Dear Ellie: When I was 16, everything I believed about love and marriage changed. My mom’s best friend had always flirted with the husbands in their circle. Then my father left us for her.
I’ve hated that woman ever since because she didn’t care what her cheating and his leaving did to us.
Mom lost herself in a demanding job. I finished high school, then left home at 19 with my first serious boyfriend. I devoted myself to him. But I was always watching for signs that he was attracted to anyone else.
History repeated. He denied it, but after I said she’d told me, he said it didn’t mean anything. But it meant everything wrong to me.
First, women cheat as much as men. They know it’s “wrong,” but don’t care if it’s “right” for them, even if it’s just for a short fling. No one who cheats gives any thought to collateral damage.
But I’ve lived that damage and was almost suicidal until I found a great therapist.
Second, the older you get while living with bad memories, the harder it is to trust someone new. I’m 26 now and should be dating and having a great life.
But I tried online dating once and hated the scrutiny by a stranger. How do I weed out the cheaters?
Once Burned, still Scarred
You experienced very early the painful reality of what cheating leaves behind: Feelings of being unworthy and unwanted.
The gender of the cheater doesn’t matter… it’s the action itself, played out with no empathy for whoever’s left behind.
You were wise to seek a therapist and lucky to find one with whom you connected and who helped you see that none of this was your fault.
At 26, wiser and stronger, there’s no “should” regarding when and if you meet someone to date and start a relationship.
Use your gained wisdom and inner strength to seek people who are also mentally healthy, positive in attitude, and most important, trustworthy.
Where to find them? Anywhere where people are pursuing goals related to their own… such as interest-based courses in the arts or technology, or healthy activities such as fitness, hiking, tennis, etc.
You have a lot to give to a future relationship. Take time to be sure that anyone interested in you is already someone who gives back equally.
Dear Ellie: My husband of 14 years suffered a heart attack and died at 43. I love and miss him achingly. We have a son, 10, and a daughter, eight.
I’ve worked for a big company ever since university and enjoy every aspect of my work. But alone without a partner, everything’s become very difficult. My husband worked from home, was a terrific father, a capable handyman, and enjoyed cooking.
Since he died, I’ve been floundering. My son loves his sports activities and I’ve found a couple of his friends’ fathers willing to drive him to hockey and basketball practices. I repay them with free tickets to sports events.
But my daughter misses the hugs and warmth of her father who made her feel special. I try to do likewise, but she misses him deeply. What do you advise?
You’re wise to get outside aid from other kids’ parents who drive to sports. Also try seeking after-school playdate arrangements with some of your daughter’s friends. Thank the mothers who help out by sending over a takeout meal.
Meanwhile, find some time with each child. Also, talk to a child psychologist on your own to seek help regarding children’s grief process.
Reader’s Commentary regarding the writer’s mother who appeared, from her growing belly, to be pregnant (Feb. 11):
“You gave good advice to the friend’s mom that she should see her doctor regarding any health changes that she’s experiencing.
“My mother developed a large belly but was embarrassed, and delayed seeing her doctor in time. When she did get a checkup, all they found was a hernia. But it was later discovered that she had ovarian cancer.
“Please make your readers aware of the seriousness and quick response that’s needed if someone has an enlarged abdomen. It is considered one of the signs of ovarian cancer, which is called ‘the silent killer’ with good reason.
“My mom had no other symptoms of this dreaded disease. Thank you for alerting your readers.”
Ellie’s Tip of the Day
Cheaters exist among all genders and for many motivations. Date casually until you’re certain of feeling full trust.
Send relationship questions to email@example.com or firstname.lastname@example.org