Ask Ellie: Watch for red flags before jumping into relationship

Advice columnist EllieDear Ellie: When I was a teenager my mother called me “a magnet for bad boys.”

But I saw the sweetness in some of my high-school boyfriends. They sometimes acted like big shots, but alone with me, whom they trusted, I learned their other side.

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However, it’s true that even these guys could suddenly drop me abruptly, when they wanted to impress the “hot” girls.

Now at 31, I’m worrying that my mother was right all along.

I broke my engagement to a man who swore he’d love me forever because I’ve learned that he said the same thing to my married cousin. They’ve been having a secret affair.

My mother says I missed obvious signs that others noticed at a family wedding where those two met last fall. Mom was immediately suspicious, while I was naïve. I get it now and feel like a fool. My cousin’s husband has even filed for divorce.

I’m worried about whether I’ll ever find an authentic “good guy.” How do I remain a positive person who wants to see the best in people, without missing the obvious signs and ending up getting hurt?

Bad-Guy Magnet

Drop the label. Tell your mother to do the same. Your positivity is still a healthy part of who you are. Now, with your life experience having shown you many sides of people’s personalities and characters, you need to build your own checklist of warning signs so that you spot them early on.

This doesn’t mean becoming doubting and suspicious. There are more good guys out there than cheaters and disappointers.

Get out with friends and feel your upbeat self again. Don’t start dating anyone seriously until you have confidence in your ability to see the many aspects of a recently-met man.

Learn how his past relationships ended, and what he wants and expects from a new relationship with you.

Then, weigh those responses, move forward confidently and with eyes wide open.

Dear Ellie: I was abused in my early teens, an experience that I believe formed my sexual orientation as a gay man.

Since I’m Roman Catholic, I had to hide this, and got married. That ended because my ex cheated on me.

I wanted to live alone and be true to myself, but ended up in a second marriage. My current wife understands me much more than I thought possible, though we’re aware we don’t truly love each other. I’m pretty happy with our sex life and she’s happy, too. I now think I’m bisexual.

But sometimes I watch gay porn, which make me want to try to have sex with men. Is this normal?

Torn Between Thoughts/Feelings

Since you’ve lived as a gay man and now enjoy sex with your wife, it’s clear that you are bisexual. Your arousal from gay porn is unsurprising and normal, especially within that duality.

But your own self-acceptance is uncertain. You don’t mention having had therapy at any time regarding your traumatic abuse as a young teen. That absence of support and understanding when you were also dealing with feelings of guilt based on religious beliefs, hasn’t let you feel secure in who you are today.

Talk to your wife. She may react negatively to you also having sex with men. Or not. If you reach a crossroads on this, consider getting online or in-person counselling from someone who specializes with LGBTQ clients, lifestyles and choices.

Dear Ellie: My grandson dislikes my second husband. My ex-husband was his own private Santa and bought whatever the boy desired in a toy store.

But after our divorce, my ex married another woman and moved away. Grandpa’s visits stopped.

My current husband’s a loving person who tries to develop a relationship with “our” grandson, age eight, but the boy walks away, doesn’t answer, etc. What should I do?

Rejection

Your over-indulgent ex is gone, and the boy feels abandoned by him. Ask his parents what he’s said about it, and if any other behaviour has changed. Call your husband by a different name from “Grandpa.” Then all of you carry on with natural warmth to the child and build his trust in your husband’s presence over time.

Ellie’s tip of the day

You can stay positive if you consider your combined life experiences as helpful clues in assessing the true character of others.

Send relationship questions to ellie@thestar.ca. Follow @ellieadvice.

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