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Ask Dr. Norman Brown Your Own Question

Dr. Norman Brown
Dr. Norman Brown, Marriage Therapist
Category: Relationship
Satisfied Customers: 1184
Experience:  Family Therapist & teacher 35+ yrs; PhD research in couples
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My 50+ year old girlfriend (Im 50)

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My 50+ year old girlfriend (I'm 50) recently told me she loved me for the first time, then abruptly broke up with me saying something was missing. We've been dating for about a year. I'm devastated and unsure of whether I should approach her to discuss what she's thinking and feeling vs what she thinks she should be...your thoughts?


She also says she is confused and afraid of a serious relationship.  She was divorced 4+ years ago because she was tired of being neglected and ignored.

Dr. Norman Brown :

Welcome to my couples workshop, where people 18-80 of diverse cultures & orientations have come to explore their questions and find a path of heart. She's frightened, because she's running into ironclad control-modules in her brain that "know" that you're too good to be true, so something awful will happen if she trusts her heart this time.

Dr. Norman Brown :

Was her divorce her first or second divorce?

Dr. Norman Brown :

If it's her second, then she's confusing her cerebellar control modules (what I call the FirstLovePartner-Complex, parallel to Jungian Mother-Complex and Father-Complex) with external reality. Jungian analysts have found repeatedly that we can never grind down our complexes entirely, and I say it's because they're conserved in our cerebellum, like riding a bicycle. But we can feel the tug of the complex and swim against the current, while being very vigilant to make sure we're not mistaken in going with our present instead of heeding our past.


It was her first divorce. My divorce was over a couple of years ago. Her family and friends tell me she hasn't dated anyone as long as we've dated. I suspect she's overwhelmed by my kindness, attention to her needs, and generosity of affection after going so long without any. I mentioned that if we were still together in October, I would like to take her on a vacation for her birthday. Two months ago she said she needed some space, so I gave it to her...we got back together a month later. Now she says something is missing, that she keeps hoping to feel it, but doesn't, although she does love me (which she never said before). Apparently her family and friends have told her how lucky she is to have found me, but I think she's looking for movie-caliber "fireworks"...I think those can be fleeting and aren't required, because we care about each other and do make each other happy.

Dr. Norman Brown :

So you could write her and tell her you want her to keep her eyes peeled for anything you do or say that's so much like a previous husband that it scares her; she can do that via email, and then you can consider what you've done and how it's affected her, and you can explain what you were thinking and feeling. This is just a preliminary owner's manual for setting up protections against repeating a painful past, but you will help in any way you can to make sure she can work with your excessive goodness. BECAUSE SHE'S TOO GOOD FOR YOU TO LET HER GO AWAY AND NOT COME BACK.

Dr. Norman Brown :

You'll also need to promise to go as slowly and gently as she wants, and to stop for a bit each time she says stop. (All you need to do is to get her amend her permanent breakup moves to temporary pauses.) And many older couples need a lot of individual space in their couple relationship, so separate living arrangements, turning into separate retreat2bedrooms is not an unusual way to approach.


How do I handle her "something is missing" (II think it's the "fireworks" syndrome of tv-land)...or like when you're 16 and "in-love for the first time?


I have been very patient with her, and intend to continue doing so, if I think there's hope...

Dr. Norman Brown :

Her confusion is a good sign. For confusion means that she doesn't have a well-oiled protocol for this situation, and you just need to let her know that you're scared too: You're scared of losing her. So if she'll say she'll probably see you again, you'll promise to ALWAYS back off or slow down when she says to do that. Fear is what people should feel in the presence of the sacredness of Love when it feels so right that you know where you want it to go. And in a year, you know that.

Dr. Norman Brown :

Ask anything else you want.

Dr. Norman Brown and 2 other Relationship Specialists are ready to help you

Sorry I didn't get to see what you had written before I took off. I'm back for a little while. Hmmm fireworks. So perhaps she was married for nigh unto 30 years and was quite jittery in the beginning way back when. Or even had some butterflies with one of the short termers since her divorce, that fizzled because he was wrong or she wasn't ready or both.


Have you done anything together that was really scary, or at least very exciting, like skydiving first jump, or dealt with a dangerous situation together? Or stood by her in great sorrow? These emotional experiences intensify love. It's possible that astrologically the spark was not there even at first, and that doesn't preclude love lasting forever. Or it was there (you'd know, I'd guess) and it's been stifled under her fear of repeating old mistakes. Diving in and then diving out is normal for recovering divorcees. Any astrological matchup except what erupts early on in violent conflict or loathing (& actually violent conflict is dangerously compelling) is subject to the couple's desire to build a solid foundation. And if her husband treated her badly & then "repented" that would have made fireworks a lasting infection.


It's also possible that you ARE too nice. That you need some WildMan in you that can't be tamed, that NEEDS to go off and do your masculine thing & no domestication can take that away from you. If you're too compliant with her desires, and you grew up under a newly feminist mother, you might be what Robert Bly called a "soft male" who doesn't assert enough for fear of offending his woman, so she gets an uneasy feeling that he's a wimp, or he's hiding something (which she can't name, because WildMan isn't a household word). Bly's book was Iron John (1991 I think). Is there anything that you do that you WOULDN'T give up if it bothered her, even tho it wouldn't impact her except for losing some time with you that she might want.


If a man doesn't seem to ever need time away from his woman, but only goes along with her wishes for time away from him, she can come to feel like he's holding onto the hem of her dress. These are just possibilities I'm throwing out in case they might apply to her "sparklessness." If that's possible, then one good solo venture of your own that you're gung ho about doing, even tho it might interfere with some plans she'd like to make, could do the trick. Showering a woman with kindness alone doesn't keep a woman interested if there's not some unpredictability about you, and some pieces that can't be bent into the right shape for her taste.

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