‘Susie’ writes: I split up from my second husband just over a year ago. We had been married for four years and it was toxic pretty much from the start. If I’m honest, I married him for the wrong reasons: I was the wrong side of 45 and not feeling confident about the future. I should have got some therapy instead of the wrong man, but I’ve since grown up a lot.
Well, I say I’ve grown up but I have my doubts, and for a good reason.
I’ve fallen in love. He feels the same way about me. He is someone from my past and we re-connected through Facebook. It was as if all the years in between, when we went away and did our own thing, had never happened. We just clicked, and now we spend as much of our time together as we can.
He’s in Cornwall and I’m in Glasgow, so it’s a logistical nightmare, and now he’s suggesting we move in together. He is self-employed and is happy to move up to Scotland but, while I want us to be together, something in me wants to keep Glasgow out of the picture in case it doesn’t work out.
Because the thing is this: this man, who I love so deeply, was my first husband.
I don’t think we are re-living our past, even though it is as if the intervening years had melted away. We were too young when we were together previously. But now we’ve had life experience and we know what we want. We want to be together. I feel confident it will work, because it is working now.
But what if I am being unrealistic? What if we do split up? There’s a tiny voice nagging at the back of my head that I find impossible to ignore.
I took a job in Scotland to escape the fallout of my second marriage and, though I’ve only been in Glasgow for under a year, I’m building a good life for myself. I don’t think I could bear unhappy memories following me here.
I keep asking myself, what am I really scared of? I feel so mixed up. Am I chasing a dream, or is fear getting in the way of my future? Do you think that old relationships deserve a second chance?
Charlotte Friedman replies: Everything that you describe sounds idyllic. A romance that has all the components of a love story, and yet you carry with you an internal nagging voice saying “what if…?”
What you are describing is fear of failure. You don’t want to take a risk because you feel that the pain of it will be unbearable. You would like to preserve a place (symbolically, a geographical place) where you can retreat to heal your wounds if you are hurt.
It sounds to me as if you have had your share of heartache and relationships that haven’t worked out, and therefore you hold a natural suspicion about whether this one will be any better.
I have to tell you what you know already: love and life are full of risks. We need to take calculated risks if we are to engage with life and feel alive.
Spend some time thinking about what it would be like for you and your relationship if you continued with this distance navigation. Would it last? Would it be too difficult?
Then spend some time thinking about how it would feel if you separated because you didn’t want to take the next step.
I believe you are saying you do want to take it to the next level, but you want a cast iron guarantee that your feelings will be preserved and then you will be immunised against any pain.
That will never happen. With each relationship we take a risk. We barter between love and commitment and the risk of hurt if it doesn’t follow the wished-for trajectory.
You have thought about this long and hard. You describe a person you have known for years, with the benefit of life experience to make it work this time. If you choose to live with him elsewhere you will be giving up the life you have created in Glasgow anyway. If you choose to live with him there, you are making a statement of commitment.
It is not easy in your fifties to find a compatible partner and a relationship that provides happiness. My inkling is to run with it not from it, and make it work.
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Charlotte Friedman runs the Divorce Support Group