Skip to content
Join our Newsletter
Join our Newsletter

Ask Ellie: Marital issues are best solved by finding common ground

There may still be different opinions … but with openness, empathy increases, along with the feelings that originally drew you together
web1_ellieheadshot_2013
Advice columnist Ellie Tesher.

Dear Ellie: My husband of three years and I have been arguing so much that I’ve felt angry, frustrated, and anxious for weeks. We met online five years ago. We’d both been married previously, both divorced, both late-40s.

After six months of long-distance contact, we decided to meet. On the first day he arrived from his country, we both felt it was true love, and he applied to live here.

Since then, he got a job, I sold my house, we bought a condo together. He met my adult daughter and son, and his son and wife came to visit.

But once the early excitement and sexual attraction was taken for granted, problems arose.

I made suggestions that he ignored. He’d go for drinks with his co-workers and not say he’d be home late. He said I was “always in his face,” and I said, that since he didn’t tell me where he’d be, I lost trust in him.

I suspected that he no longer loved me. But when I said it, he looked totally surprised and hurt. I started to wonder what I was doing wrong, not just him.

My elderly aunt told me I had to get it right this time or I’d never trust another man and end up lonely.

That’s why I’m needing your advice. How do we get back that love we first felt, and trust each other enough to believe his nights out with “friends” aren’t “dates,” and discussing problems isn’t about blaming each other?

Second-Time Marriage “Issues”

Your aunt is a smart woman. She gave you a warning you couldn’t ignore, helping you realize that your worries/suspicions were worsening the relationship.

You were pulling away from each other, avoiding a conversation because each already felt there was no hope of repair.

But relationships require sharing the air to breathe together while listening to each other’s thoughts. There may still be different opinions … but with openness, empathy increases, along with the feelings that originally drew you together.

By contrast, holding onto anger and worries only worsens the situation. You don’t know the facts, so you assume the worst. Your partner gets defensive, and goes silent, angry at unfair accusations. What a waste of the deeper feelings that brought you together!

The gentler way is ultimately more effective. If you open up to each other, seeking a return to loving feelings, you’re far more likely to have a long future together.

But if you keep suspecting and mistrusting, you’ll either be proven right, or you’ll lose him anyway if you’re wrong.

FEEDBACK regarding the woman Upstaged and Upset by His Child (April 6):

Reader – “Having raised two, and taught hundreds of teenagers, I know how obnoxious/hurtful they can be, so I have some sympathy for Upstaged. But the couple have behaved foolishly, with little regard for this 14-year-old girl.

“I’ve seen too many kids’ lives derailed by such behaviour.

“She moved in within a year of the mother’s leaving, barely having met the daughter. The daughter didn’t choose to have this near-stranger invade her home.

“Upstaged should move out, continuing to date her boyfriend if they both wish, returning only when counselling clarifies everyone’s expectations and the daughter’s willing to accept her.

“If not, then the lovers can live together in a few years when the daughter’s on her own, working or in college.

“You don’t move into the house of a wounded teenager you barely know just because you’re in love with her father. That’s selfish and immature.”

Reader’s Commentary regarding the man who cast his friend and former lover aside (April 5):

“When he broke up with her, she took it very hard, yet he’s on the fence whether it was a regrettable decision that he made.

“This was a person who was 50% of the relationship and clearly feeling 100% of the love.

“You’d think that, since he knows “she took it so hard,” he wouldn’t so confidently think that he can freely change his mind.

“But he could accept what he’s done, on the excuse of sparing her feelings, since her feelings aren’t actually in his thoughts.

“He hurt someone who genuinely loved him. Yet no remorse is expressed.

“He’s selfish and disrespectful. She took it so hard because he repeatedly told her he loved her, never saying that it wasn’t romantic love, thinking he can take back his decision after admitting to hurting her badly.”

Ellie’s tip of the day

Relationship concerns are best aired by seeking common ground, not who’s right or wrong.

Send relationship questions to ellie@thestar.ca.