After divorce from a brief first marriage (no kids), I was with my second wife for 12 years, and close with her two children. I knew that she’d had a whirlwind long-distance romance in between.
Two years ago, I heard from a mutual friend that my wife’s former lover was in town. I noted that my wife didn’t mention anything about him, and went to an after-work meeting with my boss.
When I returned home around 11pm, my wife wasn’t home. I waited the next morning and when she returned around noon, I asked directly what she was going to do. She said, “I’m not giving him up while he’s here.”
I said, “I’m gone.” I packed, stayed with a friend and soon rented my own place. But I have remained closely in touch with the kids who are young adults now.
My question’s related to the opening up of socializing and dating. I’m a healthy man of 52 who would like to find a partner I can love and trust. I understand that most women in the appropriate age bracket for me probably also have complex histories. What’s your advice for a decent guy who’s uncertain about how to get it right third time around?
Hopeful but Hesitant
Like many important goals, they’re best reached one step at a time.
Whether you meet someone through a dating site or a friend’s set-up, get to know who a woman is as a person, not a potential mate.
Dating should be less about ticking off the boxes about your “ideal” partner, and more about learning her character, the people she cares about, the things that make her laugh, and cry.
Finding similar interests is part of the search, but remember you can only play golf for so long. It’s an activity, not a character trait.
Your relationship history shows that you’re a resilient guy, and your connection to “former” step-children proves your decency.
Put one foot ahead of the other and start dating. You’ll do fine.
My brother and I live in the same city, we’re both in our late-30s. I’m single, he’s married. I’m not fond of his wife and don’t relate to her but keep my feelings to myself.
Also, I’m not good with my brother’s three kids, age seven and younger. I just can’t get down to their level. It’s led to my brother and I becoming less close over the years. And I heard through the gossip mill that he thinks I don’t like him, which isn’t true. We were always good friends growing up.
What should I do?
The Single Brother
You don’t have to love a sister-in-law but you do have to try to maintain a respectful relationship.
You may not have said anything about your feelings for his wife, but your body language and verbal responses to her are likely obvious to both of them.
As for their young children, your distance (and your personal excuse for it) has been your bigger mistake. Kids love things to do, they need physical activity and mental stimulation, and parents are always looking for new ways to provide these.
Enter the beloved relative who’s gone to a children’s toy store, talked to a salesperson, confided lack of knowledge and bought the toy-car track, music box, colouring books and washable crayons, etc.
You don’t have to spend the whole visit on your knees, but a few minutes of it would help the kids actually see and appreciate you.
Reader’s Commentary Regarding a woman’s estrangement from two brothers (July 10):
“I wish somehow I’d understood estrangements when I was a young mother with a toddler and a baby, yet my once-close sister wanted nothing to do with me or my young family.
“I longed to have our young children grow up close and loving. We were only a two-hour drive apart. I felt that she no longer loved me at all, nor cared about me, nor had any interest in getting to know her nephew and niece.
“Many nights, especially around holidays, I cried myself to sleep. When I’d call to invite her, they were always “very busy and had many commitments.”
“I only discovered when my sister and I entered our 70’s, just prior to her very prolonged and sad death, that she (and her husband) was a severe alcoholic and probably didn't want me to know. All those years, wasted. In truth, she didn’t love herself.”
Tip of the day:
Learn someone’s character one insight at a time.