Advice on Intimacy and Relationships
DEAR STACY: I am a divorced woman in my late 40s. I never wanted to be in this situation, but my husband and I just couldn’t make it work. I know that I really want to find a new partner to share my life with but I realize that I am very mistrustful of the men who seem interested in me. I immediately find reasons to cross them off my list, like if they’re not attractive enough, or not good with money, or seem to have trouble in certain social situations. I realize that my standards must be too high, but I just can’t get past some of these issues and it changes my behavior on dates (e.g. I could feel myself closing off when a recent date made a comment about the high price of the food at the restaurant we went to). I just don’t want to settle – I did that for too long with my first husband. – Too-High Standards
DEAR STANDARDS: Ok, let’s start off by both of us considering that this actually is not about your standards. While we certainly could have a fun conversation about unrealistic expectations and how compromise is not necessarily “settling,” I don’t think your standards are what are keeping you from connecting with New Guy.
It’s actually what I suspect is a well-won mistrust of men in general that is keeping you from finding New Guy. The little “issues” that keep getting in your way are great defense mechanisms against allowing yourself to get close to (READ: be hurt by) someone new.
We can’t move on until we make peace with the past. It’s as simple (and cliché) as that. I imagine that you and Ex-Husband had some breach of trust – anything from losing faith in your day-to-day connection to actually losing faith in your fidelity. Regardless of the content, divorce is incredibly painful. We aren’t ready for the new effort required to get into another relationship until we heal those old wounds – we just don’t have the energy for it. One excellent way of avoiding that painful work is to force ourselves to “get back out there” too quickly, but your subconscious is just using that as a smokescreen to prevent you from being hurt further. It’s not a horrible defensive move, but it’s not going to serve you in the way you ultimately want – to help raise your self esteem and put you in a position to be ready to respond to the Right New Guy at the right time.
Stacy Notaras Murphy www.stacymurphyLPC.com is a licensed professional counselor and certified Imago Relationship therapist practicing in Georgetown. This column is meant for entertainment only, and should not be considered a substitute for professional counseling. Send your confidential question to firstname.lastname@example.org.