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Question

I have been divorced for less than a year. We had a long history of having arguments that got verbally abusive and sometimes even a little physically aggressive. I admit I had problems with selfishness and wanted to do things my own way. I became tired of helping him do his schoolwork all the time because he is visually impaired. I also feel like I was never really attracted to him. I loved him like a friend, but there was not much spark there.

I am emotionally troubled since we divorced. I fell deeply in love with another man who is about the same age as my father. There were no children in my former marriage, and the man I have fallen for is divorced after a long marriage with three kids who are my age or older. Any advice for a lonely, confused woman?

Answer

I think you need to slow things down and figure out how you ended up in this lonely and confused place. Clearly, having a new relationship isn’t helping you feel any better about yourself or your life. You really shouldn’t begin a new relationship until you have finished the previous relationship. You appear to still have some unfinished business with your first marriage.

I don’t know you or your ex-husband, but based on your own admissions, it seems like being in a committed relationship was difficult for you. The sacrifice and commitment needed in a long-term marriage were elements missing from your marriage. I like the directness of Dr. Frank Pittman’s commentary that, “marriage isn’t supposed to make you happy – it’s supposed to make you married.” President Gordon B. Hinckley taught that, “If every husband and every wife would constantly do whatever might be possible to ensure the comfort and happiness of his or her companion, there would be very little, if any, divorce.”[i]

Because you’re dating a man your father’s age, you have a responsibility to ask yourself some tough questions. Dating a man your father’s age might be evidence that you aren’t ready for marriage. Do you still want someone to take care of you? Are you are looking for a surrogate parent you can depend on without having to give much? This might be why you’re so confused and lonely. Think about these questions and search deeply to see if there is any chance you’re looking for a caretaker instead of an equal. Your greatest joy will come from living in a relationship where you are both taking care of each other as equals.

Please recognize that if you thought it was difficult to unselfishly give to your visually impaired husband, you are going to face even more challenges living with an aging man who will most likely need regular help. You will also need to work with his adult children and will be expected to function in a grandmother role in the future, if not immediately.

Living in a thriving relationship requires an unselfish heart. Even though your reasons for leaving your marriage may have been more complex than you shared in your question, it sounds like you continue to have serious doubts about your decision to divorce.

Give yourself time and space to assess what you have to give and whether you’re really emotionally ready to take on the requirements that long-term marriage require. Consider visiting with a counselor who can help you understand what happened in your first marriage and why it was difficult for you to be there for your ex-husband. Explore your reasons for wanting to date a man as old as your father.

There are challenges with every relationship. The consistent feature of all healthy relationships is that both partners are willing to put their partner’s needs above their own. When both partners make this their priority, the marriage will thrive. A marriage with this type of unselfish devotion doesn’t feel lonely or confusing.

 

Geoff will answer a new family and relationship question every Friday. You can email your question to him at geoff@lovingmarriage.com

About the Author

Geoff Steurer is a licensed marriage and family therapist in St. George, UT. He is the owner of Alliant Counseling and Education (www.alliantcounseling.com) and the founding director of LifeStar of St. George, an outpatient treatment program for couples and individuals impacted by pornography and sexual addiction (www.lifestarstgeorge.com). He is the co-author of “Love You, Hate the Porn: Healing a Relationship Damaged by Virtual Infidelity”, available at Deseret Book, and the audio series “Strengthening Recovery Through Strengthening Marriage”, available at www.marriage-recovery.com. He also writes a weekly relationship column for the St. George News (www.stgnews.com). He holds a bachelors degree from BYU in communications studies and a master’s degree in marriage and family therapy from Auburn University. He served a full-time mission to the Dominican Republic. He is married to Jody Young Steurer and they are the parents of four children.

You can connect with him at:
Website: www.lovingmarriage.com
Twitter: @geoffsteurer
Facebook: www.facebook.com/GeoffSteurerMFT

[i] https://www.lds.org/general-conference/2004/10/the-women-in-our-lives?lang=eng