‘A year after my husband died I began a relationship with a man 11 years my junior’
From dating after the death of a spouse to other vexing issues of a personal nature, clinical psychologist Jo Lamble answers questions from readers looking for expert advice on social dilemmas and relationship problems.
My husband passed away just over two years ago. I made the decision fairly soon after the first anniversary of his death that it was time to move forward. And when I met a man 11 years my junior, the intense connection rocked me to my core. I’d never experienced anything like it before and it scared me. I struggled to reconcile the age difference. Eight months later, we now have a different relationship.
It all got too hard for me and I allowed myself to get too emotionally attached.
The feeling has been close to grief. I’ve now gone into self-preservation mode because I don’t know what else to do or how to behave. Please help me find clarity in my feelings so I can move forward.
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I gather you made the decision to move forward after the first anniversary of your husband’s death because you were lonely and you missed being in a relationship.
That’s completely understandable and when you found an intense connection, you must have wondered what hit you.
Because of the ongoing grief you’re feeling for your husband, it would be normal to fear losing someone else. Grief doesn’t end, it comes in waves that gradually decrease in intensity over time. Meeting someone new doesn’t stop that grief. I’m thinking you are feeling a combination of bereavement and fear of losing another relationship.
When we are afraid, we can easily slip into self-preservation mode and that’s when we start to find flaws in the relationship. The age difference may have given you a reason to withdraw. I think you need to slow things down a bit. Give yourself longer to feel the grief and try not to move on too quickly. Sit with the pain, rather than seeking ways to switch it off.
The more we sit with discomfort, the more comfortable we become. This man may or may not be in your future.
Either way, I encourage you to spend some time on your own, lots of time with friends and family, and hours thinking and talking about your husband. Keeping his spirit alive will help the grieving process. If you do want to continue seeing this man, take it slowly and be open about your feelings.
I am a stepmother to two girls, aged 9 and 12. They are great, but I’m not a mum, so this is all new to me. I’m feeling stressed because I want to be their friend, but also still an authority figure. I also don’t want to overstep because I am not their mother and she is, of course, a big part of their lives. What can I do to balance it all?
Being a step-parent is one of the hardest relationships to navigate, so it’s no wonder that you’re stressed. The first rule of step-parenting is to model a great relationship with your partner. Let the girls see you standing beside your partner and supporting their parenting. That way you are an authority figure, but you’re not the disciplinarian – their parents are.
You’re in the supporting role. You’ll be a fabulous sounding board for your partner and the children, but you’re not making important decisions about the girls.
Then it’s time to work on your relationship with your stepdaughters. Find something that only you do with them. It could be creative or active. Hopefully it’s lighthearted and fun.
Carving out a point of difference stops anyone feeling as if you’re stepping on their toes. And that way, the girls get at least three adults who love and are interested in spending time with them.
Got an issue for Jo to tackle? Send your question to [email protected]