Ask Larry

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Ask Larry is an advice column for questions about relationships. All responses, though professionally based, are intended as opinions, and are not a substitute for working with a therapist professionally. I offer therapy by phone or Skype if location poses a problem, or can give suggestions for finding a therapist closer to you.

  • From lunga on Men’s Challenges with Separation and Divorce

    i am currently dating a divorcy and it is tough, one minute his happy the next his no. speaks about how he may die any day some day he speaks about how he wants to live long. it kills me

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    • From Larry O'Connor, MFT on Men’s Challenges with Separation and Divorce

      Lunga,

      It doesn’t sound like he is ready to be in a new relationship, and is bringing much of his grief and conflict to your relationship. I think when men initially are going through divorce, they are used to having a primary support person–or at least a primary relationship, and often have a tendency to transfer it onto the next person if they don’t have some time to learn to rely somewhat on themselves. He may need to be talking with someone, either a friend, another person going through a divorce, or a therapist. Talking about wanting to die is serious, and putting pressure on you aside, it shows he may be unstable, and at risk. Part of being in a relationship is taking care of ourselves, so that we don’t push or expect our partners to do it for us and neglect their needs.

      Larry

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  • From julia smith on Men’s Challenges with Separation and Divorce

    My lover has asked his wife for a divorce. (Not because of me, but because he has been unhappy for years: she has a narcistic type personality) It is there silver wedding anniversary next month . Obviously, he has put “us” on hold while he sorts himself and his future out. Ive told him I support him with everything, and am here for him . Im leaving him alone . hes trying to be normal at work etc etc. What else can I do to help him?
    Of course I want him to come to me after, but he will need to do whatever is best for him, which I will respect.

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    • From Larry O'Connor, MFT on Men’s Challenges with Separation and Divorce

      Julia,

      I appreciate your comments. It sounds like he needs to be talking to someone–not necessarily a therapist, but someone other than you, himself, or obviously his wife. Because you said he’s trying to be normal at work, I’m assuming all of this is on the hush-hush. This can make the relationship, support, challenges, etc., kinda insular so that you wind up holding more than is fair, or possibly good for the relationship. He may end up depending on you and coming to you to manage his feelings about his ex-wife, but later, when or if you’re together, the ex will never leave your relationship. You’re right in leaving him alone, but consider too what you need from him in the meantime.

      Larry

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    • From A on Men’s Challenges with Separation and Divorce

      Hi Larry,

      I have a complex situation as I am newly widowed a year ago and at the same time been friends with, and developed an emotional relationship with a man who filed for divorce. We ended up establishing a close friendship, texting daily, and me giving myself this permission for supporting one another knowing he was divorcing. He has since put the divorce on hold due to what he says are financial reasons, for his wife needed to get edtablished with a new full time job. I think it’s more and that’s he is afraid. When I learned the divorce was on hold I told him that put me in a difficult potentially damaging situation and if there was any chance of reconciliation he would need space. I have not seen him much however we do still text from time to time but not like before. For some reason I have a hard time removing myself bc of the relationship we have established and the attraction that is absolutely there. Am I nuts for hanging on?

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    • From Larry O'Connor, MFT on Men’s Challenges with Separation and Divorce

      Julia,

      Are you nuts? No. But what I often tell clients: Getting involved with drugs you risk addiction, getting involved with people you risk attachment. Being a recent widow, I imagine might be similar to a cessation of a very significant and established attachment. And if attachment is analogous to addiction, while ceasing it, you might still be very much prone to taking it back up, and thus could be susceptible. This is also possible for a person in a strained relationship, or one that is potentially going to end, and why some people go from one relationship to another. Recently I’ve noticed a phenomenon in my practice in which individuals develop very intimate relationships very fast through texting. It makes sense, given the “intimacy” of the private dialogue, that it isn’t necessarily hampered (or filtered) by actual responses, has little boundaries with regards to time and from where one can send them, and that we carry our devices around with us every where and at all times. I think I understand what you mean when you say, “giving myself this permission for supporting one another knowing he was divorcing.” Permission is pursuing a relationship so soon after being widowed, and potentially too soon given he’s in the process of divorcing. But you may be working from an ideal, value, or consideration, while he is perhaps still working from another person he is still involved with in a complicated way. It sounds like you are perhaps balancing things from your own integrity, while he may be as well, he is also balancing it with another, participating person. You can only know what you know about yourself, and within your interactions with him, but possibly not with him and his ex-to-be, and that can be confusing, frustrating and misleading–not to mention a strain on trust. In other words…crazy-making, of leaving you feeling nuts. I guess be up front (if even in a text), tell him how you are seeing and experiencing things. Divorce is a very confusing and difficult process, so, if you can, offer him some room, as you’re doing, but also allow him to be open and honest about what he is going through. Even if it’s hard to hear, it is another means towards intimacy, but also gives you more insight into who he is–especially if you are considering a relationship with him.

      Larry

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  • From Sherry on Men’s Challenges with Separation and Divorce

    Hello, My lover of 1.5 years separated 4 months prior to meeting me and then just divorced in Nov 14. We had a great relationship and I was giving him space that he needed to deal with everything. However, the other week he had an argument with his children and things changed drastically. He walked in and said he just couldn’t do this any more. That he was hiding out with me and he needed to deal with all his problems. Thought couples dealt with things together. I was always supportive… Now I am confused. Help!

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    • From Larry O'Connor, MFT on Men’s Challenges with Separation and Divorce

      Sherry,

      Obviously not knowing your lover, or the circumstances, it sounds like he didn’t think through all the possibilities before separating–such as how his children would react, and how could respond to them. You did the right thing by giving him space, and are also right about couples dealing with things together–when it applies to the couple. Now, while this could sound loaded, it isn’t meant to be. Your lover may consider the relationship he has with you separate from the one he has with his “family,” especially his kids. I think one of the greatest difficulties with having a relationship with a person who has previously been married, and has children, is that it brings with it a terrible realization: having always coming second to kids, in addition to their potentially always having an obligation to their ex. I don’t know whether you’ve been married previously, and may be making an assumption. I guess I’d be curious to understand what was discussed with his kids, what changed for him as a result, what is it he can’t do any more, and to be open to the possibility that he may’ve been hiding out with you. This may have nothing to do with the meaning, or viability of your relationship, but how he went about it–or came to realize he was. It would be difficult for someone to be married any amount of time, especially with kids, to cleanly shed all of this and start a new relationship. Not without recognizing the process of getting over the previous marriage or relationship. Perhaps he was trying to ignore, or push beyond this, afraid that by sharing it, he would cause tension, or questions with you, and kept it to himself.I’ve seen in cases where there has been affair and one person is pushed to leave their marriage before they are ready, they tend to hide their reaction to leaving the previous marriage, thinking it will muddy the waters of the present relationship, or expose the potential resentment they feel. So they keep these feelings–and the process, fall out, regrets, consequences to themselves and inevitably create a distance. It doesn’t sound like this was the case, although it doesn’t necessarily negate the story he was running in his own my mind about it.
      Again, I’d suggest asking for clarification and understanding–if you’re in communication, and just sitting with, or making sense of it. I have no doubt you were supportive, but I wouldn’t suggest leading with this, or even necessarily bringing it unless he expresses he didn’t feel it was there. I think that if he can see you trying to understand it, he’ll recognize the support you give, but also that it’s a safe place to bring concerns to–so that as a couple you can in the future deal with things together.

      Sincerely,

      Larry

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  • From STJP on Men’s Challenges with Separation and Divorce

    I’m going through a separation presently. My husband is a chronic adulterer for the past 20 years of our marriage, I’ve had enough and recently ask him to move out. He is starting a new life with his lover (they’ve known each other for 8 months), setting up new home in a new country. He is in his late 60s. Despite what I’ve been through, I do not feel any hate and anger towards him. I’m too busy coping with my own pain, hurt, grief and loss and gaining back my own emotional strength.
    With a lover by his side, and a new life ahead of him, is he experiencing any loss, pain, guilt, regrets? At his age and with his new circumstances, will he settle in as easily as he proclaims or will he struggle?

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    • From Larry O'Connor, MFT on Men’s Challenges with Separation and Divorce

      Pam,

      It’s difficult to say–I mean, having been an adulterer, he potentially has the abilities to compartmentalize and rationalize. It sounds too like he may use relationships as a means of salvation, renewed life, a high or sorts, and could, as the expression goes, be “chasing the dragon.” Given his track record, I would wonder if this new relationship will fizzle out, or he will continue in the same manner and this relationship will destruct. You must’ve given him a lot of understanding, compassion and forgiveness, and certainly if this was an issue for 20 years of marriage, the opportunity came up for him to address what he must’ve felt he wasn’t getting–and if so, and you couldn’t provide this, for whatever reason, he could’ve chosen to end the relationship then, instead of prolonging your pain. I’d admire your not feeling hate or anger towards him, but more so your active coping with it–despite it not being entirely your choice, and asking him to move out for your own good. That takes and says a lot. You also didn’t say he was invited by his new lover to move it, and circumstances may’ve foisted this onto both of them. This heightens things, and as a result more easily brings things into question–she may be more aware for any signs of cheating. I don’t know if you feel there’s a ratio between how much he struggles, to how “real” or meaningful your marriage was, changes are, even if he were to express struggle, pain or regret, it may be difficult to genuinely believe him, or trust his motives. If there are no children, there’s less potential for any good coming of wondering, or perhaps giving his reaction any sway. Focus on gaining back your own emotional strength and perhaps revisit it then.

      Sincerely,

      Larry

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  • From Cheyenne on Men’s Challenges with Separation and Divorce

    I have been married for 7 months, i was 5 months pregnant, i love my husband so much, but he treated me so badly we fought because i have found numerous other emails, and texts on his phone from other women, i became so tired of of his womanizing behavior, worrying all the time, and i was always scared when i am not with him . one night he came back drunk, he also came with the another lady, when i i tried to confront him, he immediately started hitting me and he pushed me out the house and ask me to leave, i was lost and confused, i was stranded that i have to find a help from anywhere then i came across a spell caster Great zula who lives in (UNITED STATE) who had saved many marriage so as i emailed ZULA and he told me what is needed and after 3 days, he restored my marriage, i and my husband came back together as a married couple again, i am so so so so happy, my marriage was saved by

    Cheyenne Louise.

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    • From Larry O'Connor, MFT on Men’s Challenges with Separation and Divorce

      Cheyenne,

      I noticed you said “was pregnant.” Does that mean you’ve had the child? If so, it’s natural survival instinct to want the father in the picture, or sometimes men react in odd, out of the ordinary ways, when their wife is pregnant for many reasons. Fear, anxiety, their own birth or childhood, or even just to be going through something, while their wives go through pregnancy. However, these are some significantly destructive behaviors for both a relationship and the raising of a child. I don’t mean to cast doubt on the Great Zula necessarily, but if these behaviors return any degree, perhaps ask yourself what you see in your husband, or understand about him, that can allow you to see beyond them. If they haven’t, I genuinely hope The Great Zula is actively helping other couples, because his results are amazing.

      Sincerely,

      Larry

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  • From carol on Men’s Challenges with Separation and Divorce

    I dated this guy whilst he was going through a turbulent marriage. He moved to another state,for work purposes, but we still maintain a quasi relationship-sexual and otherwise . He is going through his divorce now and I don’t know how to act or expect from the relationship. I want a committed relationship ; should I remain hushed with great expectations?

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    • From Larry O'Connor, MFT on Men’s Challenges with Separation and Divorce

      Carol,

      Men can be hard to read–obviously, and suggest you read my other article, “Is He Just Complacent? Distinguishing Commitment From Complacency with Men.” While it doesn’t speak to your comment exactly, it does touch upon the difficulty women have in reading what men want after divorce.
      Given this guy’s having had a turbulent marriage he may be gun shy, or trying to assure himself he can be wanted, or desired, without it requiring a commitment. It also sounds like there may’ve been an affair going on at the same time. No judgement here, but affairs add another, different, dynamic on top of things. They can sometimes be “transitory” relationships, or “Catalysts,” to get out of a marriage. And they set a precedent–the future is just around the corner. In the past, the affair probably posed lots of real obstacles, but presumably those are no longer there, and you might be feeling, What gives??? Not knowing the previous expectations of the relationship, or whether you had talked of a future, it seems like that is something you want, and may’ve been why you invested in the relationship prior to his separation and the current divorce. Or maybe you were under the belief that was a given, I don’t know. But I suggest putting what you want out there as a start. Make sure it’s a known, and see if he was under the same impression, or is willing to consider this going forward. I can appreciate remaining hushed and the great expectations, but these can have a tendency of leaking out, or always, at least below the service, being present. Worst yet, for you, going down the road before discovering he doesn’t want the same thing. It could be disappointing, so say the least, but without it having been out on the table, you might find yourself with little recourse, but lots of resentment. As long as you demonstrate being ok with this hushed state, then he will either assume your ok with it, or rely on it and continue.

      Sincerely,

      Larry

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    1. Larry O'Connor, MFT Post author

      Hi Kevin,

      If I understand your comment, yes, find what help is available–whether legal, friends, family or a therapist you feel comfortable with. Try not to react to the circumstances. When a separation first occurs, this is usually the period when people have the most potential to reconciling…if either of their reactions don’t push the other over the edge and into the long, painful drop of divorce. However, if it is for the best, not knowing any of the circumstances, reacting now may have effects on the negotiations that may linger beyond the time that what one is reacting to still matters.

      Larry

  1. Andrew

    Hi
    My wife wants to seperate and buy me out if my share of the family home. We have 2 young daughters. We separated 5 years ago but reconciled after 8 months of me working through issues but she went off the rails doing drugs and dating men before returning to being the controlled capable woman she is. This time there have been issues where I became addicted to internet porn that made me neglect her and the kids. It took me over without me even realising the damage I was doing. I have now admitted the problem and am awaiting my first therapy session and have cut all porn and temptations out of my life. My relationship with the kids has improved and my wife can see that and is happy but she says I cannot heal whilst living at home and almost wants me to feel like I have lost everything to truly change. She says that our marriage is not on her radar but her heart may soften over time. On the negative side it all feels so final. She speaks of our marriage in the past tense and I am scared and lonely even before leaving the house. This all happened a week ago and she has calmed from her initial anger but is now very controlled but civil with me. She refuses to consider counselling and is hell bent on sorting out the mortgage and getting me moved out. She has even made viewing appointments for me to look at apartments! This is all moving so fast and she has shown no emotion since her intial outbursts which were mainly about wanting me to leave. I refused to go so she gave me the options to either divorce or separate. I took separation as it was the best option for our family hopefully surviving this. What advice can you give me Larry? I desperatly want her back and to live with my kids as a family. Should I go along with her plans?

    Reply
    1. Larry O'Connor, MFT Post author

      Andrew,

      It sounds like you both have had your share of “acting out.” But unless you gave her a hard time about drugs and dating, when she returned after reconciling, it’s a little hard to justify asking you to leave. I realize internet porn addiction can be insidious, but having admitted you have a problem, removing temptation, and seeking help is covering all of the immediate bases. Perhaps it’s a reaction due to her feelings about porn, or what it meant to her that you were viewing it, or to such a degree. Or I wonder if she understands how you see it, becoming such a negative thing without your realizing it. But then she won’t go to counseling to try and understand it, or to understand you–especially when you need her most to, as you “recover” from it. I guess, if you don’t agree with her plans, don’t go along with her plans–it’s not a small choice, like picking a movie. But take some time and develop why it is you don’t agree and let her know this. Perhaps, she can leave, if she needs “separation.”
      I’d also suggest getting some legal advice to know where you stand on the house, and if separation has any consequences or bearing on this.

      Larry

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All responses, though professionally based, are intended as opinions, and are not a substitute for working with a therapist professionally.