Ask Ellie: Lifestyle changes reinforce need to communicate

Advice columnist EllieDear Ellie: We’re both 55. We started dating when she left her 28-year marriage to a narcissist and was very insecure. She lives with her adult sons in a house she bought after her divorce. I live in a condo where my young-adult son lives part-time.

After a year’s dating, she said that she’d like to marry again. I suggested we live together in a city condo close to my work. She doesn’t work but preferred a suburban house.

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I spoke against the expense/maintenance of a house, leaving us more time to travel. She came around to the idea.

By the fifth year of our relationship, we loved each other very much and got along great.

We had one episode where I broke up with her over something on a text. She went nuts and said I must never do that again; we must talk about things. I apologized.

One day she asked me what people would call her if she wasn’t my wife. I responded, “partner or better half or your name.” She said nothing.

One night, she texted that she wants to get married or its goodbye. I never asked when she wanted to marry and assumed it was after the boys move out.

But I was furious inside and said she needed to go find happiness. We broke up.

A year later, she’s dating an ex-fiancé of 35 years ago and is very happy.

Did I make a mistake by not talking face-to-face instead of letting her go? Or was I right because she gave me a marriage ultimatum when she knew I was all for living together?

Getting married was more important to her than me.

Was she so insecure from her past that she needs the security of marriage again?

Why didn’t her past engagement with this guy work or was it because of their religious differences and her family disapproved?

Devastated

Sometimes in a relationship, it’s the seeming small differences that quietly add up to a visible divide.

She had left a narcissist, was insecure, wanted the stability of a house, and especially of marriage. You were certain and pragmatic about your wants - a city condo, travel, living together as loving “partners.”

Yes, an ultimatum is pressure that can be hard to take. But it makes clear what the stakes are. She likely finds the new/old relationship has brought her full circle to the man who wanted to marry her.

Yes, you should’ve discussed her “ultimatum” in person. But you still might’ve lost her.

A year has passed, time for you to move on. In your next relationship, recognize that major life decisions in mid-age have to be a compromise since both people come from years of personal experiences and learned needs in order to feel secure again.

Dear Ellie: I’m a widow and never had children. My best friend who was also childless passed away. Now I haven’t got that connection anymore.

I have another years-long friend with lots in common but she now has a grandchild who she always wants to talk about as though nobody else has a grandchild as smart as hers.

I cannot relate to that. How do I handle this situation without losing our friendship?

Lonely Widow

Consider your common interests. If reading is one, start a book “club” of the two of you, or join one (online clubs are available). Similarly, watch theatre productions and orchestras virtually (until they’re safely open) and discuss later.

FEEDBACK

Regarding the divorced woman who bought a condo with her new love. He then secretly rented another condo for his daughter and he to live together, expecting his partner to move with them and rent out the co-owned property (June 29):

Reader – “Besides seeking therapy for herself, she also needs to see a divorce lawyer regarding the status of their relationship, and a real estate lawyer regarding their condo.

“She needs to understand her options. The condo is probably deemed to be the “matrimonial home,” of their relationship. She’ll be unable to sell without his consent.

“But since he’s moved out it may be possible for her to show that there never was an enduring cohabiting relationship. Meanwhile, he’s revealing that he’s not dealing with this woman in good faith. Courts don’t like that.

“She should also consider changing the locks immediately. This will show him that she seriously distrusts him.”

Ellie’s Tip of the Day

Relationships after the experience of divorce and lifestyle changes, need frequent/open communication about what matters to each person.

Send relationship questions to ellie@thestar.ca.

Follow @ellieadvice.

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