate enhances your life instead of draining it

It never ceases to surprise me how many people find that their greatest source of stress is sleeping next to them every night. Your home should be your castle, your comfort zone, your safe place, and if you are coming home to partner who sucks the life energy out of you, it can make it impossible to lead a happy and productive life. We all face obstacles, whether related to work, the illness of a loved one, children’s issues, etc., but if you have someone who adds love, dedication, and emotional support to the mix, hardships will feel more manageable, and good times will be even better.

5. You love each other for who you truly are

It’s important to determine if you are sincerely in love, or if your feelings are merely based on infatuation. The reason it’s so crucial, is that if it’s the latter, then you may be in for a rude awakening once the real person inevitably emerges from behind your fantasy. We all should feel comfortable being who we are, and know that our partner loves and accepts us for it. Nobody is perfect; the question is, can you live with her faults and baggage and not hold it against her? And can she do the same for you? Loving acceptance of your partner is one of the keys to a good relationship, and can help make sure that the bond you share only deepens with each passing year.


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Dealing with a self-destructive person

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Q. I really dread the holiday season and other family events because it means having to spend time with my father. I know that sounds harsh, but growing up with a father who has a drug and alcohol problem isn’t easy. Going away to college was my saving grace. Now I’m 32, on my own, and holding things together, but for some reason, whenever I have to talk to or see my father, I revert to the anxious little kid I used to be. When he’s using, he’s verbally abusive and a real jerk. He’s been to rehab many times, but it never holds. My father could never hold down a steady job, got arrested for DUIs, and cannot stop hurting himself or our family. I still love him, and it’s a horrible way to think, but I expect one day to get a call that he’s dead. Therefore, most of the time, I try to keep my distance, as you suggested to the woman with a toxic brother. During the holidays, though, and other family get-togethers (there’s a cousin’s wedding coming up), if I want to attend, I have to see him, too. Do you have any advice for dealing with a self-destructive family member?

A. I’m very sorry you are dealing with such a heartbreaking situation. Unfortunately, this is an all-too-common scenario. It may or may not make you feel better to know that you’re not alone—not by any stretch! I’m wondering if you ever attended Al-Anon or Nar-Anon. Some people find comfort and wisdom in support groups like those. Otherwise, staying away from toxic people, even if it’s your dad, can be helpful, too, as I suggested, but you are right, during holidays and other family events you shouldn’t have to excommunicate yourself because of him. Therefore, here are three ideas that may help you cope:

First, take care of yourself before and after the get-togethers, whether it’s talking with a therapist, meditating, going to the gym, taking a peaceful walk, or doing whatever it is that has a calming and grounding effect on you.

Second, stick to soft drinks when your father is around to make sure you “keep your wits” about you. Not only will it set a good example, but it will help you to act responsibly should an unfortunate situation develop.

And third, when you are together with your family, focus on the positive. Maintain conversations with those you can speak easily to. Compliment the people responsible for cooking and decorating. And when conversing with your father, keep the conversation as light, pleasant, and non-controversial as possible. If he begins to act out anyway, diffuse the situation by going into another room for a while or walking away to chat with another family member or friend. Don’t engage!

One thing I’m glad to see, is that you don’t seem to be so intertwined with him, or have that unrealistic sense of control that makes people become enablers or victims of addicts. It seems like you’ve learned to avoid the emotional turmoil and “detach with love” as the aforementioned support groups teach. That’s a great accomplishment for a child of an addict, so give yourself a pat on the back for staying strong—and for knowing that ultimately, only he can save himself.

 

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When Family Fails You

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Q. Hi Bonnie, I hope you can help me with this. I’m 31 years old and single.  My dad died a few years ago and my mother hasn’t been well and is in and out of the hospital. I have no other family except for my older brother, and this is freaking me out. My brother and I have a terrible relationship and always have. We never got along, mainly because he always felt the need to put me down. He’s very cynical and very materialistic and never has a kind word for me. I do everything for my mother, but because he’s married he feels his duties are at home with his wife and child and not with his mother. Therefore all the worrying, consoling, errands, driving, visiting, decision-making with regards to my mom is left up to me. Besides this, my brother still puts me down for everything I do (or in his mind don’t do) and everything I am as a person, even my job as a paralegal. He also badmouths me to my mother. Believe it or not, my mother, who knows what he does and doesn’t do, still comes to his defense and is starting to believe his lies. Therefore, she has been taking all her fears and miseries out on me (the only person who is taking care of her) and telling me I do nothing and never come to see her! So now I’m doing all the work, and getting all the grief. I’m at my breaking point knowing that my mom may die in the near future and the only family I’ll have left is my cold-hearted brother. In fact, the thought of that rocks me to my core.

 

A. Isn’t it amazing how sibling rivalries so often follow us into our adult years? The reason for that is probably that as we grow older, we really don’t change all that much. It often feels like some sort of cosmic joke when two opposite personalities are born into the same family. But spiritually, I believe they are put there for one of two reasons: either to teach us how to work through conflicts, or in some cases, how to cut the ties that bind us to unhappiness. When you have a toxic person in your family, the best thing to do is to stay away and have as little contact as possible. Of course that is difficult right now with your mother being sick, but I would urge you to try it just the same. He is always going to be your older brother, and he’s probably never going to change, so unless you want to perpetuate an abusive situation, you have to distance yourself from it. Contrary to popular belief, blood isn’t always thicker than water; sometimes it’s friends that become our family in life. If you have a handful of good ones, you won’t be lonely or alone. As for the way your mother is treating you, I understand she is sick and probably afraid, but that doesn’t give her a license to abuse you either. You need to lovingly and firmly set down the ground rules and tell her if she continues to put you down and give you grief, you’ll end up spending less time around her instead of more.  Lastly, in between work and caretaking, it’s really crucial that you carve out some time for yourself, and some time to nourish the friendships I mentioned. Good friends will appreciate you for who you are and be there in the tough times, so they are every bit as important to your life as your responsibilities. Be good to yourself and do what makes you happy. Stay strong and never let anyone devalue you, and if they try, remember that’s your cue to either lay down the law—or simply walk away.

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Finding Love After Loss

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This month, I heard an inspiring story about a woman who lost her husband to illness, yet managed to continue on with her life and find new love and happiness. Because I know so many people who are either widowed, divorced, or on their way to a break-up—and feel their prospects for happiness are bleak—I wanted to share her story as an inspiration to others. Her name is Barbara White, and what follows is my interview with her. But first, I’ll let Barbara tell you a bit about her emotional odyssey:

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My late husband Rich and I were happily married for 23 years. In 1982, we met at work, became friends, went on a date and got married six weeks later!  We just knew it was right for us despite the 21-year age difference.  I was 22 and he was 43.  Our marriage was a great one, however, it was shadowed by a myriad of health issues for Rich.  He had a heart attack in 1991 and was hospitalized thirteen times in that first year alone.  He was subject to many angina attacks over the years. So, despite the doctors, hospitals and numerous tests, we always kept our sense of humor front and center. It’s how we dealt with everything. Ironically, in 2002, he was diagnosed with Hepatitis C, cirrhosis and liver cancer. It was a terminal diagnosis, but we were given a 2-3 year timeframe. We were blessed with having another two years with quality before he started to deteriorate, and then six months later he was gone.  We made every single day count when we got the news and considered ourselves very fortunate to deal with all of it together. Rich passed away eight years ago.

 

Q:  Welcome to In Search of Happy Ending, Barbara! Your story starts out as a sad one, but ultimately ends well. Did you have hopes that it would?

A:  Thank you and yes I did. Because of our age difference, there was always a good chance that Rich would go before me and we talked about a lot of things on a deep level over 23 years.  We were and always will be soul mates. When he was diagnosed, his worries shifted from himself to me, and he wanted to make sure that I understood how important it was for him to know that I would go on with my life after he was gone.  He made me promise that I wouldn’t sit around and mourn, and that I would find someone else.  I made that promise to him and am proud to say that I kept it.

Q:  What helped get you through the mourning period?

A:  This may sound strange but I always felt that Rich and I both mourned together while he was still here. We cried together, we shared our fears and concerns, and when we felt sad, we consoled each other. One of his fears was dying in a hospital, so I promised not to let that happen. I’m happy to say that he was at home, in our bed, surrounded by his family and lots of love when he passed. Knowing I honored his wishes made getting through the days/weeks after his passing so much easier for me.

Q:  Did you have a support system? If so, how did they help?

A:  One thing I have always done my whole life is work hard, giving 110% of myself. My work always kept me busy, which was a really great thing when Rich was sick. Aside from working, having great, close friends and family around was a godsend.

Q:  How soon after your husband’s passing did you get yourself out the door and dating?

A:  I think it was about nine months or so when I decided I needed to get out there. Mostly because I was bored being alone, but also to see what was happening in the dating world. After all, I hadn’t been on a date in 23 years!

Q:  How did it feel to be “out there” again? Was it daunting?

A:   It was pretty strange to say the least. I went to bars with single co-workers after work on occasion, but I wasn’t into the bar scene. I went to parks with my dogs, spent time in libraries and near the water in tourist areas. I worked so much that I really didn’t have much free time for myself. Plus I really wasn’t looking for a relationship, but to just “date”.  I figured that I already had the best and couldn’t get that lucky again.

Q:  What did you find were the best ways to meet people?

A:  Since my other ideas weren’t working, I decided to try Internet dating. That seemed to be the best route for someone who worked a lot, and it was popular, so, I threw an ad together and hit the send button. Boy, was that an eye-opener!  I met a few strange characters, but a couple of nice guys too. At least I had funny stories to share on Monday mornings!

Q:  How did you meet the man you are with today?

A:   Bruce and I met online. Yahoo used to have a Personals section and that’s where we crossed paths. I’d seen his picture a bunch of times in searches that I performed, but I never did anything. Then one day I got a “hi” message from him, so we started chatting.

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Q:  Can you share a little bit about why you fell in love with him?

A:   Laughter!! Sounds funny I’m sure, but as I stated earlier, I was only looking to date. Whenever Bruce and I were together, he made me laugh so hard. Even during online chats he made me laugh. It was pretty clear that we had the same sense of humor and that was huge. Another big plus for Bruce was that he showed interest in me. He liked hearing about my life and enjoyed hearing stories from my past. He listened to me when I spoke and that showed me he liked me. After a year of dating, we packed up and moved down south together. It’s been six years now.

Q:  Do you have any advice for others who may find themselves on their own whether due to death or divorce?

A:  I would have to say be confident in yourself. If you’ve survived either, you’re a strong person. When you’re ready to start dating again, just have fun and be yourself. If the right one comes along—great! If not, at least you’re living your life and not sitting around moping. That’s the worst thing you can do. Be happy. Life is too short!

Q:  Thanks so much for sharing, Barbara! I’m so happy for you and hope you and Bruce have many, many more years of happiness together!

A:  Thank you for having me Bonnie and for your sentiments. None of us know what the future will bring, but I intend to enjoy what Bruce and I have and all of the laughter we share. It truly has been a fun ride so far!

 

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Shacking Up: Is It a Mistake?

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Q. I’m 48 years old, divorced for eight years and have three grown children. I’ve been seeing a wonderful man for almost two years who treats me very well. We are very good together. The problem is that he is very reluctant to marry again. In fact, he told me that he hadn’t planned on getting married again when I first started dating him. I told him I felt the opposite way so maybe we shouldn’t see each other any more, but he started changing his tune, not letting me go, and saying he was open to getting married, so I stayed. Over the last few months he has told me that he wants me to move in with him and is taking some steps to “make room” for me. I’ve told him again and again that I’m not moving in without marriage plans and he still has intimated that that is on his mind. However, the months are going by and I am still waiting for that ring and wondering if I’m being delusional. Some of my friends think I’m silly to care about marriage since I’ve already been there and won’t be having any more children. They think I’m just lucky to have found a man who loves me and treats me so well and I should enjoy a life with him even if it means shacking up. At this point, I go back and forth between two states of mind: thoughts of breaking up due to my doubts about his desire to marry again, and wondering if I’m being too old-fashioned about not moving in. If I leave, though, I’m afraid I won’t find another good man any time soon and that really depresses me. I’d love to know what you think I should do. Thanks.

A. This is a tough one, since I don’t believe there are any hard and fast rules about whether living together is a good idea. Therefore, I’m just going to focus on your specific circumstances. No one knows better than I do how hard it is to find a great partner, so I understand your apprehensions about throwing in the towel, especially because your relationship sounds relatively happy and healthy on other levels. I do wonder if you’ve asked him why he is/was averse to marrying. Very often, men will feel that way for a while after their marriage ends, but will eventually tie the knot again after they have had time to heal. Keep that in mind as I turn my focus to you. If you’ve had your heart set on getting married for a second time, I’d ask that you contemplate the reasons why it is so important to you. Do they stem from a romantic ideal? Are they about security? Does society have an influence on you? Your family? Your children? Is it truly important to you, or are outside influences dictating your feelings? If you’ve given it solid thought and really believe that marriage is the only lifestyle you want for your relationship, then I’m afraid it may mean breaking up with this man. As you’ve described, he knows how you feel, so if he’s letting more and more time go by without a proposal, I’m concerned that either he’s just not ready (though two years seems like a good amount of time to know), or there are some deep-seated fears stopping him. Losing you will do one of three things. 1. Either he’ll realize that he can’t live without you and will beg you to come back under the same circumstances, and if you do, don’t be surprised when you end up exactly where you are now. 2. He’ll realize that he can’t live without you and will beg you to come back with a marriage proposal. If getting engaged that way doesn’t bother you, then I think it may be worth it. Or 3. He’ll be relieved that the prospect of marriage is no longer hanging over his head and as much as he cares about you, will realize that not wanting the same lifestyle means you’re just not ultimately right for each other. If that is the case you’ll have to move on believing that there is another wonderful man out there for you who wants to be married, too. But remember, if you stay, then one of you has to change your mind in good conscience in order for both of you to move forward happily and without resentments. The question is, which one of you will it be?

 

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When is a marriage really over?

 

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Q. I’m writing this for my brother who would like your advice on a certain matter but would never take the initiative to write in. I hope you can help. My brother is 53 years old and has been married to the same woman for 28 years. He is a good, easy-going man with his own business. He has three grown children (all over 22 and living on their own.) The problem is that he is miserable with his wife and has been for many years. I believe she has a personality disorder that makes being around her for long periods of time very difficult. For the last seven or eight years, they’ve had a non-relationship. By that, I mean that they live very separate lives and never do anything together unless it’s a family get-together or a formal affair they’ve been invited to, or if their children visit. These days, they have none of the same interests, spend time with different friends, and share no rapport or emotional connection—and certainly no romance. My brother often comes over to hang out with my family or goes to another one of his close friends on weekends, while she makes other plans. Even with all of this, he has never cheated on his wife. He’s just not that type. If you ask him if he’s happy, he’ll tell you “of course not, I’m miserable.” But when I ask why he hasn’t discussed divorce, he makes an off-the-cuff remark like, “I don’t want to lose my house and my pool.” Do you have any words of wisdom you can share with him? They are beyond marriage counseling so that’s not an option. I just don’t want to see him throw the rest of his life away when he might be able to find a good relationship and some happiness. Thanks in advance for your advice.

 

A. I find it very sad when I hear about people in hopelessly unhappy relationships who don’t take action to better themselves. I know there are many reasons they stay: some are financial in nature; others concern the children. There are also many reticent individuals who are uncomfortable with change. But when you strip away all of the other reasons, one usually remains: Fear of the Unknown. Something tells me that as much as your brother loves his home and his pool, those are not the only things keeping him in his dead end marriage. Oftentimes, men don’t leave unhappy marriages unless they have a woman waiting in the wings for them. Since your brother is not the type to do that (and I compliment him on this!), leaving on his own is probably a very daunting prospect after 28 years. As the old adage goes, “Better the devil you know, than the devil you don’t.” So now I have a few thoughts I’ll address to your brother: What if the devil isn’t waiting for you at the end of your divorce? What if a really great woman who shares your interests, enhances your life, and can offer true friendship and real love is just around the corner? Do you think so little of yourself that you’re willing to stay with your wife, your house, and your pool instead of finding out? If so, then there’s nothing I can say that will help you leave, though a good counselor might be of use. If not, then it’s time for you to get your head in gear and begin to think about your future. Suffering should not be an option for anyone, and 53 is way too young to give up on love. However, if you continue to let the years pass and do nothing to bring about positive change in your life, then you will have only yourself to blame for your misery. Think about when you’re 80. Do you want to look back on your life and say I never even tried to find love and happiness? Divorce isn’t easy, but sometimes it’s a necessary evil, and there is light at the end of the tunnel. My advice is not to waste another day of your life in an unhappy relationship. The universe helps those who help themselves, so take a dive into another kind of pool—one that has a lot more to offer than just chlorinated water.

 

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When First Love Goes Awry

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Q. I am a single mother and I have a 16-year-old son who has just broken up with his 15-year-old girlfriend. They were practically attached at the hip for eight months. Two weeks ago he found out that she’s been cheating on him (though I can’t imagine where she found the time!) They had a big fight and he broke up with her. Since then he’s been distraught, cannot concentrate on his studies, has been holed up in his room and is disinterested in going out with his friends. I told him that anyone who lies and cheats is not what he should want in a girl, but he got upset and told me he really loves her. I told him everyone goes through this and that I empathize with his feelings, but he’s been taking out his misery on me with a lot of anger. He thinks I don’t understand what he’s going through. I’m not sure anymore what to say or do. It’s times like this that I really wish he had a father to talk to. What do you think I should do?

 

A. I sympathize with both of you! First love practically guarantees first heartache, but although it’s true that we’ve all been through it, a teenager will never believe you really understand what he’s feeling. Any negative comments about his girlfriend, no matter how true, will just make him defend her and his choice of seeing her. As hard as it is to keep from giving advice or offering the wisdom of your experience, the best thing to do is just offer your love and support and let him know that as painful as it is now, it will get better with time. If he continues treating you angrily, know that he needs to get it out of his system and you may be the only one he can safely vent on. That too will pass. Let him know you are always ready to listen if and when he wants to talk. Try to encourage his studies without yelling at him. If there is a man in his life whom he trusts and respects, ask him if he might want to share his feelings with the man, but don’t push him if he doesn’t. You may think he needs fatherly advice more than he does. In the meantime, take solace in the fact that your son is capable of tender feelings for another. Now he just has to learn to make wiser decisions and that’s something best learned from his own experience. Good luck to both of you and I hope his heart mends quickly!

 

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5 Dumb Reasons to Get Married

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Are you entertaining the idea of tying the knot, but find that something (or many things) is weighing on your mind? Is there an uneasy feeling in your gut that the person you’re thinking of marrying may not be the right match for you? Sometimes people who experience this are merely manifesting inner fears about commitment or blowing irrational worries out of proportion. If this is so, then with time, communication and/or therapy those fears can be assuaged. Unfortunately though, there’s often a good reason for that niggling feeling, and yet so many of us disregard the warning signs and speed into “ever after” head on.

After living through such a scenario myself, and having friends and relatives suffer through it, too, I’ve devised five really bad reasons to get hitched in hopes I may ward off someone else’s marital disaster. So, why do you want to get married?

1. Because it’s “time” already.

You mean you’re over thirty and you’re still not married? What does that say about you? Well, for one thing, it probably says you haven’t found the right mate to settle down with (or you may not be ready to settle down at all!) Does that mean you should grab the current guy or gal in your life and do it anyway? Sure, if you’re looking forward to a life of unhappiness and dissatisfaction. There is no such thing as “time to get married” until you deem it so, and if you fall into one of the above categories, that time hasn’t yet come.

2. Because other people think it’s a good idea.

A wise woman once told me that it’s very easy to break up with someone else’s mate. Sure, an outsider can see all the problems, isn’t emotionally involved, so to them, breaking up is a cakewalk. Well, in that same vein, it’s very easy to marry someone else’s mate, too. After all, the bystander is not the one who has to live with them on a daily basis for the rest of their life, so watching you get married may sound like a lovely, romantic notion—to them. At thirty-six, I married the wrong man and have to say much of the reason was the cheering section of friends and relatives who just wanted to see me married already, whatever their individual reasons. When you have misgivings and are surrounded by that kind of pressure, you can easily begin to mistrust your own feelings and conclude that since others think it’s a good idea, maybe you’re just being silly. You’re not! If only I had been strong and secure enough to trust my gut, I never would have made that awful mistake. But then, I wouldn’t have been able to write my first novel, WEDLOCKED, either!

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3. Because you’re dying to have a big, beautiful wedding!

At thirty-six you can imagine how eager I was to plan the wedding of century. And I did. To this day I have friends and relatives tell me it was the best and most beautiful wedding they’ve ever been to. They recall it fondly. Well guess what? It was a horror show for me! Deep down I knew something was wrong and believe it or not, my husband and I spent much of the day snapping at each other. Not surprisingly, we were divorced soon after, but I had my big, beautiful wedding. Is that really how you’d like yours to go? If you don’t marry Mr. or Ms. Right, it just might. Instead, why not watch a few episodes of Bridezilla to stave off any premature wedding dreams. It’s funnier, a lot less arduous, and a whole lot cheaper, too!

4. Because you think your mate will change.

As my sister would say, “yeah, right, sure.” And if they do, nobody tells you it’s because they’re going to get worse. If you think a marriage certificate is somehow a magical document that will zap all your mate’s problematic behaviors away, you’re in for a rude awakening. Chances are good that the security of a contract will make them even more comfortable “being themselves,” and if that’s not a good thing, you’re in for trouble! A leopard doesn’t change its spots, and neither will your new spouse.

5. Because you want a baby…now!

This is the worst and most dangerous reason to get married when you’re not completely sure you’re doing the right thing. Unfortunately, it’s also the most compelling. A ticking time clock is a force to be reckoned with, which is why it so often leads to disastrous decision-making. I can’t tell you how many people I know who married the wrong mate because they were afraid their childbearing years were coming to an end. In this day and age, you don’t have to involve anyone else in your decision to have a baby, so why enter into a precarious marriage? Children can sense when their parents’ relationship isn’t a positive one, and I firmly believe one happy parent is better than two miserable ones. If you think you can always get divorced, think about this: you’ll most likely have to deal with this ex-spouse for the rest of your life because the two of you share one or more children. If you think that’s easy after a divorce, I have a bridge downtown to sell you. If I had been dumb enough to have kids with my first husband, I’d have had to have him knocked off. Then, I’d be writing to you from a jail cell instead of my comfy home office.

So if you’re teetering on the edge of making a decision about marriage, I suggest some thorough introspection first.  Either you’ll realize you’re doing the right thing, or your head will figure out what your gut already knows.

 

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Mom’s new life is ruining mine!

 

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Q. I hope you can offer some help. I’m fourteen years old and my father died two years ago from cancer. He was only 52. My mother, my sister and I had a very hard time with his sickness and death. After a year my mom started dating and began to act like a boy crazy teenager, which was very hard for me and my sister to deal with. But now, even worse, she’s met someone who lives across the country and has been seeing him for many months now. They both travel back and forth and it’s getting serious. He’s a nice man and seems to really care about her, and he is nice to us, but because he has a medical practice where he lives, my mother has talked about us leaving our home and moving to the West Coast to be with him. Part of me is glad to see my mom happy again, but another, bigger part of me is so sad and confused. I miss my dad so much and wonder if he’s hurt that she’s moving on. I’m also freaked out by maybe having to leave everything I know to move someplace so far from home. I know it’s wrong to be selfish and tell my mom how upset I am. It might make her sad again. But I feel so sad, too, and am not sure where to turn. Can you help?

 Love 1A. I’m terribly sorry for what you and your family have gone through. It’s so hard to lose a parent, especially so young. Watching your remaining parent go through the dating process again isn’t easy either. But it seems you realize that your mother is entitled to move on with her life and find another partner to share it with. Luckily she seems to have picked a good man. Unfortunately, his location does make things a lot more difficult for you and your sister. I’m a big believer in open communication, though, and I think it’s crucial that you have a calm and cordial conversation with your mother about your feelings. I’m sure she realizes that moving would be hard on you and your sister. Give her the chance to try to allay your fears. If you do it without hurtful comments or overwhelming emotion, I don’t think it will make her sad. It will just be calling attention to a very real concern of yours that needs to be discussed in a pragmatic way. You also don’t seem to know for sure if this move is even going to happen. You may be worrying before it’s even necessary. However, if your mother’s plans do come to fruition, you might be surprised by the new and wonderful people and opportunities that will come your way—things you can’t even conceive of now. And, with face-time, video conferencing, the internet, etc, you should be able to hold on to your old friends even as you meet new ones. The world has become a much smaller place during your lifetime thanks to technology! As for worrying about your father’s feelings, I have it on good authority that when loving souls pass, they only want their loved ones here on earth to be happy. If this new man turns out to be a good husband and stepfather, I can assure you your dad will rest a lot easier and be happy for all of you. In the meantime, have that little mother/daughter talk I mentioned, and if you get a chance, I’d love to know how it goes! Hugs to you.

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With friends like these…

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Q. I have a friend who has been my friend since childhood, but isn’t a very good one. She is selfish (always makes me do the traveling when we see each other; insists I come to her events but always has an excuse why she can’t come to mine), sometimes says things that hurt my feelings, but says she only means it for my own good (like telling me about a party I wasn’t invited to so I’ll know not to invite that person if I ever have one; or that someone is saying bad things about me behind my back). My husband doesn’t like her, but puts up with her because he knows how long we’ve been friends. A few times I tried to tell her I didn’t want to see her and told her why, but then I feel guilty, and we always end up seeing each other eventually. I guess it’s because she’s like a family member that I can’t imagine not having in my life at all. What do you think I should do?

 

A. It’s pretty clear that you realize this so-called friend is only a negative influence, yet you choose to continue having her in your life just because you’ve known her a long time? This is very faulty reasoning. Whether you realize it or not, you are one half of a parasitic relationship. She controls and takes advantage—and you relent and complain. Not healthy! You asked for my advice, and here it is. It’s up to you to end things and be definitive about it. Whether or not a person is a longtime fixture in your life should not be the deciding factor on whether or not you keep spending (wasting!) time with them. If they are a family member, there may be more reason to get along since you’re likely to see them at family events. But you are lucky enough to have the advantage of not being related by blood. You’re husband doesn’t like her and you don’t like her, yet you travel long distances to see her? As my niece would say, “What’s up with that?” Is it possible that you have some masochistic tendencies? Are there signs of this in any other part of your life? Have you ever spoken to a therapist about it? Just some food for thought. In the meantime, I say you make up your mind to rid yourself of this toxic person and then DO IT! No more trips to see her for more punishment. No more phone calls (if you don’t already have it, caller ID can be very helpful). And no more feeling guilty for not taking abuse—from her or from anyone! If you can pull this off, you will be happier, freer, healthier and stronger for it. It’s all up to you.

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My ex is ruining my marriage!

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Q. I’m afraid my ex-wife is going to wreck my new marriage. She’s not your typical ex-wife. She happens to be a vicious, nasty, and miserable woman who looks to bring everyone down to her level. I’m concerned she’s beginning to succeed with me and my new wife of one and a half years. Lest you think she may be acting this way because I remarried, you should know that this is the reason I left in the first place five years ago (that’s right, she’s still punishing me). The way she accomplishes this is by using my two kids (8- and 10-year-old girls) to come between me and my wife. I have to say, she’s an expert manipulator and manages to cause fights simply by turning my children into her pawns. She’s poisoned them against my wife and is trying to turn them against me too (with some success). I try everything I can to not put my kids in the middle, but she drags them back in since she knows she has control over them and their actions. If they do not do her bidding, they are punished, too, and she’s a scary person to cross, especially for a youngster. Thanks to my ex, the kids often don’t come over when they are supposed to, or spend time with me and my wife for holidays. Therefore, when I do have the chance to see them (usually because my ex has something else to do) and we have other plans already, I want to drop everything to make sure that happens. My wife doesn’t agree and says she refuses to live her life at my ex’s whims. When we have plans, my wife wants to stick with them. I have to say, she has been incredible in the face of this nightmare, but lately I feel she’s backing away from wanting to see the kids at all. This is causing a bit of a rift between us and I’m not sure what the right thing to do is anymore. They are the only thing we really fight about. The girls are still my daughters and if it wasn’t for their mother, I know they’d have a great relationship with my wife, since she’s a wonderful and loving person. Your thoughts on this would be greatly appreciated.

A. Oh boy. If I had a dime for every person I’ve heard of with a similar problem to yours, I’d be a very rich woman right now! Parental alienation is quite the epidemic these days, unfortunately, and it is so sad for the children as well as the adults faced with such ugly adversity. It’s truly amazing what one determined and twisted person can accomplish when they put their mind to it. Often, our first response is to be drawn into the fight and the drama (especially when children are involved). From what I understand, though, that ultimately is a losing battle when you are dealing with a person who is willing to hurt her own children in order to accomplish her goals. Also, if your court system is anything like the incompetent and corrupt one we have here in Nassau County, it will be a big waste of your time and money to drag her into court. It’s important to realize that the more you let your ex cause you grief, the bigger the wedge will become between you and your new wife. Therefore, as hard as you may think it is to not see your kids sometimes, the better off you are in giving in and not supplying your ex with the fight she is angling for, as well as reasons to use, manipulate, and hurt the kids. I have to say that I definitely do not blame your new wife for having the feelings she has. She’s only human and probably knows that anything she says or does will be used against her by the kids’ mother. That’s no way to start a new marriage. She is also right that she shouldn’t have her social life dependent upon the machinations of a vengeful woman. If you value your new relationship, and want to ensure it blossoms, you are going to have to grant it priority. This means not letting your old “baggage” crush the prospects of a happy new life. Your wife married you in spite of it, and I imagine that is a testament to how much she loves you. Right now, your kids are too young to realize what their mother is all about, but chances are good they will one day figure it out. In the meantime, just be consistent and loving and let them know that you are always ready to see them during the times you have been awarded visitation, or with proper notification, but that you can’t upend your life at a moment’s notice by their mother, because it isn’t fair to you. Never bring your wife into such a conversation, as it will only be used against her. If you want to gain the respect of those you cherish, it’s very important that both your children and your new wife see that you are not a pushover who can be controlled by your ex. Set a good example for them. As the kids get older, they will hopefully realize that you are their truly loving parent, and will choose to spend more time with you instead of the toxic environment of your ex’s home. Your wife needs to know that you are healthy enough to shut down the negativity of your past and embrace a love-filled future with her. So can your ex wreck your new marriage? Only if you let her!

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Sex vs. Romance

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Q. Is it just me or do other people’s husbands/boyfriends think romance is just another word for sex? No matter how many times I try to explain to my husband that romance means doing thoughtful things for one another, he just never seems able to make any gestures that could be described as “romantic.” I don’t need jewelry, or the cliché flowers and candy (although on occasion that’d be nice), but my husband just doesn’t seem to be interested, even knowing how much it means to me. He thinks “date night” is code for sex and nothing more. I understand he’s never been the romantic type, and he’s a wonderful husband otherwise, but knowing how much I long for it, shouldn’t he at least be making an effort? We’ve only been married for four years, but this makes me feel like maybe he just doesn’t love me in a way that inspires romance, and that thought is very upsetting to me. What do you think I should do?

A. Having been out on the dating scene for many years myself before marrying, I observed that there are many men who can be very thoughtful and creative in the romance department. Interestingly, I never felt that comfortable around them because the gestures seemed so contrived and empty to me when I was just getting to know someone. Perhaps that’s why I always gravitated toward less romantic men. The problem with that is that when you are in love with someone, and know them well, romance means much more. If you’ve picked a man who is romantically challenged, you’re kind of out of luck in that department. It’s like expecting him to suddenly start talking French when you’ve always known he has no affinity for other languages. I think being romantic is either in a person’s makeup or it isn’t.

What’s most important, though, is realizing that romantic ineptitude is not a sign that he doesn’t love you enough. It’s just a sign that you married a more pragmatic and possibly less imaginative man. If the rest of your relationship is going well, as you’ve intimated, I say you surprise him with a few romantic plans and actions, whether it be leaving an affectionate card in his briefcase, going to a cozy restaurant with great ambiance, splitting a great bottle of wine in the middle of the week, anything that you might feel you are missing in your life. If you show him what romance looks like, he’ll be more likely to get the picture—and it may be easier for him to duplicate on his own. In the meantime, focus on all his good traits, which in the long run, are probably a lot more crucial to a solid relationship.

If you would like Bonnie to offer some advice on your personal relationship issue, contact her at

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A Cat-lover’s Lament

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Q. I’m 26 years old, have my own apartment, a good job, and I’ve been seeing someone for five months. We are getting along very well and things are getting serious in a “I think we may end up together way.” I haven’t had much luck with dating before this relationship so I’m very excited about it. My problem is that I have a very sweet, 4 year old cat who I love dearly and who, unfortunately, my boyfriend is allergic to. Therefore, we spend most of the time at his apartment or out, even though I love being home and miss my cat terribly when I’m away. He doesn’t dislike cats, but because he’s always been allergic, he hints that he could never live with one. Sometimes he throws out ideas as to who might be able to take her and give her a good home. I can’t imagine ever giving up my cat. She’s my baby. But the thought of giving up my only good relationship is heartbreaking, too. Was wondering about your thoughts on the matter?

A. Well, your story could practically have been mine, so today I’m speaking from personal experience. When I started dating my husband, I knew he was allergic to cats and had been all his life. In fact, he’d been hospitalized as a child from an allergy attack. This didn’t stop him from visiting my apartment despite the fact that my cat, Nikki, was always there to greet him. He came over armed with allergy medication, and when he needed a break from the dander, he’d step outside for a few minutes. This went on for many months, and guess what? Slowly but surely, he became more and more tolerant of my cat, to the point that all three of us eventually moved in together. My husband fared just fine, with some allergy issues here and there (always during allergy season) that he treated with medication. He also had a great attitude about it. Of course this may have been due to the fact that he knew there was about as much of a chance of me giving up my cat, as a snowball would have in you-know-where! But he also happens to love animals so I think his positive outlook helped, and believe it or not, we now have four cats and a dog and he no longer takes allergy medicine! Living with the animal you are allergic to is tantamount to having allergy shots (and by the way, shots are always another option.)

So my personal thoughts on the matter are these: Don’t you dare give your cat away! She’s your baby and she loves you, too! At this point, as much as you care for your boyfriend, you don’t know what your future with him will be. You’ve only known him for five months. And, if you eventually give her up, there’s a good chance you will grow to resent him for it. Let him know this might be the case, and let him read my story so he knows being allergic to a cat isn’t necessarily something that’s written in stone. When I think of the people who’ve given up their beloved cats or dogs for this reason, it saddens me that they do not realize there are other options and possibilities. Tell him you want him to spend time at your apartment, and with your cat, too (and have allergy medicine waiting!) Discuss all of this with him and examine how he reacts to your feelings. It might be very telling. In my case, seeing the sacrifice my husband made for me was one of the reasons I fell in love with him—and just one of the reasons I knew he was “Mr. Right.”

 

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Sex and the Married Girl

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Since the 1950s, when Doris Day set the sexual standard for women, other, bolder females have attempted to hack the sexual taboo down to size. In the 60s, Helen Gurley Brown’s Sex and the Single Girl exploits turned the tide in a decidedly less prudish direction. By the 90s, Candace Bushnell’s Sex and the City escapades practically decimated the taboo with an audacious, ribald look at the sexual ups, downs, and all-arounds of single people in the Big City.

A roller coaster always makes for fascinating observations, which is probably why there aren’t many books, television shows, or movies that explore the ‘wild’ world of sex after marriage. Not known for its high drama, romantic fervor, or sizzling heat quotient, sex between a married couple is usually more about love, affection, and comfort. A boring prospect you might think, especially if you’ve become addicted to the thrill of that undulating roller coaster. But if you’re ready to disembark, and settle down to a more grounded sexual lifestyle like marriage, you’ll still find a few ups and downs waiting for you.

Unfortunately, the first “down” occurs at the wedding ceremony. When a couple vows to love, honor, and cherish, they’re also expected to embrace the daunting idea that they will never again have sex with anyone else in this lifetime (a notion that for many people hangs new hope on the scientific data supporting reincarnation). I suggest you not try to grasp the enormity of that concept too quickly, as it may force you to prematurely bolt from the chapel like a bat out of you-know-where, much to the embarrassment of your parents, your spouse-to-be, and your baffled guests.

However, if you bite your tongue and successfully make it to the other side of the marital fence, you will find that sex does change after the vows are exchanged—if not immediately, then soon after. But that isn’t necessarily a bad thing. With every change (even the seemingly negative ones) there are new possibilities for “ups”—unexpected developments where you find serendipitous satisfaction.

It helps not to have too many preconceived expectations about sex after marriage. I purposely kept mine to a minimum, not really letting my mind “go there” for fear it would never come back. Luckily, my husband’s expectations were also kept in check as he’d been married before for ten years. As it turned out, our moderate expectations put less stress on our relationship, and neither of us felt we had to live up to some unrealistic pre-marital standard. With the knowledge that we were now going to be together every night, we could relax. If one night wasn’t convenient, there was always the next.

Although this idea causes some couples to take each other for granted, and therefore experience less romance in their lives, this new, cozier brand of sex can also lead to an unexpected “up”: spur-of-the-moment romance. Having each other around a good deal of the time means you don’t have to do an awful lot of arduous planning. You can be as impulsive as you want when the “moment” strikes you, and this can mean more romance, more often.

There is also a lot to be said for the comfort level involved in marital sex. It allows for more trust, openness and creativity—all things that can help you keep romance endlessly interesting and lead to a very gratifying sex life—even without the help of 50 Shades of Gray!

Admittedly, being together all the time within the “sanctity of marriage” doesn’t sound overly passionate. When the urgency goes out of sex, sometimes some of the zing does too. But if you keep your mind and your imagination open, you may find yourself on a journey to new discoveries in marital bliss you never would have envisioned as a “swinging single” on that roller coaster. And this new path may be a lot easier on your stomach.

If you would like Bonnie to offer some advice on your personal relationship issue, contact her at

loveahappyending.com@gmail.com

To find out more about Bonnie visit:

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Devastated by a Break Up

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Q. About two months ago, my boyfriend of almost a year broke up with me. He told me that usual line of wanting to stay friends because he thought I’m such a great person. When I asked why he didn’t want to stay together, he didn’t really have an answer and kind of hemmed and hawed about us not being right together. This was so surprising to me because I love him and thought he was the man I would marry (I’m almost 30). I had all sorts of fantasies about our life together, our kids, and much more. I’ve been completely devastated since the break up, have lost almost ten pounds, and feel horribly depressed. I can’t move forward because I feel so beaten up, still love him, and can’t imagine letting anyone else reject me. Most of my past breakups were mutual or just not relationships that mattered to me. This one’s different. I keep praying he’ll change his mind and come back to me. I play the song “Love Will Lead You Back” by Taylor Dayne over and over again. I’ve called him a few times just “as a friend” and he’s always nice, but just distant. What do you think I should do?

A. I’m sorry you are in so much pain. I think most people have been in your place at least once, some several times in their lives. It’s so easy to fall into a miserable rut, but don’t let that happen. Realize that just because someone we love rejects us that does not make us unlovable! In fact, it may just mean that they picked up on incompatibilities that you have yet to see. When I look back on my similar situation, I feel relieved that he broke up with me, because now I see how wrong we ultimately were for each other. I’m living the life with my husband that I was meant to live, and I cherish each day.

When feelings are not mutual, you have to have a stern talk with yourself and start pushing thoughts and fantasies about that individual from your mind. Hanging on and waiting for him to return is a big mistake. So is calling him for any reason right now. You must move on with your life believing the relationship is over and opening your heart to new prospects. You can’t approach future relationships with fear of rejection, or it may be a self-fulfilling prophecy. Be confident! If you feel you need more time to grieve before dating again, then get busy with your friends, work, hobbies, anything that doesn’t remind you of your ex. Since you’ve lost ten pounds, treat yourself to some ice cream or whatever food you love. And please stop playing that song! It’s lovely, but its sentiments are not realistic in life. If you want to listen to music, switch to Bonnie Raitt’s Silver Lining CD. That’s what helped get me through my tough time. Hang in there, as time passes, your depression about him will lift, and your love life will look a lot more promising!

If you would like Bonnie to offer some advice on your personal relationship issue, contact her at

loveahappyending.com@gmail.com

 

To find out more about Bonnie visit:

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Dealing with a Reluctant Stepmother

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Q. My wife and I have been married for almost five years. I have a sweet, nine year old daughter from a previous marriage (I share custody with her mother). My wife has no children, but very much wants them. Unfortunately, we have had no luck in this endeavor. It seems to me that with each passing year, my wife has gotten more and more frustrated with this fact and she’s been taking out her resentment on my daughter. It’s not a blatant thing and she’s not abusive to her at all, but she never wants to be around her. When they are together, no matter how hard my daughter tries to win her over, my wife acts very cool and aloof toward her. I’ve discussed this with my wife a few times and she’s told me she can’t help the way she feels. We both travel a lot for work, so we spend a good deal of time apart. When I’m home, I want to see my daughter as much as I can but always feel uncomfortable knowing it will cause a problem with my wife. Therefore I try to spend as much time with my daughter when my wife is away as possible. Any suggestions on the best way to handle this?

A. Take it from a stepmom who has endured her share of heartache from her three stepchildren (thanks to their hostile mother): being a stepmom is no picnic in the park. However, in your case, your daughter seems to be very accepting of your wife and it saddens me to think she’s being rejected through no fault of her own. I beg to differ with you regarding your assessment of what constitutes abuse. When a parent figure acts cold and aloof to a child who clearly wants a loving relationship, that is a form of emotional abuse. Your wife should be grateful to have a stepchild who wants her love. So many stepmoms suffer through the exact opposite situation. Aside from this, she knew going into a marriage with you that she was getting a part-time stepdaughter in the bargain. If she didn’t want to deal with that fact, she never should have said “I do.”

Your wife’s issues, frustrations, etc. have nothing to do with your daughter’s personality or actions, so as the adult in this equation, she should know better than to misplace her feelings on an innocent child. She may not be able to “help the way she feels,” but she can surely help the way she acts. Wanting a child of your own and not being able to have one is heartbreaking, but hurting a child who is already here because you haven’t dealt with your feelings productively, is inexcusable. Quite frankly, her actions and attitude make me doubt she would have the emotional maturity to be a good mother to her own children.

As for you, it’s great that you spend lots of time with your daughter when your wife is away, but that relationship shouldn’t revolve around your wife’s travel itinerary! Your wife needs to deal with her irrational feelings, jealousy, and heartache in a productive way if your marriage is going to be a healthy one. You haven’t mentioned if you two have consulted a marriage counselor or if she’s been in therapy, but I recommend both in this case. If you have the financial means, ask her to go to marriage counseling with you because what has been going on is detrimental to the family as a unit. I’d also suggest she see a good counselor on her own to work out her personal issues. If she refuses these options, then you have to decide whether living with this damaging situation is something you want for yourself and your child—or if ending the marriage is the best answer for all of you.

If you would like Bonnie to offer some advice on your personal relationship issue, contact her at

loveahappyending.com@gmail.com

 

To find out more about Bonnie visit:

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When Infidelity Knocks…

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Q. I’ve been married to my husband for sixteen years. We’ve had our ups and downs, but lately things have been boring and routine between us and I’ve been feeling kind of depressed about that. We have one 13 year-old daughter. I joined Facebook a few years ago and have connected with a lot of old friends from school. I also connected with a man who I never dated but did have a major crush on in high school. He’s now divorced and we’ve struck up an internet friendship. I’m nervous to say that my old feelings for him are still there, only now, they’re mutual. He told me he always “wondered” about me. Recently, we exchanged cell phone numbers and spoke and we had a great banter with lots of flirting. It made me feel so excited and happy again. Now he wants to get together with me, just for lunch. I so want to go, but of course I’m scared to death of seeing him (even innocently) on the sly. What do you think I should do?

 

A. Ah yes, good ole Facebook. Memberships should come with warnings about things like this, since from what I hear, your story is hardly uncommon. Before you do anything you may quickly live to regret, please give the following some deep thought. There’s no such thing as meeting someone you are attracted to “innocently” if it’s on the sly from your husband. You are just making it that much easier to forge a physical relationship with this other man. How would you feel if your husband found out and immediately moved for a divorce? How would you feel if your 13-year-old daughter learned that your infidelity led to the break-up of her parents? We all know what pillars of emotional stability adolescent girls are during the best of times, right?

First and foremost, examine your feelings for your husband. Do you still love him, or are those feelings long gone? Imagine not having him in your life. Do you feel liberated or heartbroken? If things are not right between you, but warm feelings still exist, the answer is not lunch with an old flame; it’s more likely couples’ therapy. You may fantasize that the grass would be greener if you were to be with this other man, but remember, you were in high school, a time when crushes often meant infatuation, not love. Flirting and witty repartee couldn’t possibly reveal much about who this man is today—except, of course, that he’s eager to hook up with a married woman. Oftentimes, that’s a clear sign of commitment-phobia, something else for you to consider if you are looking for a more serious relationship in the future.

My advice: Do not meet this man for lunch or for any other reason. Focus on your marriage and if it’s worth saving. Sometimes, when two people want it, and put in the effort, they can reinvent their marriage in beautiful ways. Finding each other again, can be exciting, too. But if, down the line, you decide you truly no longer wish to be married to your husband, then do things the right way. Have a heart to heart with him about it and begin divorce proceedings before even thinking about being with another man. Living your life honestly is good for the soul. It helps you sleep at night—and like who you see in the mirror every morning. And remember, igniting an old flame doesn’t necessarily mean candlelight; it may mean an inferno.

 

If you would like Bonnie to offer some advice on your personal relationship issue, contact her at

loveahappyending.com@gmail.com

To find out more about Bonnie visit:

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