Dear Thelma: I’ve fallen for a younger man but am afraid of getting hurt

  • Family
  • Sunday, 01 Oct 2017

Having suffered an abusive marriage, a divorcee is afraid of being hurt again when she falls for a younger man.

I am a 35-year-old divorcee with no kids. Out of six years of marriage, I have lived four years on my own while my ex-husband changed job frequently, thus leaving me alone most of the time.

Every time he is jobless, I would give him my salary, savings and even sold my gold jewellery to support him.

My marriage ended because of many reasons, mostly because of his multiple affairs with women and prostitutes, and despite the numerous chances I’ve given him to change.

He was unrepentant and instead abused me physically, mentally and emotionally which led to my severe depression and other health complications.

In short, I went through hell and it’s a miracle that I am still alive today.

I gave up on love and never thought about a second marriage even though loved ones encouraged me to find someone who would love me for who I am.

Recently, I met a nice guy who is in the same professional field as I am and we share lots of similarities and interests.

I learnt from friends that this guy had loved a girl sincerely for five years but she had an affair. As a result he stayed single for over three years as he was afraid of getting hurt again. We shared our past relationships with each other and encouraged each other as how best friends would.

Recently, he confessed his feelings for me and is willing to accept me despite my past. He is loving and caring, and I admitted that I also have feelings for him.

The only thing that bothers me is the fact that at 28 he is seven years younger. Even though he is young, he is extremely matured. He said that the age difference is not an issue for him and his open-minded parents have approved of our relationship. He has given me time to think it over.

I am worried about our age difference and am unsure if it could work for various reasons. While it may seem all rosy at this moment, as years go by, I am worried he might one day regret marrying someone older.

While he is 100% confident about this relationship, the same can’t be said in my case as I am scared that I will suffer another heartbreak. I would appreciate your advice. – Heartbroken 

Dear Heartbroken

Everyone deserves to be happy. For someone like you who has endured so much unhappiness in the past, this is an important point to remember.

What that happiness entails, though, depends on each individual. For someone who has gone through a bad and abusive marriage, it may be a new relationship. It may also be time alone to rediscover yourself and heal from your past experience.

So you have met this man who has proposed sharing a life together with you. You have plenty in common, and that is a good thing. It is important to build a relationship based on common interests. But, what about your values? Do you want the same things in life?

Why has someone else told you about his past and not him? What do you know about him, really?

At this point, these are some of the issues that you should be focusing on resolving with him. If you want to build a life together, you have to be able to be open with each other.

You need to talk about your past experience. There is nothing wrong in doing this. It isn’t going to go away. You can’t change what happened. You cannot deny what happened. Of course, you will have to make sure that what you went through does not affect your future. The only way to do this is to be open about it.

You have to be able to speak openly about your fears of getting into a relationship. Just like him, you may have fears of getting hurt. The fact is, these fears if not acknowledged can end up damaging a relationship.

You have a right to know how his former relationship ended. Sure, his girlfriend cheated on him. But, what were the other circumstances in the relationship? It may be easy to say that she is a bad person but situations like this are rarely that simple.

This does not mean that he is a bad person. Nor does it mean he caused his ex-girlfriend to behave that way. Talking about the old relationship will give you an idea of what he is like when he is involved with someone. You will get an idea of what his expectations are.

The same goes with you. What do you expect from a relationship? When you say care for and love you, what does that mean? Do you want children? Does he? Would you want to stay home and have him earn the money and look after you? All these issues need to be addressed and talked about in detail.

The issue of your being older than him is one that bothers you. Why does it bother you, though? If the roles were reversed – he being 35 and you 28 – would there be any concerns? Would he wonder if you would regret marrying an older man later on in your marriage?

If the roles were reversed, the age factor would not even be an issue. Society openly accepts older men marrying younger – sometimes much younger – women. This double standard isn’t really fair.

Your concern, it seems, may be there because of such prevalent ideas in society. Why else would you be concerned? Perhaps you think he may find you unattractive as you age and want to move on to someone younger? Perhaps you think he may be embarrassed by you?

Whatever the concerns are, you have to raise them with him. He should know that you have these concerns. That way, he has the opportunity to at least be aware of how you feel. Knowing this, he would then have the chance to help you overcome those concerns, or reassure you.

The truth is, the real issue here is not your age, but your fears about being hurt again. These fears are well-founded. There is no point in denying them. The path to real happiness is to confront these fears.

You can rest assured that this man who is interested in you also has fears. This is totally normal. There is no shame in this.

Talk to him. Talk about your fears. So what if you are older than him? So what if each of you have your histories of pain? The only way to make sure history does not repeat itself is to learn from it.

Love alone is not enough to sustain a relationship. You need understanding and trust. You must be able to know that you can trust him with your heart, and he needs to know that he can trust you with his.

In the end, that is all that matters. Not age. Not anything else.

Is something bothering you? Do you need a listening ear or a shoulder to lean on? Thelma is here to help.

Write to: Dear Thelma, c/o Star2, Menara Star, 15, Jalan 16/11, 46350 Petaling Jaya, Selangor.

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