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Dating Advice #77 - Excess 'Ex' Baggage
Dating Advice 77

Dating Advice #77 - Excess 'Ex' Baggage

He says he loves her, but he still seems emotionally tied to his ex-wife. Is it worth sticking around?


Dear Rosie & Sherry,

Last year I started dating a man (a long time friend of mine) who is divorced, and I am having a tough time coping with all the emotional things he is going through.

He swears that he doesn't want to be involved with his ex any longer. But he talks with her constantly and sends her e-mail (and her to him) almost every day. They don't have children, but have recently started some sort of strange "joint custody" thing with their dogs. He gets them on weekends, and she has them during the week. It's starting to disturb me. I was recently at his new house, but I had to leave because she was "coming over to see the place." I spent that whole day crying. When I try to talk to him about the way I feel, he just says, "You're just being jealous, etc." and other hurtful things.

We've gone through a lot, including his decision to stop dating me, just to turn around and change his mind. He has introduced me to his parents, and wants to spend time with mine. It all seems so confusing. He says he is in love with me. But the past is taking over. I don't know what to do.

He started taking anti-depressants, but he doesn't take them regularly and often stops, which sends him into wild mood swings. He has a lot of wonderful qualities. And he is a long-time friend. So I'm not sure if I should leave, or wait until he feels more confident about himself again.

Any advice would be very much appreciated.


Dear Patricia,

You're absolutely correct that this guy hasn't yet adapted to his new situation. In fact, most people need a fair amount of time to deal with the conflicting emotions they experience when their marriage ends. Besides coming to terms with what has happened, they both need to adjust to the many changes in their life and their relationships with others.

Even if they admit that the divorce was their best option, they still must go through the process of mourning (denial, anger, bargaining, depression and acceptance) which can take several months or even a few years. This can be facilitated by supportive friends and/or a therapist, but it can't be rushed.

In an ideal world, newly divorced people would not date until they’ve been able to move through the stages of grief and settle into a new life. Instead, many people, like this man, are so eager to replace what they've lost that they start dating far too soon. Sometimes, an emotionally vulnerable person rebounds into an unhealthy dating situation because they are too hurt or confused to make choices that are best for them. Other people begin to build a new, potentially healthy and enduring path toward marriage, but encounter difficulties because they haven't minimized the baggage from the past. Those difficulties can overpower and sometimes destroy something that had a lot of promise.

We think this man needs more time to adjust to his divorce and to let go of some of the things that still tie him to his former wife. He should be regularly taking the medication that has been prescribed to help with his depression, and he would certainly benefit from the help of a therapist to ease him through this difficult transition in his life.

It would be better for you both to cool down your courtship while he heals. You have a few options in this regard, each with its own set of consequences, so the choice will be yours:

1. You can stop dating and see how each of you feels about each other in several months. By then, one or both of you may not be interested in renewing the courtship, or you may both be willing to try to build what you have into something enduring.

2. You can stop dating, but still be "friends." However, this usually does not work, because it only confuses him further, and it keeps you emotionally tied so that you cannot move forward in your own life.

3. You can continue to see each other on the condition that he regularly takes his medication and goes to therapy. He will certainly appreciate your emotional support and understanding during this difficult time he is going through. As you have wisely been doing, continue to stay out of any ongoing disputes with his former wife. That is something he has to handle on his own. There is no guarantee that this courtship will last if you try this approach, but without his commitment to therapy and medication, we don't think it will succeed.

We hope that whatever path you choose, the two of you get this sorted out and find what you are looking for.

Rosie & Sherry

January 19, 2003

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Visitor Comments: 4

(4) Tikvah Konisky, June 26, 2002 12:00 AM


I saved myself for my "soulmate." I waited unil I was 44 years old before I got married. I met him 6 months after he had seperated from his 6 children, and wife of 11 years. We fell deeply in love, and moved in together 1 month after his divorce. We lived, loved and began building a dream life. We became so close and our love grew so deeply, that we got married. During our marriage, he had to communicate each week with his 6 children and ex-wife. I was patient, loving and supporting. After 2 1/2 years of blissful love and commitment, he suddenly deserts me, and refuses to tell me why. I AM ABSOLUTELY BROKEN HEARTED AND DEVASTATED!!!!! 7 weeks later, I find out that he is trying to get back together with his ex-wife. She despises him, and refuses him (we speak together) So now my husband is gone, rejected by the ex, and I'm left all alone, broken hearted and confused. The irony is, that at my age and maturity level, I should have known better than to move so quickly, but I followed my heart, and now am a broken woman. May G-D heal me quickly!!!

(3) Anonymous, September 7, 2001 12:00 AM

go on with your life

Dear Patricia,
If you are reading this, my advice is go on with your life. I have been in a very tough break up for the past 2 years. We still have a lot of locked up feelings (anger, hurt, etc..)
I don't know if I will ever completely recover, but I know life goes on and we can not wait forever for people to change!

(2) Susan, August 27, 2001 12:00 AM

Patricia says repeatedly that this man is a long-time friend. It sounds as if what he needs right now is friendship, not romance. Romances which grew from friendship are the best kind, anyway.

(1) Anonymous, August 26, 2001 12:00 AM

I know the feeling

I to was in a similar situation like this for 18 months, to the point that he had even ask me to marry him. We had been doing a long distant relationship the whole time, but saw each other at least every 4 weeks. We lived 2500 miles apart. For him the anger at his ex wife kept getting worse as the time passed from his divorce. At the time things should have been great for he and I, moving on with our lives. I could not take the anger and hurt that he had, I could not compete with the anger he has for her. I love the man dearly and know that he is truly the man that I want to spend the rest of my life with. But I am not willing to settle to be second best for anyone. I hope that someday that he can get over and start to move on with his life. I wish it could have been with me. Even his 3 children liked us being together and approved of us getting married. He wanted to remain friends after we broke up, but it was not an option due to the intimacy that we had shared together. I could not go back to just being a friend. That was 8 months ago, we still talk on occasion, but the anger is still there for him. I am moving on with my life and have started dating people. I have told him that when he gets his emotions in order to give me a call and see where I am at in my life and if we can get back what we had. But I told him I am not willing to sit and wait for his emotional rollercoaster to end. LIfe is to short to be unhappy and miserable. Today is a the moment, Tomorrow is a gift...never forget that anything worth having is worth working for. WIth that....I can say ILY....REK and I wish you the best if you ever stumble across this.
But the best advice I can give you is to try and move on with your life and if it is meant for the two of you to be together then in time you will work your way back together. Other wise there is someone out there who will treat you like you want and deserve to be treat!

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