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Dr. Norman Brown
Dr. Norman Brown, Marriage Therapist
Category: Relationship
Satisfied Customers: 843
Experience:  Family Therapist & teacher 35+ yrs; PhD research in couples
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I am 55 I have been seeing a bloke now for 5 months and its

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I am 55 I have been seeing a bloke now for 5 months and its going ok slowly and steady...we have plans made for holidays for the next year I feel this is going somewhere. He has been separated for 5 years and lives on his own but is not divorced. I needed closure when my marriage came to an end after 30 yrs but he said they never got around to it. She is now in a relationship with someone else. I cannot understand how you can leave something like this is limbo. I am afraid to bring up the subject in case it looks like I am backing him into a corner.....what should I do?
Submitted: 2 years ago.
Category: Relationship
Expert:  psychlady replied 2 years ago.

I can understand your concern. This is a very important factor to leave in limbo. However this is very common in our time where people don't consider themselves married and carry on other relationships - although they are certainly married. I am not saying he is right and I am just explaining. I don't think if you brought this up this is pressuring. It is all about how you bring it up and even your tone. Bring up matter of factly and preface the sentence by saying I am not pressuring you I just want you to know that it bothers me that you are still married on paper. See what his response is first before going further. If he reacts negatively then wait another 6 months and then bring it up again. You are in your right to just ask.

 

If this is helpful press accept

Expert:  Dr. Norman Brown replied 2 years ago.

My concern about your bloke's tardiness is that he could have a semiconscious renewable pact with his former wife, that each might take the other back any time in the foreseeable future if IF both were to change their (surface) minds. Many people like to imagine that their ex could still be a "secure base" to return to, "if all else fails." .

 

Here's one way to test for your own secure base attachments (authored by Brit psychiatrist John Bowlby in 1960-80):

 

1. Who would you be most upset about if you couldn't see him/her anymore now or in the foreseeable future? Whose steady presence is most necessary for your ongoing happiness?__________________

2. Who would you call on or go to if your body or your mind or heart were broken? Who could you confide in who would comfort you and do whatever he/she could to help you rest and mend?____________________

3. In your own mind, what person living or dead would always be there to support you if you had nowhere else to go, even if he/she didn't know how to help, didn't understand you, or was incompetent to help? In your own mind THIS person will always have open arms and heart for you._______________________

 

#1 is a "proximity/protest" attachment, tho we can easily have several of these, if we're good at friendships or frequent family member contacts.

#2 is a "safe haven" attachment figure, who understands you and restores your body and soul if you need that. Often there's no relative that does that, esp if mum has passed. Some people might have no one they would trust to fill that role, so they'll have to heal themselves.

#3 is your "secure base," often mum, even if she's passed on, or the Virgin Mary, or God. But for some people mum wasn't as comfortable as that, so their first husband got unconsciously handed that unconscious role, even if he wasn't very good at it.

Lots of older people,esp women, feel more comfortable giving this ultimate security power to a higher than human Power. This is a normal accommodation among widows who'd rather let their merely human deceased husband be their blessing icon than expose their frailty to yet another bumbling bloke.

 

If YOU can ascertain who your botXXXXX XXXXXne person (#3) is now, you might understand your bloke better. How did your secure base attachment come loose from your ex husband, if indeed it has? Some research with young adults has found that it typically takes about 2 years to transfer a secure base from mom or dad to one's first great love. If that's also true for midlife (big IF) then he might need another year or more to take that divorce-step on his own, unless his ex needs it sooner to consummate her own new love-bond.

 

In the other direction, it's also likely that IF he proceeds to negotiate a legal severance of self and property form her, he'll go numb for a short time (two weeks? or less) and then be eager to tie the knot with you. [Unconsciously cutting his chord could feel like bailing out of a speeding airplane, and it feels safer when someone else seems eager to catch him.] Do you know that you can move that fast? It's OK even if you don't want to move that fast, you both still have emergency brakes that you can grab so that your lovelives don't slide out of control.

 

I hope this helps to deepen your understanding of the process you have catalyzed in him. Since you've been thru it too, you'll be able to consult your own memories and feelings for similarities, tho they won't be the same forces as he's driven by. And perhaps if you brought up how severing the marriage contract felt for you to show him that you've been there, he'd feel like you're definitely the groundcrew that he'd like to have awaiting his airborne exit from the legal plane.

 

Just don't act like it was "no big deal. Anybody with half a spine can do it." Women are supposed to be "more emotional" and therefore "weaker" (not true, but he might believe it). By bringing up what you thought and felt when it happened in your divorce process, you give him the chance to DO IT ahead of being asked or pressured, receive your admiration, and then say "It was no big deal," and strut his "now I'm single" stuff. (I'm sorry if "no big deal" is an Americanism. Please upgrade my British English with your own equivalent phrase.

 

And please, if I'm sounding chauvinist in advising how to motivate your man to "ditch her" and to claim you without exactly 'leading' him to the stream, don't call the political correctness bobbies on me.

 

And thanks for the opportunity to get me thinking on my feet, that is while my fingerfeet are dancing on the computerkeys. For of course I've never been asked precisely this question before, so it was fun to find out what I'd think up. And if you don't like the suggestion I've made, tell me why, and perhaps I can grab down deeper in my soul-doctor bag and fish out something else. You are one of the dozens of reasons why I like this gig, as a reward for 35 years practicing in this field.

 

Norman Brown, PhD LMFT

 

PS I'm not concerned about whether Psychlady or I get your 1 available Accept for this question, but I do like to find out if I'm getting close to where you live inside your mind.

Dr. Norman Brown, Marriage Therapist
Category: Relationship
Satisfied Customers: 843
Experience: Family Therapist & teacher 35+ yrs; PhD research in couples
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