My brother’s new girlfriend is changing him, and he doesn’t see it. He’s now a vegetarian, and he doesn’t drink coffee or consume sugar anymore. It has changed all of our family rituals, like Sunday barbecues. Even my weekly coffee date with him now feels different, because he drinks tea. I realize how petty this sounds, but it really bothers me. He even dresses differently. He says he’s happier than ever, but if it was really true love, wouldn’t they accept each other as they are and not try to change each other?
Love accepts us as we are and changes us for the better. I think it’s wonderful that your brother is open to a fresh experience of life. But that’s not your real concern, honey. Ask yourself, “Why does my brother’s transformation scare me?”
What feels like a ritual to you probably felt like a rut to him. What someone eats, drinks or wears should be of less importance than character and values. Are his improving? I’ll bet they are, and that is what troubles you. You like your calcified corner of the universe and reject the idea that other paths may offer equal (or more) joy. Why not step beyond your safety zone for a day or a week and uncover another way of being in the world? If nothing else, it will give your brother and his girlfriend something to giggle about. Yeah, you might crack a smile, too.
I separated from my wife after she cheated on me. Our divorce is underway. Since I moved out two months ago, I met an amazing woman and can imagine spending the rest of my life with her. I know this sounds sudden, but really we click in ways I never dreamed possible and never had with my wife. The problem is that I find myself holding back in this new relationship. I struggle with feeling inadequate and obsess about my wife’s affair. (It was with a family friend.) Do you have any suggestions for how I can get through this and enjoy the opportunity I have for real happiness with my true love?
Divest your brain of the notion that your new romantic interest is a ticket to paradise. Maybe she is, maybe not. Casting her in the role of savior dumps a payload of expectation on her and on the relationship. Do you understand what that means? You have sentenced yourself to endless feelings of inadequacy. After all, it’s impossible to feel equal to someone whose job is to save you from yourself.
An extramarital affair is a deeply painful betrayal. Your mind darts through memories, seeking the moment your spouse’s heart slipped away. You wonder how you missed that moment and whether bad luck is a permanent construct of your personality. All of these fears are normal, but not useful.
Ultimately, you must discover what attitudes and behaviors you (not your soon-to-be-ex-wife) engaged in that created distance. Focus on experiencing this as homework, a way to delve deeper into becoming a more honest version of you. Once completed, holding back is unnecessary. Resistance simply means you have not accomplished the internal work required to be emotionally available. As the delightful Muslim poet Rumi once wrote, “Your task is not to seek for love but merely to seek and find all the barriers within yourself that you have built against it.” Jumping into another committed relationship while your emotional wounds are still oozing is not what the poet had in mind. You need a guide through the thicket of your pain and into another reality. A skilled psychotherapist, a men’s group or a 12-step program can help.