DR. GILDA CARLE (Ph.D.)
The familiar same love type draws us in, but it can also keep us down.
Courtesy of Match.com’s Happen Magazine
Dear Dr. Gilda,
I am an intelligent, strong, 58-year-old woman. Seven years ago, I was widowed when my husband of 15 years committed suicide due to his depression. I thought the grief and pain would never ease, but with a strong commitment to move forward, I survived. Two years later, I met a wonderful man. We became great friends, eventually dated, and after a long courtship, got engaged. We purchased a home and renovated it in preparation for marriage and a shared life. But the marriage never happened.
My fiancé turned out to be a Jekyll and Hyde, suffering from bipolar disorder. I was lied to, cheated on and emotionally abused. Finally, we broke off the engagement. Now I am struggling with fear and a sense of loneliness. I am afraid that I will no longer be appealing to a mate, and therefore, not find one. Yes, this is my fear talking, and I know I am not my fear, but how do I calm it down?
I am Woman, Hear Me Roar
Dear Roaring Woman,
Ending a love bond hurts, and the pain is exacerbated by the shocking emptiness that accompanies a new single status. After my divorce was finalized, friends urged me to attend a glam media party. Despite the crowd of luminaries, most of whom I knew, I arrived feeling empty and I left feeling emptier, wondering why I even bothered.
It’s typical to be walking around in an out-of-body state after a breakup. But the blues need only be temporary if you accept comfort from a good therapist and great friends. Also, take all the time you need to review how you contributed to your last relationship’s launch as well as to its demise. Accept that both you and your fiancé remained engaged because of specific payoffs each of you derived from the union. While you can’t blame yourself for your former fiancé’s bipolar disorder, you can ask these significant questions:
1. Why did I choose this man in the first place? (Do you fancy yourself to be a “rescuer”?)
2. Why did I forge ahead with him, even though I sensed that the relationship was troubled? (Name your payoff[s].)
3. What similarities to my deceased husband did my fiancé exhibit? (This is a tough question, and one I personally know too well. I almost married a man whose traits resembled those of my ex-husband. Thankfully, I had an epiphany in the nick of time!) This question takes us all to task for repeating patterns that have historically proven to be self-sabotaging. Since we are easily seduced by familiarity, we must be vigilant in examining our attractions and determining where they begin.
Let’s size up your specific situation, warts and all. Your husband of 15 years committed suicide due to his depression. After your grieving, you took up with a man who suffered from depression AND mania. Do you see where I’m going with this? My concern now is that since you believe you’re ready to love again, what emotional shortcomings might you find familiar and therefore attractive? Before you respond, heed this Gilda-Gram: “The familiar draws us in, but it can also bring us down.”
You say you fear that you will no longer be “appealing” to another mate. If you mean another mate that’s depressed, that’s a protective fear meant to save you from subsequent poor choices. So YAY to that! But to be certain this fear is guarding you well, do the following:
1. List the traits in your last mates that proved untenable.
2. List the positive qualities you would like in a new mate.
3. List the ways you will filter out people who share familiar traits with your exes.
What did you discover from answering these questions? Did you establish which traits are now too cumbersome for you to endure? Did you replace them with positive qualities you will choose to seek out instead? Your new goal should be for you, Woman Who Roars, to become an aphrodisiac to a healthy man looking for healthy love. That’s the key to selecting a more sustainable romance next time you leave the gate.
GILDA CARLE (Ph.D.) is an internationally known psychotherapist, relationship educator, and management consultant. She is Match.com’s “Ask Dr. Gilda” advice columnist published on MSN.com. She is also known as the Country Music Doctor, with her “Country Cures.” She is a motivational speaker, professor of psychology & communications, the author of the well-known “Don’t Bet on the Prince!,” a test question on “Jeopardy,” 99 Prescriptions for Fidelity, How to Win When Your Mate Cheats, and many more. She was the therapist in HBO's Emmy Award winner, "Telling Nicholas," featured on Oprah, where she guided a family to tell their 7-year-old that his mom died in the World Trade Center bombing. She is currently developing her own TV show. Visit her website and get Instant Advice!