Adapted from a recent online discussion.
Hi, Carolyn! After a seven-year marriage, I initiated and was granted a divorce four months ago. It was an emotionally abusive marriage. Among other things, he didn’t communicate for days, sometimes weeks. He was like Jekyll and Hyde. I am so happy now that it is over.
A few months prior to my filing, my ex contacted me. We had not communicated in 10 years. We did not have a horrid ending but were just in different places in life. Now, we both seem to be at a place where we could “get it right.”
We have seen each other a few times and have been intimate. He isn’t dating anyone. Is it too soon to have the defining-the-relationship talk? I know most men dread this convo, but I want to know how to proceed and protect my heart. We are both in our early 50s.
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Defining the Relationship
I thought the best part about turning 50 was outliving your interest in playing games. You define the relationship by saying what you want to say, and asking what you want to know.
If for some reason he hasn’t crossed this emotional threshold and can be scared off by a frank conversation about how you feel and what your priorities are, then the sooner you scare him off the better.
Part of aging out of game-playing means recognizing there is no such thing as protecting your heart. Caring is an act of courage, always, because caring means you’re open to getting hurt.
What you can do, though, is tell yourself the truth as freely as you tell it to him: Don’t mistake seeing this man “a few times” as anything definitive, and don’t mistake your relief at being out of a bad marriage as a sign that you’re through healing from it. And don’t assume he still is now what you knew back then.
That’s not to say it’s “too soon” to date – that’s your call and no one else’s – but it would make sense for you to be particularly mindful of your emotional state. We’re all subject to having ours change on us in unexpected ways, but people fresh out of relationships, especially those that ended badly, are particularly susceptible.
So. Go ahead and treat your new love interest as exciting, promising, a welcome contrast to your marriage – but understand that only time gets to decide whether it’s going to last or be right for you. Be patient, be yourself, and be open to whatever he and the relationship are trying to tell you. It’s important to resist the temptation to push things to fit your vision of how you want them to go.
If you find you’re second-guessing yourself regularly and/or relying on a concept of what couples are “supposed to” do, then please consider getting some counseling, solo, with a reputable marriage and family therapist. The door into good relationships and out of bad ones is your ability to recognize what is (and isn’t) healthy for you, and that requires judgment you’re able to trust.
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