DEAR CAROLYN: My wife and I are newlyweds in our 60s. This is my second marriage.
My first wife died after 20-plus years together. I had dated a few other women while in school and before meeting my new wife.
On the other hand, this is my wife’s third marriage in addition to a few relationships during the 15 years she was single.
I fear her eventually growing tired of me and leaving me. I feel like I’m always being compared to the other men in her past. What do I do to get past this?
DEAR INSECURE: You’re looking to your romantic histories for a blueprint to your future, but please remember for a moment – as if you can forget – that you were a relatively young widower. As in, your life took you somewhere not foretold, presumably, by the number of people either of you had married or dated before.
“Number of past romances” is but one data point of an unknowable number of them that will affect your course. Is it possible your new wife will leave you? Yes, of course it’s possible – it would be even if she had your same history down to the last detail. It’s possible you'll leave her. It’s possible you'll get tired of her and not leave her, which to me is worse. It’s possible your marriage will endure, too, but not as you’re experiencing it now; it could take an emotional turn for the better, the worse, the different or the weird.
Histories are useful when deciding whether to commit – but that window has closed. You obviously already chose marriage, so apparently you made the calculation that you wanted her with you more than you feared her leaving you. Nothing wrong with that. Nothing wrong with trusting that.
Ultimately, though, the most important influence on the quality of your future is you. Can you remain true to yourself through whatever life drops in your path? Can you handle whatever comes, good or bad? Can you enjoy yourself in the moment, whatever the moment, even with the knowledge that nothing is certain to last? Are you happy now? These are much better guides than who did what, when, or with whom – and, not coincidentally, they’re the part that you can control.
DEAR CAROLYN: My husband and I are invited to a wedding that’s a cross-country plane ride. He doesn’t want to go because the whole experience will be a pain in the butt for people he doesn’t know.
Here’s the thing: I don’t ask for much in my marriage. We spend Christmas apart because he doesn’t enjoy my family, and I deal with the questions alone. I go to dinner parties and work events alone because he doesn’t like the forced socializing. Again I deal with the questions of his absence. I let him pick all the restaurants and vacation spots because it doesn’t matter that much to me. I give on all the minor things I can live with precisely because when something big comes along I feel I’m in a better position to ask for it.
I’m so ticked right now because the last time I asked him to do anything major was wedding-related and that was years ago. I really want to go, and I don’t want to go alone. Going stag to a wedding in your 20s is fine. In your 30s, singles are rare and couples shun you, and I swore I’d never go through that cold-shoulder crap again.
I have a feeling you’re going to tell me I should go alone. Am I right?
I Don’t Ask For Much!!!
DEAR MUCH: No, that’s not what I’m going to tell you. Quite the contrary.
Please don’t make another concession in a line of concessions that apparently stretches the full length of your marriage. (Right? The last time you requested something “major” was for your own wedding?)
Instead, take a moment to reflect on these choices. You spell them out as small investments you’ve made toward a projected payoff where he agrees to give you what you ask, based on your history of asking so little. I understand how you did this math.
But this isn’t a math problem and there is no sum; there are only years and years of your living without what you want because you know you’re not going to get it.
Yes, you can put your foot down on this wedding and say, “I ask you for nothing; I’m asking for this” – and he might even go with you, and he might not even sulk his way through the weekend or complain about not knowing anyone – but then what? Back to denying yourself as a matter of course as soon as you board the plane home?
Please revisit this marital strategy of denying your needs until you reallyreallyreally want them met. His participating isn’t just “for people he doesn’t know,” but also for you.
It might take counseling with a very good therapist. And if he refuses that, yes – do go alone.
Email Carolyn Hax at firstname.lastname@example.org or follow her on Facebook at www.facebook.com/carolyn.hax.