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Ex-wife didn't do that then, but people change, so now she does

Ex-wife didn't do that then, but people change, so now she does

Q: How would you explain something like this: A woman in a seemingly happy marriage to Man A says that cooking or attending big social gatherings is just not her thing. Man A is disappointed but makes his peace with it because there are other great things about their relationship.

Fifteen years in, the woman abruptly leaves Man A for Man B, and with this new man she not only whips up incredible meals on a regular basis, but also has become the gracious, exciting social butterfly she never was with Man A. How can she now do all the things for Man B that she was never able or willing to for Man A?

Anonymous

A: No one can explain this except the woman herself; it's always possible she just didn't love Man A as completely as she had thought, and then Man B upended her world.

Man A ("Adam") probably believes that, but I'm not so sure it's that easy. It's also possible it wasn't "abrupt" to the woman's confidants.

Maybe, too, the woman (let's call her Celia) had a brush with death, or with something else that's known to bring on epiphanies.

But maybe this explanation will look familiar, too: It's almost habit to think, 1 + 1 = 2, so Celia + Adam = Celia-and-Adam. But people don't work that way. Celia with Adam will be different from Celia alone, and vice versa. The difference can be trivial or significant, depending on the force of each personality.

These individual changes bring an element of unpredictability to relationship equations; you can love your friend Adam but find him unbearable when he's with Celia, right? Likewise, some people can shut down under a partner's influence, deferring till they disappear. Some people get so comfortable together that the fire of their ambition goes out; some fire each other up. You get the idea.

Factor in the effects of 15 years of growing, maturing — or stagnating — and it makes sense that Adam and Man B ("Ben") essentially met different versions of the same woman. And, they drew out different versions of her from there, based on their own personalities.

So: Celia (after 15 years of Adam) + Ben = a Celia that surprises Adam.

Divorce, or any serious loss, really, is also a significant player in dramatic changes, because it forces people to reflect on their pasts and themselves. Celia could have looked back on her marriage, decided her rigid vision of herself was a mistake, and resolved to loosen up with Ben. If this version of Celia had married Adam, she might have cooked and partied with him, too.

In the end, the question the Adams always ask — "Why didn't she do that for me?" — might be the only straightforward part of the story.

Let friend know you both should let cells go to voice mail

Q: What is the best way to tell a friend that I don't appreciate her taking cell phone calls while we are visiting?

S.

A: How about: "Unless it's the office/the sitter/the president, let's let our calls go to voice mail."

Do let her explain her reasons for taking calls. If she's a true friend, she won't get snippy about it, even if you don't put it in the "best way."

Ex-wife didn't do that then, but people change, so now she does 11/04/10 [Last modified: Thursday, November 4, 2010 2:25pm]

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