April 17, 2024
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Linking Northern and Central NJ, Bronx, Manhattan, Westchester and CT

Struggling With Dating for a Second Marriage

Dear Dr. Chani,

Since my divorce eight years ago, I have longed to be married again. This year, I met a wonderful woman and I was excited at the prospect of finally having a warm, supportive and loving marriage. But, recently, I have begun to notice that Ella, the woman I am dating, is not attentive to me. She seems to repeatedly prioritize her children over me. I am wondering if there is a red flag and I should break up with Ella.

I am very concerned about seeing the warning signs before I advance my relationship with Ella. I do not want to make the same mistakes that I made the last time. When I was dating my first wife, things were great, but once we were married things went downhill from there. My first wife was impossible to deal with. We were always arguing about everything, big and small. We were just not compatible for each other. I hope that this time I find someone who is easier to get along with and is sensitive to my needs.

The first time I had a glimmer of hope that I would be happily married was when I started dating Ella. I really enjoy her personality. I think she complements me. She is the opposite of me in many ways. I am introverted, intellectual and organized. She is outgoing, creative and spontaneous. I love the fun side that she brings out in me.

Both Ella and I have grown children, but our situations are different. All of my children are either married or are living on their own. Yet, Ella’s children all live at home with her. She is divorced and has always had full custody of her children. Her husband lives far away and is uninvolved in their lives. I understand that Ella needs to take care of her children but I have become increasingly bothered by her choosing their needs over mine.

For example, recently we were supposed to go on a day trip hiking together with Ella’s children. The night before the trip, at the last minute, one of Ella’s daughters got sick. Ella called me to cancel the trip. The next day, I messaged Ella to find out her plans for the day and offered to take her on a date. She said she preferred to stay home and had no plans. It ended up that Ella’s daughter felt better by the afternoon so Ella took her children bowling. I felt that Ella forgot about me. I had scheduled my work around this trip and when it was canceled, I was really bored and lonely. I told Ella that I think she should have invited me to bowling or found a way to spend time with me. Ella thought I was overreacting. She explained to me why the bowling trip was a last-minute decision and was really no big deal. She apologized but I do not feel she meant it.

Since then, we have continued speaking every day but I feel really distant from her. I think she feels the same way. What should I do? Should I just break up with her?

Sincerely,
Dan

Dear Dan,

You have spent a long time searching for the perfect spouse and it is difficult to deal with the disappointments you have had along the way. Your first marriage was a rocky relationship and now you are experiencing turbulence with Ella. I imagine you are wondering if you will ever find a woman who makes you happy.

Let’s explore how you are approaching your relationship with Ella and see if it has potential. After your first marriage ended in divorce, you searched to find a person who would be easier to get along with. It sounds like you envisioned the kind of relationship you want to create and you considered the qualities that are important to you in a spouse. This is an important first step for dating. Yet, it is also essential to reflect on your own qualities and what you can do to help shape your ideal relationship.

As you reflect on your first marriage, you conclude that you were not “compatible for each other.” Along with this observation, it is healthy to consider something else as well. We often judge people as “wrong” or “right.” Yet there are often many factors that contribute to a situation and more than one way to look at it. You can benefit from thinking about your own behaviors that might have in some way contributed to the unsettling reality of your first marriage. Try to identify thoughts and behaviors from your first marriage and from your other relationships that might help you to understand what is causing friction in your relationship with Ella. Remember, it is not about being wrong or right, but about using past experiences to help you see more of what is going on in the present.

For example, in your recent misunderstanding with Ella, it sounds like you feel ignored and hurt because Ella did not make an effort to spend time with you and did not include you in her plans, especially when you previously planned a day trip together. Your disappointment was exacerbated when Ella did not seem to understand why you were upset. From your perspective, Ella is clearly wrong. Yet, when a couple disagrees, it is important to recognize that there are multiple perspectives. Even though your reality is true for you, it is not the only reality. It is your subjective reality, often based on your nature and life experiences. Ella has her own reality that is true for her. Her reality is likewise based on her nature and life experiences.

It is helpful for you to try to consider what happened from Ella’s perspective. The more that you endeavor to step into Ella’s shoes and try to understand her, the less disappointed and hurt you will feel. In addition, by making an effort to see the situation from Ella’s perspective, you will be modeling this approach so that Ella can follow your lead and try to understand you better as well.

If you find it difficult to see things from Ella’s point of view, ask Ella more questions to gain a better understanding of what happened and why she chose to do what she did. Remember to accept what Ella is saying as true for her without judging if she was right or wrong according to your opinion. Your goal is to understand her, not judge her.

It is normal for a couple to have misunderstandings and to disappoint each other from time to time. In your effort to create the loving and happy marriage you dream about, try to understand Ella and give her the benefit of the doubt as much as possible.

It can be helpful to keep in mind that Ella has been her children’s only caregiver and she is used to making them her first priority. As you develop your relationship with her, it is essential to understand her feelings about her role as a mother and as a potential wife. It is also important for her to hear your thoughts on that. Instead of seeing things through the perspective of wrong and right, try to encourage conversations where you explore each other’s ideas, thoughts and feelings. That can stand you better in your relationship with Ella, your understanding of yourself and perhaps in the other relationships in your life, too.

Wishing you much success,

Chani

Dr. Chani Maybruch is a social psychologist and relationship coach, specializing in teaching emotional connection and communication skills for over two decades. She coaches individuals and couples, and teaches online courses to help you create your ideal relationship. Get free relationship resources and contact her at www.chanimaybruch.com.

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