Dear Carolyn: I am in a serious relationship with a divorced man, no children. I am having trouble getting over the fact that he’s done everything before — proposed, watched his bride walk down the aisle, bought a house, etc.
I know it’s ridiculous. It’s soooo ridiculous. But why do I keep being bothered by it? I am in my mid-30s so I have many divorced friends, and I think they all deserve a second chance at love.
Getting Over Someone’s Past
I think that and your “He’s done this all before!” lament imply that you see marital love as a uniform path to a singular Holy Grail.
While that makes a lovely thought … gosh it’s hard to dismantle this without sounding cynical. OK: It’s not as if all other loves are regular, and marital love is the deluxe. Often what launches a love from “Let’s have dinner together Saturday” to “Let’s have dinner together for the rest of our lives” isn’t the awesomeness of the conversation at dinner, but instead the ages of the people having it.
If marriage were just about finding the ultimate love, then a graph of the age of first marriage would show points distributed evenly across all adult ages. It’s not that way, though: There’s a trickle around 20, then a wave in the mid-20s that drops to a trickle again after 35. It’s pretty damning evidence of some musical-chairs thinking: Many such couples are less soul mates than each other’s closest chairs when the music stopped.
Some married loves of course are the real and enduring deal, but marriage doesn’t make them so; there can be enduring, life-changing loves that never result in marriage.
Plus, all loves — between madly crushing 16-year-olds or checking-a-box 27-year-olds or why-the-heck-not mid-lifers — are unique to the people in them. Successive loves aren’t just successive attempts to find that one thing, that Grail — they’re a thing unto themselves.
And so, yes, this man has proposed to someone before, but not to you before. If he does, he will feel different because you are different and your love will be different.
Re: Married Before: Regardless of what caused your beau’s divorce, he hasn’t gone through getting married to the right person. If that turns out to be you, it will be just as meaningful as it would have been if you’d both been first-timers. Maybe even more so, since he'll be choosing from a more experienced platform.
Right, thank you. There’s also the fact that this first marriage helped create the person you now want to marry. There’s no current version of him without his past with her.
Re: Married Before: Actually, the “marrying the person closest to you when the music stopped” WAS the hardest thing for me to deal with. It made me question his decision-making ability. Why would he marry someone just because of outside pressure?
Pre-marital counseling is a great place to get all of that out.
I don’t think people recognize the pressure. In retrospect, yes, it’s apparent, but it takes maturity to recognize one’s own immaturity. Cruel joke, really.
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