Personal Effects

25 Sep

Dear LetterBalm: I’ve been seeing a woman close to my age (we’re both in our 60s). For the past four months we’ve been dating exclusively. We get together a couple of times a week, including the weekend – we spend time at each other’s apartment. She’s brought up the subject of moving in together, but I have doubts. Both of us were married before. When she’s staying at my place, my girlfriend doesn’t like it that I still have belongings from my marriage – my recliner, a watch and a set of golf clubs my ex gave me, my car and a few other things I still have from when my ex and I were together. My girlfriend says to get rid of everything because we should have a fresh start without any reminders of the past, and she gets pretty upset and rages about it. My son says she’s a control freak. I really like this woman but I think she’s being unreasonable (she hasn’t gotten rid of various things from her marriage, and it doesn’t bother me). What can I say to her?

–I Like My Stuff

Just because a man gets a divorce, he shouldn’t be expected to divest himself of everything accumulated during his marriage. Presumably you aren’t living in the midst of a shrine to your ex-wife. And, presumably you kept these possessions because you’ve grown accustomed to them. A watch, a car, golf clubs and a comfortable recliner, moreover, are expensive to replace. If your girlfriend is as obsessed about the trappings of your marriage, she may glom onto other serious and trivial aspects of your life. It sounds like she’s always going to find something wrong. She may, indeed, be a control freak, she may doubt her ability to hold a partner, or she may unconsciously use her obsession as a wedge against intimacy. Ms. L.B. says trust your gut instincts. You need to tell your girlfriend to accept you as you are. If she can’t do that, you must move on. Be gentle and don’t cohabit until you’ve allayed your doubts:

Janet, you’ve suggested that we move in together, but I have some doubts. You react strongly to my things from my previous marriage, so it suggests to me that you’ll have serious issues if I don’t get rid of them. I can only tell you that they’re possessions I use all the time, and long ago I stopped connecting them to my ex or my marriage. Honey, I have to tell you that I won’t feel comfortable with us living together until we iron this out and you accept me as I am. Will you consider counseling to help you deal with this?

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