I had a childhood sweetheart who I have loved for 30 years. After several marriages between us both, we have united again. It is the best thing that has happened to either of us. But I am scared of losing him again. His ex-wife is a control freak and uses their kids as bait, and even though she gets a good-size child-support payment, it never seems to be enough. My man wants to start our future together when his divorce is final. Why do I doubt myself about this? When we need space, all we do is say, “Time.” We wait a few hours, then talk. But lately, his ex has been getting him so uptight with her petty ways that we seem to need “time” a lot. Next to my kids, this man is my life, but our situation is getting out of hand. Any advice?
Even the best relationships hit occasional turbulence. And while a nose dive is unsettling, teamwork by the pilot and co-pilot (that’s you and your sweetie) can easily right the plane again. Even if one partner is distracted, it’s still possible for the other to take the controls and manage the flight alone for a while. From a spiritual perspective, the way we face relational challenges, like interference from an ex-wife, reveals our personal strengths and weaknesses, as well as those in the relationship. If we are willing to learn how to transcend our expectations of the way we think the relationship should be, we learn who we are and where we need to grow.
With a 30-year history, it’s understandable that you are afraid of losing your man and the life you now share with him. But your fear also exposes your own emotional issues. Right now, you want your man to be different than he is. Admit to yourself that despite your love and effort, you cannot change the way he feels. So stop trying. Let him have his uptight response to interactions with his ex-wife. Practice accepting him as he is, without judging him or his ex-wife. Embrace the possibility that his attitude is not a sign that he lacks love for you. Just love him as he is right now. Unconditional love is probably one of the most difficult spiritual exercises that you can attempt, but it will build extraordinary understanding and compassion in you. When we see someone’s fears and choose to love them anyway, we create a safe container for that person to transition into a different feeling. But if we resist reality, chances are the situation we are avoiding will persist. By focusing on your ability to give and receive love, you will have little time to worry about where the relationship is going. Instead, you will be immersed in creating love where you are.
Why do women change after they get married? It’s as if they hook a man, then become someone else entirely. I feel like my wife has about six different personalities, and none of them are the person I married.
Many people present a perfect version of themselves while dating and another persona after they are ensconced in a committed relationship. This behavior is not intentionally manipulative. As a romantic partnership becomes more emotionally intimate, the “sickness” in each person’s personality—from neediness to control—surfaces for healing. So rest easy, your wife is still your soul mate. But within the security of marriage, she has started to reveal her neurotic ego (we all have one) because she trusts that you love her under any circumstances, even “in [emotional] sickness.” (Remember, those marriage vows encompass all illness; physical, emotional, mental and spiritual.) Now your job is to love your wife despite her imperfections, while compassionately acknowledging your own shortcomings and doing the work necessary to heal.