LATER LOVESWomen of a certain age, holding out for happily ever after
No. 1 His past relationships.
If he has a history of partnering with disastrous women, be careful. Chances are he’s 50% of the disaster. Plus, if he’s a poor judge of character (examples: ex-wives who were alcoholics, drug addicts, workaholics, rageaholics, spendaholics or gold diggers) his social circle may be similarly afflicted. Lie down with dogs, you’ll get fleas. Lie down with men who lie down with dogs, you’ll still get fleas.
Might YOU have a disastrous side? If your man has a sketchy history, perhaps you fit well with HIS dysfunction. Water finds its own level, so take a good look in the mirror. The checklists work both ways.
No. 2 Bitterness
If he’s bitter about a relationship, equally bad. Holding a grudge is not a good sign, especially once a few years have elapsed since the split. Trashing ex-partners is symptomatic of an avoidant attachment style, according to psychologists, which is a fancy way of saying that this person can’t handle intimacy. Also, we stand in as proxies for our lovers’ past primary attachments — parents, siblings and former partners — and if your man still harbors bitterness or resentment, it’s only a matter of time before he turns it in your direction. These are unresolved issues that pre-date your appearance in his life and that only he can address. Proof: has a lover ever called you by another name? One boyfriend addressed me as his ex-wife whenever we got into a fight.
No. 3 Denial of his role.
Okay, so more than 50% of marriages end in divorce. The older we are, the likelier our next partnership will be a second or even a third try.
Understanding how we contribute to our chaos means we’ve faced at least some of our imperfections, which in turn implies that we won’t repeat the behavior. Does he acknowledge where he went wrong, or does he maintain he was an innocent bystander and it was all her fault?
If he can’t provide a clear explanation of his role in the problem, then you can be sure he will return to the stage for an encore. Don’t be his leading lady in the tragedy’s next act.
No. 4 Mockery and shaming
If a man belittles his exes, family, friends or co-workers, either to their face or behind their back, it’s only a matter of time before you’ll be cut down to size too, so you might as well get small right now… in fact, so small that he can’t find you. Like, disappear. A well-placed barb can make us laugh, but mockery and contempt have no place in close relationships. Some say shame is the one emotion we have to be taught, which comports with the interpretation that shame was the “gift” of the serpent to Adam and Eve. Demeaning a partner is one of the Four Horsemen of the Relationship Apocalypse (www.gottman.com) and is a surefire way to destroy a love affair.
If you observe the relatives of your prospective partner freely slinging zingers, that’s a yellow light. It means that shame is part of the emotional fabric of the family, and many of their relationships are destined to fail, which is better than enduring, given that shame can obliviate a person’s will to live. By the way, when we deliver a barb, our brains release a quick shot of endorphins — the body’s home-made opioids: it can feel good to hurt others. Folks who engage in shaming are merely replicating a (possibly addictive) behavior that they learned at home. No human being can take on this family burden, and that includes you.
No. 5 No spiritual practice.
Even non-believer Benjamin Franklin wanted the Continental Congress to open with a prayer so that participants would remember, if only for a moment, that they were not all-powerful. Am I advocating organized religion? Not at all, not for one minute. Spiritual practice can include organized religion, but it also includes meditation, 12-step, introspection and a host of other philosophical schools.
No. 6 Isolation.
No friends? No active social life? This is a big red flag. Even though he won’t say it, he’ll be counting on you for all his social needs, and no one person can fill the shoes of a close-knit group of friends.
Social anxiety and social anorexia foretell tough times in relationships, because by definition they indicate a deficit in the ability to relate to other people. If you’re a pet rock, by all means go for it, but if you’re a human, be careful where you tread because when the honeymoon wears off his lifetime store of unresolved fear and hurt will once again come to the forefront. As with shaming, this is a thorny psychological issue that you cannot fix for him if he is unwilling to fix it for himself.
No. 7 Poor self-care: no exercise.
Out of shape, and pills to counteract it. If he refuses to hit the gym, then DO take up walking, and in a direction away from him. Self-care and respect for one’s body is the foundation for good health. If you want to be a nurse, get a job in a hospital, not in a prospective marriage where the exercise will eventually consist of you pushing his wheelchair.
No. 8 Poor self-care: junk food.
Look in the pantry. Does his diet consist of artificial flavors heaped onto modified food starches soaking in hydrogenated oils laced with sodium benzoate? Once again, get your RN, because this guy won’t be around for very long. At the very least, take out a term life insurance policy.
Psychiatrist Daniel Amen, an evangelist for brain health, states that people who stay away from junk food and sugar etc. in favor of vegetables and healthy meals have better lives, better finances, and better relationships because they have better blood flow to their brains.
No. 9 Poor self-care: unhealthy home and environment.
Does the roof leak? Does a mildew stench waft up from the basement? If he doesn’t care enough about his surroundings to make sure the air that he breathes is pure, he won’t care for your physical well-being either. Your health will suffer. Moldy oldies may be fine for doo-wop songs, but do you really want to spend your time with one?
No. 10 Negativity
Does he crab about people in general? “The world is no good.” “Most people are worthless.” Caveat emptor: When the time comes, you’ll be on that list also.
No. 11 Too much television.
Ask him about his favorite TV personalities. If he starts rattling off sitcom and reality TV stars, you can bet your bottom dollar that his bottom is planted on the couch way too many hours. Do you want someone who can’t communicate with humans? TV lowers verbal IQ, switches the brain from predominantly left to right brain activity, in the process producing natural opiates (yes, TV really is addictive) and increases aggression and depression. It shifts activity from the cerebral cortex to the reptilian fight-or-flight brains centers. Get a pet iguana instead.
No. 12 Substance abuse.
Everyone has a different definition of a social drinker and occasional pill popper, but be very careful. Prescription pain pill addiction is spiraling out of control, and users can conceal their habit and maintain a level of functioning, say, at a job, for years without being discovered.
However, addicts in the throes of their disease become virtually incapable of empathy, so chances are your personal life with him will crumble long before his work life follows suit. Don’t believe me? Watch Nurse Jackie for an accurate portrayal of the progression of hydrocodone, oxycodone and amphetamine addiction.
No. 13 Distorted money values.
Where to begin. We live in a materialistic society that values earnings above ethics and money above people. Even if they’re honest, men of all strata from the titans of Wall Street down through working-class heroes may be unable to separate their worth from their wallet. If your man has bought that bill of goods, good luck. His sense of self will be a yawning chasm regardless if it’s filled with dollars. Even worse, his sense of YOU may depend on YOUR dollars.
No. 14 Relatives and children
How functional are his relatives? The apple seldom falls far from the tree. In dysfunctional families, siblings and children may act out in ways that will eventually sound the death knell for your love affair. For example, if a teenager is self-destructive or has problems relating to people, there’s a good chance this behavior can be traced to sins of commission or omission on the part of the parents. Pay no heed to whether your prospective mate appears to be a good parent. Remember, during courtship our divine spark shines through with the best of who we can be. But within a few years any dysfunctions reflected in children or siblings may surface in your relationship. Take the ubiquitous ADHD diagnosis. Is the solution to drug the child? Or could it be that the child never got the attention, guidance and proper nutrition he/she needed from parents who just didn’t have time for their kids? If a parent didn’t have time for his kids, he may not have time for you either.
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