and answers to Dr. Belove:
are some real life questions and
answers on midlife relationships that have been sent to Philip
Belove, Ed.D. Click on a link to the left to find the detailed question
and the answer, or simply scroll down:
Dating a widower
from: Laura S.
I have been dating a 61-year-old man who has been widowed 2 1/2
yrs. We are planning to be married and I find I don't know what
to say to his children regarding their mother and his deceased
wife. I'm worried about showing our happiness in public. I want
to respect his late wife's memory and somehow express my sorrow,
but also show my joy. They were married 33 years. Any comments
would be most appreciated.
Answer: Dear Laura,
Simply that you would ask shows me that you are a sensitive
soul. I'm sure that you will exercise good judgment here. My
first thought was to wonder what kind of a relationship you
already have with your friend's children. I would hope it is a
kind and open one already and that they are happy for their
father, or at least supportive.
You are right to be concerned. Many would feel and expect a
longer mourning period after a 33-year marriage. On the other
hand, if married life suited this man, I could also understand
his eagerness to return to it.
The best rule is to allow them and other family members time to
become accustomed to your new role in their lives. They have not
had the many conversations you and your partner have had. They
will need time to catch up with you. Be patient.
I would expect them to have some concerns about their mother's
property, given the enormous package of legal rights you will
acquire as a result of being married. This is natural. It is
natural that children have some concerns about you joining
I think things would go well if they were assured that they will
have as much say-so as they wish and that this will be a matter
between them and their father and that you will step aside and
let them settle it.
Many unresolved feelings, resentments, anger, sadness -- the
inevitable of family life -- will resurface. The announcement of
the wedding could be stressful for your husband. It could create
a renewed period of mourning. The best you can do is become
an island of loving and appreciative calm through this process.
What you do not want to do is attempt to increase or alter the
cleansing flow of emotions.
It is probably in the context of this sorting out of the
memories and possessions that you can best realize your first
goal, to make a slow transition. If you are an open, interested
and appreciative audience, the children will welcome you by
offering their stories. It is a form of welcoming more natural
and profound than sharing food.
Thank you and good luck. Philip Belove, Ed.D.
man who keeps his distance
boyfriend is an expert here in the Science area. My question is
regarding our relationship, which has me quite perplexed.
I am in my mid-forties, and he is in his late fifties. He
has been married and divorced twice, and had a live-in
girlfriend after the second marriage ended. I met him soon
after that ended.
are both educators - he at the
university level, and I at the elementary level. We have
dated just over a year and it was just a few weeks ago that he
told me he loved me. I am also in love with him. This
relationship is not like any I have experienced. With a
distance of 40 miles between us, we usually see each other once
a week. He seems content with that. I need more. For
much of the past year, he has discussed our going places
together. They never materialize. However, he does many of
these things with friends. Our dates are mainly staying in and
eating a meal - then spending the night together. We part
early the next morning, even if it is the weekend (his doing).
I generally feel ignored by him, and we only talk on the phone
once a week. He has many friends, which I am happy about.
I too have many and know the importance of maintaining
friendships. He has gone on vacation, and though he said
he would call to say goodbye, he never did. This is typical for
him. He is a highly intelligent man, and I wonder if more
pressing things occupy his mind and he forgets much of what he
tells me. In addition, he is in his late fifties- as I
mentioned. I know he has had 3 bad relationships and may
feel he must keep his distance. I don't know whether to
begin seeing other men. It was just 3 weeks ago that
he told me I was the love of his life. I love him, yet I
Are the things I
describe about him common for an older, intellectual man who
has had several failed relationships? I don't know what I
should do. Thanks and I am
sorry to make it so long.
question was quite to the point and clear. It
sounds like you have a physical and sexual relationship with him
and that is profoundly satisfying for him. The two of you make a
love nest, a home base for him. He has compartmentalized that
part of his life and his relationship with you goes in that
compartment. He grows more and more fond of you, apparently, or
so he says. So something good is developing between you. But you
You are excluded
from the rest of his life. You do not share friendships with
him. You and he do not appear as a couple. You do not go out
together. He vacations without you. He sees friends without you.
Your position is that of his lover, but not his partner. You
love him but what you have with him is not enough for you and
your life. You want more. Now what?
Your situation is
reaching a critical point. You will have to have a long talk
with him about the state of your relationship. Do it soon,
before you get too angry. You might be quite angry already. But
best to stay calm. The matter is simple, I believe. The
relationship, as it now stands, lovely as it is, is simply not
sufficient for you.
This is an
opportunity for you to clarify your goals. I would think you
would want more of a partnership, more of a shared life. This
may be more than he can give you. I suspect it is. If heís
settled into a certain routine with you, chances are, this is
how he currently wants it.
You might be able to
revise this relationship. It will take some commitment and,
probably, if the transition isnít smooth, your relationship
will whither. I advise you to look seriously toward starting to
date again and gently inform the man that things are going to
As to whether his
behavior is typical of an older intellectual man with several
failed relationships the answer is Ö. I donít know if it is
typical, but it is characteristic. It is the sort of thing a man
with several failed relationships would do. It would work for
him. He has his compartmentalized and comfortable life. The
arrangement for him is very stable. The more important question
is whether it would be acceptable to you.
Good luck, Cara!
- Sincerely, Philip Belove
A midlife crisis.
Dear Dr. Philip,
I am 45
yrs old. I was in a long term relationship with a woman, and she
asked me to move out. Friday, which was three days before the
deadline she gave me, I came home from work to find the front of
the house littered with black plastic garbage bags which turned
out to be filled with some of my things. The locks had been
changed and a terse note taped to the door which advised me to
remove my things within 48 hours. She took the majority of my
things and either gave them away or sold them.
I did not deserve this treatment.
I could not work, could not concentrate. I was alone homeless
and very overwhelmed. I
am employed. I helped with the living expenses.
I purchased things for the home, like a stove, dishwasher, TV
and other things. I remodeled the bathroom. I don't drink or do
drugs. I never fooled around. I helped her mother out. I
was a friend to her daughter, and participated in parent teacher
conferences and her church.
We did have problems. I was
coming out of a bad stretch in my life where I was unemployed
for a long time (2-3 yrs) and did not have my finances in order,
nor did I have a lot of stuff. And due to prior cancer treatment
I was not able to perform sexually as often as she would like.
gave what I had freely and without reservation. I endured her
taunts about my sexual performance, and her ridicule about my
financial situation. She was always super concerned about her
physical appearance. I was never in her league and she would let
me know it.
this situation has passed, I feel like I will never marry or
have a family. I do not date and donít know anyone to ask out.
Even if I did I would not inflict myself on them. I am ashamed
and embarrassed. So I guess I will have to spend the rest
of my life alone. There is still an empty place in my
heart. I have no family, and those friends I thought I had
are lining up to make time with the ex.
Oh, I am
in counseling, but the counselor is not helping. I am getting
angrier and angrier. I am acting out and saying and doing things
that hurt people. I am forgetting to pay bills. my life is
falling apart. I cannot sleep, I binge eat and I am gaining
weight. I am spending all of my time alone. I do not know
anyone to even go out for coffee with.
get past this? Will I find someone? What do I do? Please
to one hell of a midlife crisis. Will
you get through it? Yes. Will you find someone? Yes. What do I
do? Read on.
will get through it if you donít do something
self-destructive. One day you will look
back on this and shake your head and smile. Youíre not the
first guy to go through this wringer and, from my own
experience, let me tell you, it is hell.
find someone but you have just been through the Last Immature
Relationship Before the Crisis. If you do
your inner work, your next relationship will be a vast
improvement. I can tell you a few things.
counselor isnít helping? You did the right thing by getting a
second opinion. Get a third one if you need to. One
of the terrible things about a midlife crisis is that, in the
end, it forces you to find your own way out of it. That
doesnít mean you donít need support. A counselor can
support you, can help you, can keep your spirits up, can calm
you down somewhat, and can help you keep thinking while you are
swamped with emotions. But you are the one who has to work
through all those terrible realizations yourself.
your counselor is not helping because you are getting angrier
and angrier. (At least I infer that from your last paragraph.)
If Iíve read you right, I have bad news for you. Your
task at this point in the crisis is to thoughtfully and honestly
realize just how angry you are and what about. The problem is
not that you are angry. The problem is that you canít deal
with how angry you are. Do you see the difference?
experience in dealing with this midlife crisis both in myself
and as a professional, I find that tangled up in all that anger,
like gold wire in a confusing trash heap, are some powerful
personal truths. I always trust and respect strong anger.
Itís distilling out the inner meaning thatís the hard work.
And thatís the work you need to do.
are angry to the point of not being able to function, then there
is a part of your soul that is on strike and demanding you sit
down and deal. As to the messy ending of
your last relationship (What a story!), that is another
area where you have a lot to review and think about. She sounds
quite formidable and also determined to dump you from her life.
Itís a kick in the ass. In other cases Iíve looked at
(canít say about yours), itís often a much needed kick in
story sounds like an example of that one relationship where you
take a lot of shit (so to speak) in exchange forÖwell,
youíre hard pressed to be able to say. These
relationships are intense and exhausting and when they are done
you say, "Iíll not do that again." They are a kind
of hitting bottom.
your tasks in counseling was to figure out what it was that
woman had that you felt you needed so desperately that you would
go into a relationship that was so demanding for you.
You'll need to really think this one through because it's
something you want desperately, sounds like. This is a big piece
of your puzzle.
need some relationship survival skills. Hereís one strong
suggestion. Please listen with an open mind. There is an
organization called Sex and Love Addicts Anonymous. I
know, I know, the name is pretty intense and calls to mind
creepy people. But actually they are a pretty smart group.
Whatís good about it is that there are a lot of people there
who have been eaten alive by relationship experiences. You can
go to the meetings and sit quietly and hear peopleís stories
and hear what they have done to get back on their feet. They
have some pretty interesting literature and have evolved through
trial and error a number of very solid ways to get your
relationship life under control. Itís an awfully strong
adjunct to counseling. The best part is that there are people
there who were really crazy around this stuff five, ten years
ago and who have regained sanity. They can give you the wisdom
of their experience (the good ones speak strictly from their own
experience and thatís worth a lot). Itís very
Belove, Why do I want her back so badly
and feel like she was the only one? My friend the astrologer
says that it is possible we will reconcile. What do I do about
those thoughts? I cannot even think of going out in public
much less dating. Should I wait for her to come to her senses? I
would be willing to do so. Please help-------
Follow-up: Hi, John -
the perfect question: "Why do I want her back so badly
and feel like she was the only one?" I think it could take
you several hours to come up with that answer. It was the
question I asked you in my answer to you.
"Your story sounds like an example of what Iíve been
called The Last Immature Relationship. Often happens on
the verge of the midlife transition and its failure is a kind of
wake-up call. Itís that one relationship where you take a lot
of shit (so to speak) in exchange forÖwell, youíre hard
pressed to be able to say."
tell you why people in general fall into that particular
emotional whirlpool. I canít tell you what your answer to that
question should be. You must work with a therapist to draw that
answer forth from your gut.
happens in relationships like that is that you believe that this
is the person who has what you need to complete your life. There
is something in them that is missing, oh so missing, in you. You
feel it as a precisely shaped emptiness that only this precisely
shaped personality can fill. Here is someone who can take you to
that place that you have wanted to get to all your life. It is a
place you know and love. Yet you feel powerless to get there by
yourself. Yet you know exactly where it is. You have dreams
about it and about being there with her, the one.
course, this is young love and it is fierce, and compelling and
wonderful and painful. It is the kind of love that very young
people would die for. It is Romeo and Juliet love, awesome and
glorious and totally consuming. It is also
somewhat blinding in its glory. It is a dream of the future and
you see it. What you do not see is the discouragement that comes
with it. Even though it is your dream, you do not believe you
can achieve it without her. That is the misapprehension.
true for right now is that you cannot even imagine life
without her. She inspires you. She inspires you so completely
that you forget that it is your vision. She actually has a very
different vision for her future and that is why she rejects you
think she will come to her senses. She believes that she came to
her senses by throwing you out. She was sick of you and your
dream for her future. She has a different vision of the future
and it is incompatible with your vision. With you around, she
couldnít even think of her goals and wishes for herself.
the other hand, couldnít think of your goals and wishes for
yourself without her. You needed her to activate your dreams.
And that is your problem. You donít know how to keep your
dreams alive without her. In my opinion,
this is what a therapist ought to help you with. He ought to
help you disentangle your vision from its dependence on her.
therapist tells you to forget about her, you will resist because
you are afraid if you forget about her you will forget about
your glimpse of happiness. You are afraid that without her you
cannot imagine happiness for yourself. While
it is true that she uniquely helps you imagine happiness for
yourself, it is also true that you can learn to do this without
her. But you donít understand this yet. Does
this help you?
Philip Belove, Ed.D.
painful, it was refreshing to finally understand some things. I
am grateful for your clarity, honesty and insight. Thanks! -
Noisy Biological clock
from: Daisy M.
Dear Dr. Belove,
I am a 41 yr old woman
who just got out of a 7 year bad relationship. Before that I was
married for 8 years but he died in a car accident. Now I'm new
to the dating scene, and late (although I had been trying the
first 10 years) in have a child, I am now "antsy"
about finding someone and starting a family. I have been dating
a great guy now for 3 months and he knows how I feel. I've left
the topic alone for some time now but come after the holidays i
plan to see where the relationship stands and bail out if he's
not on the same path as I. My question is . . . Is 4 months time
enough to give someone (at my age) to decide what they want out
of the relationship. As you know my clock is "banging"
forget about the ticking!!!
Your question was
"Is 4 months enough time to give someone to
decideÖ." could be answered in terms of whether it is
enough time for him or whether it is enough time for you. They
are separate issues. You have to address them separately and
think of them that way. Otherwise you will be confused as you
address this difficult decision.
I suspect you are not
ready to create a long term stable relationship with a new man.
I donít know how long you are out of your last relationship
but, if it was as bad as you hint, then you need some time to
get reoriented. A little therapy about how you got into that
mess would help prepare you for this work. Midlife
people form relationships with much more caution and wariness
than younger adults.
But if he is a great
guy, then bring the topic up for a joint decision. "If you
love me, or think you could, then help me think this through. I
want children and I feel my biological clock ticking. At the
same time, I really donít want to force you into that kind of
intense commitment. I want the father of my child to care are me
and the child as much as I will. So, my friend, there are three
possibilities: yes, no, maybe. If you can tell by now that this
relationship does not have long term possibilities, letís
break up and be friends and let me continue on my search. If you
think maybe it could, letís keep looking at it and see whether
we can know. Or perhaps you want to chose the third - you
donít think we are ready for that call now. "
One way to talk about
this is for you both to share your visions of the future. You
seem to see yourself raising a child with a partner. Or maybe
you see yourself raising a child, partner or not. How does he
see himself in the future?
This is an interesting
conversation for the both of you. If you like him enough to
consider sharing parenting with him, you should then at least be
able to share the musings about those possibilities.
Philip Belove, Ed.D.
Feedback from Daisy:
He is a very bright, caring, compassionate and very helpful in
helping you "find a way", "look from a different
perspective" and reach a decision!