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Heed the warning signs in your head

Q: I am a 25-year-old divorcee. I've realized there were many warning signs that I ignored before and during my marriage. I've grown and learned a lot from it. I've now been dating a great guy for the last six months and am very much in love. I am happy and to be honest, it freaks me out! I am not used to someone being so sweet and kind, someone who does favors for me and such. We've discussed moving in together, but when people ask me how I feel about it, I really don't know. We spend most nights together and we're practically living together but I wonder. I'm not sure if I think it's too soon or if I'm afraid of what other people will think. Is it too soon? Can someone really find love after a divorce that fast?

A: Better question: Can someone really break an unhealthy pattern that fast? Bad relationships aren't just about choosing bad people; they're about making bad decisions for bad reasons, or just caving when someone else does. Bad relationships are an ongoing, two-way transaction.

You are, as you type, trying to talk yourself into something despite the little voice that's whispering, "too soon." Which, incidentally, is often the first draft of the more decisive: "This isn't the guy."

With your divorce, you came to recognize the warning signs that you ignored. Great. Except now you're ignoring a whole new set of warning signs. Maybe that's because they don't look like the clear warnings of hindsight. Instead, they're vague hesitations, much tougher to read.

For the sake of all involved, heed them. Wait till you're sure-sure. As in, sure. Maybe this is the guy, but you won't kill a healthy relationship by waiting. More important, you won't needlessly prolong a sick one by moving in. Most important, waiting lets you discern whether these surprising kindnesses and favors are really about love and respect, or just about sucking you in.

Gifts should go back

Q: A family member had a huge bridal shower last summer. A month after that, the wedding was "postponed." Now it's canceled. What is the protocol for the shower gifts? The fiancee has moved into an apartment with a roommate who has nothing, but she thinks that is okay because she has all she needs from the bridal shower. In other words, I don't think the bridal shower gifts are going to be returned. Is there any tactful way to let her know they should be returned? And what does this mean for future showers, should she get married at a later date (to someone else)?

A: You know the protocol. Everyone (I thought) knows the protocol. Gifts go back.

The ex-bride-to-be either doesn't know or doesn't care; either way, tact isn't necessary, albeit for different reasons. The former means she's innocent and doesn't need kid gloves, and the latter means she doesn't deserve them (or she kept a pair that someone once left at her house). Just tell her the gifts must go back.

If she's unsure how to do this, any decent wedding guide will explain. If instead she'd rather have goodies than manners, that helps toward future showers, since I doubt there'll be many guests. But that's okay. She already has all she needs.

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Heed the warning signs in your head 05/12/08 [Last modified: Thursday, October 28, 2010 1:55pm]

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