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An ex-wife offers a hint worth pondering

Adapted from a recent online discussion.

Boyfriend's ex dropping a hint that's worth thinking about

Confused: So I met my boyfriend's ex-wife. They have been apart many years, and he really hates her still. His description of what she would be like was akin to the hound of hell. She was actually quite lovely, to both of us, and seemed the opposite of what he described.

This all made me wonder if my boyfriend would describe me in a similar fashion if we were to break up. He holds grudges forever. So I asked her, privately, why things went so sour for them. She did not really give me an answer, and said it was just a long time ago and that people change. Then she said something else, almost as an afterthought. She told me to trust my instincts. But did not elaborate. How do I interpret that?

Carolyn: For your own sake, interpret it the worst possible way and then prove your way back to the best. Without competition for second place, the No. 1 mistake people make is to talk themselves into a relationship and rationalize problems away. You just had the hint of a problem gift-wrapped and dropped in your lap.

Add that to something you either know is a problem already, or should — that he holds grudges forever — and start paying attention. Do you feel free to be yourself around him? Do you find yourself editing certain details out of the stories you tell, or reassuring him a lot, or making plans around his quirks and tastes and even temper? If you broke up with him, how do you think he'd take it? If it's "badly," are you seeing that as a deterrent?

Certainly she could be as bad as he said, and just capable of behaving civilly for one encounter. But that potential plum rationalization still wouldn't account for the fact that he still "hates her." To mature is to let go of anger, or at least to know how important it is to try. Doesn't sound as if he's even trying.

So, please do trust your instincts.

Time to review where real life is taking your relationship

Does This Make Sense?: My boyfriend and I are 25 and have been together for three years. He is open about wanting to marry me someday but does not plan on getting married till his early 30s. What gives?

Carolyn: I don't know — does this make sense?:

When you got serious with this guy, you probably recognized, consciously or sub-, that any plans you had for your life to this point were just about you, and therefore weren't entirely realistic. Having people in your life makes changes both grand and subtle, but always significant.

What you're hoping, it seems, is that he'll grant you the same ... significance(?) that you've granted him, and that he won't prioritize arbitrary ideas about How Life Should Be Lived over where real life takes him.

Not that we should all resign ourselves to fate, but there is a middle ground between that and sticking to The Plan.

Of course, his comment could just mean that he's comfy now but open to a better deal if it comes along. To borrow from that great "Field of Dreams" moment: "Look for low and away, but watch out for in your ear."

An ex-wife offers a hint worth pondering 11/01/09 [Last modified: Sunday, November 1, 2009 3:30am]
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