Archive for the ‘Marriage’ Category

Wild Friends After Marriage

In Drama, Marriage, Mental Health on January 29, 2011 at 2:05 pm

Dear Yenta,

My husband’s best friend’s wife causes a lot of problems. We have a child, and they do not. They, in turn, do not understand what life is like with a child. They expect us to be able to drop everything and go out drinking, partying, etc. at the drop of a hat. Not only do we not want to do this, but we can’t. Recently, they didn’t show up at my husband’s birthday party. He shrugged it off, even though I knew he was very hurt by it.

A week later, she sent me numerous messages about how I took her husband’s best friend away, and they didn’t even know who my husband was anymore. This caused major issues. It has now been a month, and we just saw them this past weekend. Today was her husband’s surprise birthday party, and we did not attend. I have been under the weather, and my husband just didn’t want to go. She immediately attacked him via text message, claiming that I was not ill and telling him that he needed to be there. After he told her I was indeed ill, she proceeded to tell him that she understood that he needed to take care of his son, but he needed to also be there for his friend.

I want to protect my husband and go off on this woman. I have plenty of things to say, and I am at the point where I would really like to scream them at her. My husband is hurt. His friend never says anything to him, but his wife has plenty to say, only when she wants to start trouble.



Not a friend for the wife and kids. Sorry, Lindsay.


Dear Allie,

The key to this question is in the first sentence, “My husband’s best friend.”  While this situation affects you, hurts you, irritates you, riles you, cranks on your nerves, it is ultimately your husband’s business.

Where are the men in this?  Aren’t there key voices missing from the scenario?  This guy’s wife is a pill, and that is a shame, but you certainly a) don’t have to entertain her antics and b) are only involved by extension.  This woman’s fears of your husband’s evolution and change, and her lack of boundaries altogether, are really her problem, not yours.

I would encourage your husband to face his friend and man up on both of your behalf.  All the angry text messages and sideswiping might just be a vile reaction to poor communication.  If this was your husband’s best friend before he found you, it is his job to smooth the transition from wild boozehound to solid husband and father, not yours.

And it is your job to protect yourself and your family.  Tell your husband how much this is upsetting you.  I think he needs to speak to his friend one on one, spend some quality time showing who he has become and how much he still cares.  That is, if he still does.

Sometimes people grow apart as they make smart and mature choices.  A friend from the old “bar days” may not translate, at least not immediately, into adulthood.  With time relationships change, and even through giant life shifts, the relationships that count evolve.

In ten years this couple may be a non-entity, or friends in a different capacity.  Sometimes when alcohol is involved in a friendship, it takes time and trust to find a new way to interact, sans social lubricant.  This requires investment and reconnection, and that job, as I said, falls on your husband’s shoulders, not yours.

Helpful Tips On Sober Friendships:

While your situation is different, take the lead from alcoholics who remake their lives, liquor free.

-Ask your friends to meet you in a place that doesn’t serve alcohol, a movie, a coffeehouse, a hike, a show.  Redefine the relationship with new physical perameters.

-Assess your friendship.  Was it contingent upon drinking and wild behavior?  The real friends remain, after sobriety.  Figure out the nature of your connection.

-Make new friends, based on your new lifestyle.  These may be the real lasting friendships.

-Be brave enough to let go of old friends who do not support the new, healthier you.

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Merissa Nathan GersonCreate Your Badge

Will My Insecurities Drive Him Away?

In Dating, Marriage, Mental Health on September 14, 2010 at 7:24 pm

Hi Yenta,

I am in my early 30s and I have recently begun seeing a really awesome person, and it’s all very unexpected and wonderful. I’m terrified! I’ve never been the marrying type, but I like this person enough that I want them in my life for a while, or however long we’re both happy together — and I know they feel the same about me — but I really don’t want to fuck it up with my insecurity and occasional social awkwardness.

I’ve have two previous serious long-term relationships, and my last one ended about a year and a half ago. I’ve been doing some kind of personal inventory on myself ever since. I dated, I spent a lot of time alone, I cultivated close friends and some new interests, worked at enjoying my job, and generally like myself more these days than I have in a long time and am mostly in a good headspace. I moved to a somewhat remote area recently and in my casing for new and interesting friends somehow managed to cosmically happen upon someone incredible. He makes me laugh, he’s straightforward and communicative, he seems genuine, people who know him really like him, he’s fucking cute and um, etc.

Needless to say, I’m pretty head over heels for him, which is wonderful and totally scary. I have some pretty serious trust issues, and  while I recognise that I will never be perfect (and don’t want to be!) I’m not sure that I can be a good partner, and this makes me reluctant to enter in a new (and likely serious) relationship if I can’t ‘act like an adult’, whatever that means. I’m super nervous when I’m introducing him to people in my life, and I’m afraid to meet his friends and coworkers because I’m worried that I won’t measure up somehow. (His work is more ‘important’ than mine! He makes more money than I do! He certainly doesn’t make me feel this way, but I feel really inadequate next to him sometimes.) It’s not that I still want to play the field — dating and hooking up occasionally was great and all, but my connection with this person is really different — it’s that I don’t know that I’m okay with myself enough to not burden him with my likely eventual nuttiness, and am so over the moon that I feel like a little kid sometimes. But boy, do I want to try. How can I get over this? How can I learn to accept myself enough and not push away someone that is really offering themselves to me in a positive way?

-Crazy Insecure

Out with the old, in with the new YOU! Photo courtesy of Victor Jeffreys II,

Dear CI,

Chances are you are perfectly lovable as you are.  But, just like faith in G-d, we need to cultivate faith in ourselves with steady devotion. This is no easy task. No Ma’am.  This can be a struggle, a fall in the mud and smear your face filthy process.  But every step counts towards immeasurable results.

Lucky for you there are about 72 hours left for inventory before the upcoming year is sealed.  You can hate yourself for not loving yourself, or, within this new relationship you can privately take steps towards self-adoration.  There is a chance that he makes you feel inadequate, and there is the other side of blooming blossoming new love: your inadequacies refuse to hide any longer.

So, use these 72 hours to look at what you fear.  Trust issues, schmust issues.  If he is the one, he is the one. But your work, that inner searching that often comes after a breakup, it also helps to engage such devices during, before, after, and between relationships.  During, however, is clutch.

Maybe you need things to slow down, maybe you need to meet those friends of his at a later date.  Maybe you wish you made more money or that your job were more “important,” whatever that means.  When we fall truly in love we are moving towards a wholer more exquisite version of ourselves.  If you feel inadequate and he isn’t saying you are, then guess who is rapping at your door with Negative Nancy?  You.

There is no shame in therapy for the sake of love.  Maybe you need some extra help reigning in your dark side.  Or, maybe you need to start being your own mirror, somehow curbing the conversations in your head, “I feel inadequate.”  “I shouldn’t feel inadequate.”  “I am inadequate for feeling inadequate.”  And so on.

Love, marriage, trust, commitment:  these things are a choice.  If you choose, then stop indulging the parts of you that are resisting.  Nudge them with love, with gentleness, with friends and with life changes towards the image of the woman you believe deserves this amazing love you are experiencing.  You might be shocked when you realize you are the perfect worthy other half, and this might not happen until you begin to fall as hard in love with yourself as he has.

Want to Ask Yenta too?  Click here.

Merissa Nathan Gerson is a fan of
Ask Your Yenta

Naming Kids After Remarriage

In Breakups/Divorce, Marriage on June 27, 2010 at 1:36 pm

Dear Yenta,

I have one child from a previous divorce. My child and I have the same last name, my maiden name. In the event that I get remarried and have more children, what are your thoughts about what should happen to our last names? I am worried that my child will feel left out if everyone has a different last name than him. I am also worried that if I have a hyphenated last name, my other children will not want the hyphen.


Don't make Billy Bob feel any more alien than he might already feel in a new family. Photo courtesy of Victor Jeffreys II,

Dear NC,

I think, in general, we cross big bridges when we come to them.  If and when you get remarried and pregnant, then you will probably know the answer to this question on instinct, or with the help of your partner.

I know a lot of kids in the same family with different fathers.  A bastard knows he is a bastard, ie, each child knows their origin or their difference without needing a reminder.  All the children in these families I know have the same last name. In most cases, the child’s name was changed with the new marriage.

In your case, that your child has your maiden name, this implies that you could continue this tradition, and give all your children your maiden name, or have an adult discussion with your one child and say, “we are a family now, and it would be nice, I think, for us all to have the same name.”  You are the mother, don’t forget, the matriarch.  You decide, and everyone follows suit.

Think about lineage and think about a clan and think about togetherness; these factors can be your guiding light in this situation.  All in all, divorce happens.  Preserve an identity for your child that you think might transcend flippant relationships.  In this case, your maiden name sounds good to me.  Different last names are a no-go.  They simply highlight separatism within a family.

And finally, why worry if your children will want or not want the hyphen in a hyphenated name?  YOU name YOUR children, and they live with that name, period.  This is how we all had to deal, with the name given to us.  Have confidence and again, cross this bridge when you come to it.

Ask Yenta!  E-mail a question to merissag[at]gmail[dot]com directly, or using to ask anonymously.

Merissa Nathan Gerson is a fan of
Ask Your Yenta

Advice From Your Moms

In Dating, Marriage, Sex on May 9, 2010 at 7:08 pm

We love our mothers because, among other things, they made us cool. Photo courtesy of Victor Jeffreys II,

In honor of Mother’s Day I anonymously interviewed a handful of America’s finest matriarchs. Before we begin, a humble shout out to the mothers we have lost whose advice on these topics would have no doubt assisted women everywhere in living on their wilder side, including but not limited to the fabulous Kathy Blane, Sherry Millard, and the many others who shaped the better of our generation. You are missed. 

Without further ado, The Wisdom of Your Moms

Advice to a virgin: 

It might not be great the first time. 

Lubricate yourself. 

Go for it! 

Hold on to it, it’s not going anywhere. 

Get birth control – you never know when children will happen. 

Advice to a woman who can’t come: 

This is if there isn’t some medical or other serious reason she can’t: 


Have a drink.

Get a sex toy online so you don’t have to deal with any hassle. And then just teach yourself how to do it. 

Bedroom advice for men: 

Slow down, take your time, listen.  

This is not a race to the finish. 

Secret sexual knowledge: 

Be sexy. 

Be open to try new things. 

Know what your guy wants. 

How do you know what he wants? 

Men don’t verbalize normally, but they do try to lead the way and you just have to trust and go for it. 

How do you know if there is more to him as a lover than what he says he wants? 

Show him.  

Push his limits. 

Be totally open. 

Follow the moment. 

Advice to a woman with many lovers: 


Get rid of most of them. Pare it down and simplify your life. 

Advice to a woman with a cheating partner: 

Get rid of him – unless you have a child. And even then, I don’t think I could deal with it, but some people can. 

Advice for finding a husband: 

Don’t try to find it – they will come to you.I was asked by four men for their hand in marriage but it wasn’t something that I wanted to do. The fifth was the man I married. Sometimes women scare men away because they so need to get married. 

There’s a difference between declarative intention, ie, I will find a good man, and needy desperation to transform a lover into a husband. 

Guys take their own time. The more you push, the more they move away from you. 

Demand to be treated with respect. 

No man is going to want you if you don’t have self-respect. If you expect respect, you will get respect. 

Don’t give it away for free. 

Pursue your interests and have a good time. 

Advice to a newlywed: 

You have to stop thinking about yourself. Even in this age of equality, it’s compromise. You have to go 60/40 in a marriage to make it work. 

The real thing is, you have to compromise, but you also have to be yourself. Deal with who you are and the other things will fall into place. 

Be sure that before you get married, you know who you are marrying. People don’t change. A lot of women expect that marriage will transform their husband into a new and better person. What you got dating him, you will get after the wedding. After marriage he will still be him, so be sure you like that person. 

The party is over. The work is here. 

There is always a downside after the performance of a wedding, relax, you will get through it. 

Sometimes women are so focused on the wedding that they forget there is a marriage that happens after it. Marriage does happen. 

Talk to your spouse.Enjoy it now, it’s never going to be as simple as it is at that moment. It will get better, richer and more complex, but never as simple and wonderful as those first few months. 

Advice on good living: 

Just be happy.  

Don’t have crazy expectations and don’t push people. 

Don’t wear yourself out.   

Shore some of the responsibility, let others be there for you. 

Don’t try to do everything. 

Do everything. 

And finally, to my own mom, the invincible: I love you. 

Happy Mother’s Day from Your 28-Year-Old Yenta!!! 

Ask Yenta!  E-mail a question to merissag[at]gmail[dot]com directly, or using to ask anonymously.

Merissa Nathan Gerson is a fan of
Ask Your Yenta

6 Years, Sexless Marriage

In Breakups/Divorce, Marriage, Sex on April 11, 2010 at 9:03 pm

According to the sages, marriage takes work. Photo courtesy of Victor Jeffreys II,


Is there anyway to fall back in love with your husband after 23 yrs of a roller coaster marriage? Would it better to move on and try to build a new life at 50. If I we’re to try and make it work, that’s assuming he still wants to get w me, how would I go about having sex with him again after 4-6 years?


Desperate for Directions

Dear DFD,

For you, I consulted two Rebbetzins, ie, the wives of good Rabbis. According to the first wise woman I asked, “I do think with a history of 23 years it is possible to fall back in love, its worth seeking help for this. Alone and single at 50 is not as simple as it sounds and the chance of meeting someone is not huge… I know too many women here who are still single at 60 and 70 etc and really regret it. I would say try every option first.”

As we discussed this dilemma we concurred that marriage counseling is in order. That, and upping the communication between husband and wife. Have you talked about your sex life openly with your husband in six years? Have you directly addressed the issues that are mushrooming between you? Communication builds intimacy; intimacy builds trust; trust builds safety; safety yields the possibility for wild sexual expression. Follow suit.

Later I contacted, where there are live people with great Jewish knowledge waiting online to help people with their questions. I asked the woman there about your dilemma and she immediately said, “I certainly DO believe people can fall in love again…though it takes work. There are many many good books and counselors who can help a couple rekindle what they believe is lost.” (See below for titles.)

“Would you agree?” she asked me. “Yes,” I answered. Adding my own two cents I went on, “I agree. But there is something sad to me about a woman who is beautiful, alive and intelligent trying to make it work with a man who might not be good for her. I have faith in marriage, and respect its sanctity, but also know that we die one day and only live once. So to invest a lifetime in making a dead relationship alive again could be a gamble.”

Together we decided that you need to remember why you married this man, remember what held you together on that roller coaster for 23 years. Yes, it sounds like you had dips and whirls and nausea and everything that goes with a ride, but it also sounds like there was a proper seat belt keeping you alive, close to someone in the seat next to you, and possibly, a thrill.

Or, you held on for the sake of the kids, or out of fear. Or, you married out of obligation, or ignorance, or need. Do you love him? Do you want it to work? Are you staying only because you fear starting over again? I ADORE the brave women I meet in their 50’s and 60’s who did the hard work of leaving a bad thing and finding themselves all over again. Why? Because leaving the man they were with for 30 years and starting over leaves them at a virtual age 28.

I know that women are strong and can endure things for the sake of holding a family and children together. I also know that women make mistakes in choosing partners. But 23 years is a long time. Six years is too. So before you quit, put your heart into this like a brave warrior and see what it yields. The woman at AskMoses reminded me that the Mishna teaches, “according to the toil is the reward.” “In other words,” she explained, “the effort she invests in her relationship will reward her as they can grow to feel intimate (emotionally and otherwise) once again.”

Places to seek help:

Find a marriage counselor, stat, to see what is keeping you from getting intimate with the man you once loved.

For a Jewish spin on marriage and working with it, check out Can This Marriage Be Saved? a blog hosted by This week’s feature is on what an empty nest does to a marriage.

I do wonder, do you have kids? One thing that happens as children age, is that couples can no longer deflect their issues into caring for their offspring. Once the kids become adults, the parents are left with each other again. In those years of child-rearing it can be easy to lose touch with one another, burying issues under soccer practices and birthday parties. Now you have to sweep up shop after all that production.

Also check out creepy but brilliant John Gray, author of Women are From Mars, Men are From Venus. His website has a whole arsenal of marriage-saving resources including Online Counseling, the How Do You Rate In The Bedroom Quiz, or the Monthly Romance Planner.

Or, check out the even creepier Surrendered Wife for marriage-saving ideas by Laura Doyle.

And finally… “As for her question on physical intimacy,” wrote the operator, “I think she can invite him for an evening of long overdue romance and do all the classic things, music, candles etc., to get things rekindled that way.”

Or, try reading Kim Catrall’s book, (although she did write it with her EX-husband) Satisfaction: The Art of the Female Orgasm

Is Cheating Wrong If the Partner Knows?

In Dating, Drama, Marriage, Sex on February 12, 2010 at 2:36 am

Infidelity yields all kinds of results. See Julianne Moore in Far From Heaven for one scenario.

Dear Yenta,

I am a man having an affair with a married man whose spouse knows about us and looks the other way. Is it still morally wrong?


Dear C,

That’s a tricky one. It comes down to a number of things, mostly between the married man and his wife/husband. There are such things as open marriages, where the couple, despite their commitment to one another for life, choose to open their beds to others (see PiggyBack Dating for more). If this is the case, continue to ride the bull guilt-free.

But let’s play with some other scenarios, shall we? Let’s say this man you are sleeping with is married to a woman and the woman is not into open relationships. Ok. She catches her husband, whom she thought loved women such as herself, sleeping with male you. That blows on so many levels that she might rather go on pretending. In this case, it is definitely morally wrong.

I met a couple once, a man and a woman, who found each other at a support group. It was a group for people whose spouses left them for same-sex lovers. Ie, both this man and woman’s respective wife and husband went gay, they fell apart, and then found each other at my-wife/husband-left-me-for-homosexuality-anonymous.

Another time I met a man who was sleeping with men and cheating on his wife. They tried to make it work for 6 years until things fell apart. When they divorced he became very gay and very happily ever after. You never know what the deal is with a couple, if they are meant to be together, or if you are a bump on their road to moving on to stage 76587 of their existence. Regardless, it is messy to be tooting a married man’s horn.

Another option, you are sleeping with a man married to a man who is cheating on his husband. Forget the gay factor, infidelity SUCKS. People who don’t tell and accept the situation might be in a loveless business transaction marriage, or might be too terrified of losing their spouse, or maybe don’t care one way or the other. Either way, I am inclined to say that yes, no matter what the situation, it is always morally wrong to break a vow.

So, you know if you are involved in vow-breaking based on what you know of the scenario. Also, the onus falls on your lover, most of all. He is the one with a commitment that he is violating. You, on the other hand, are simply an enabler.

Moral of the story: check the waters before you jump. If you are already swimming with the sharks of infidelity, then ask one, “Sharky, are you married with benefits? Is your wife a repressed woman denying your homosexuality? Is your husband getting his heart broken?” Find out exactly what you are dealing with and then judge yourself accordingly. Generally, even if a marriage is already dead, an affair helps to put that fire out. I like building marriage fires for long slow lifelong warmth, so try not to mess with the flames.

It also boils down to you: why are you choosing married men for lovers in the first place? A question for you, yourself and you.

Converting to Marry Her

In Marriage, Mental Health on February 3, 2010 at 1:19 am

Dear Yenta,

I am a 26 year-old WASP lesbian in love and committed to my loving partner who is Sicilian and Jewish. We have been together for a year and a half and we are raising her 2 children together. Suddenly, just before setting foot into synagogue, I had this feeling that becoming a Jew would be a path that I would embark upon. After being raised Protestant and hating organized religion in general, establishing a relationship with a higher power and participating in a religious ceremonies strangely seems to be what is right for me right now.

The congregation in our small town is progressive and many members are converts to Judaism. My issue is: we’re getting married in four months and we would like a Jewish ceremony. I inquired with a few senior members of the congregation and they put me in contact with the person in charge of classes that converted Jews take. The teacher said that the classes had already begun and unless I knew Hebrew, I couldn’t join until the next go around well into the future. He also mentioned that the process generally takes a year to a year and a half. This scared me, I didn’t know I had to learn that much Hebrew and that the process would take so long. I reported back to the senior members, they scoffed at such requirements. They encouraged me to spend time with the people of the congregation to make sure this is something I truly want. They also assured me that learning a few cardinal prayers and basic Jewish terms and customs would be sufficient in allowing me to be a Jew.

My problem is, I am truly and sincerely interested in becoming a Jew and raising our children in a Jewish household, but I would really like to be considered a Jewish at our wedding 4 months from now. Where do I go from here? From what I have learned, Jewish ceremonies can most certainly exist without the presence of a rabbi. Should we roll on our own? My instinct is to continue with how I see fit and absorb what I can about Judaism until the wedding and I’ll know that although my journey has just begun, I can get married as a Jew and continue blossoming long after the wedding has ended. What do you think oh wise Yenta?

-Jonesing to Be a Jew

Don't get lost when you look into her eyes.


One thing I don’t understand is, why the rush? If you want to be married Jewish and it is that important to both of you, why not wait and do the conversion full throttle? Then, at least, you can enjoy learning and transmuting your religiosity. That, and becoming Jewish isn’t about, as you pout it, “right now.” Joining a tribe, unless you scorn your wife, is a forever kind of deal.

Those scant requirements from that synagogue are nothing compared to a childhood of Hebrew School, Shabbat dinners, services, funerals, weddings and Bar Mitzvahs. What does it mean to you “To be a Jew?” And who decides, how and when? Does it matter if this congregation thinks you are Jewish at your Jewish wedding? This is an enormous undertaking, which you sound like you want to be a walk in the park.

I am of two minds when it comes to your question: the defensive Jewish mind, and the objective Jewish intellectual mind.

A 26 year-old Jewish woman is not born overnight. Your partner, myself, and other Jews in America have built an identity through familial influence AND endured the identity marker, culture and history of being Jewish for way longer than four months. That being said, you might need to be more patient. A lifetime of lessons cannot be filtered quickly into the mind of someone new to the religion. To be a Jewish American is no simple feat. It is a commitment, a beautiful multi-faceted often-tormented spiritual or non-spiritual convoluted implications-laden identity that should be approached slowly, cautiously, and if so driven, with intense conviction.

I asked an elder of mine, a Jewish Holocaust survivor, what she thought about your question. She couldn’t understand my defense, and said that Judaism is a cultural identity grounded in a lifetime of learning about Torah. She said if you want to align yourself culturally as a Jew and then embark on the spiritual learning that will carry you from now all the way to your grave, then why not call you Jewish right now.

I say marry that woman as yourself, and worry about being a Jew when and if the shoe suddenly fits. Ask yourself again the why, how, who and what of your decision to cross this religious divide. If you feel it fits now, and that you are Jewish, then start now.

If someone were converting to marry me, I think I would want them to be themselves at the altar, and with time and hard work, move towards an identity shift. Think about how long a sex change takes.

Maybe marry as “WASP lesbian” and evolve slowly into this religious shift. Take your cues from the biblical, and look at 40 days, 40 months, or 40 years as numerical markers of your Judeo-evolution. Also, look into creative Jewish ceremonies. Of the six weddings I attended this year, ALL were somewhat Jewish. One was a Jewish bride and a non-denominational minister, the next was intensely mystical and orthodox. After that a rabbi married a Jew to a non-Jew, and another was split between a spiritual Christian priestess and a rabbi as the conductors of ceremony.

Calling yourself a “WASP” isn’t the most positive self-defining moment. Don’t lose who you are in this new religious awakening. You might resent it later. See if you can walk the Jewish cakewalk while still remembering and respecting your own real and viable roots.

For more, click here for basic conversion requirements. Also try

Small-Town Love?

In Dating, Marriage on January 24, 2010 at 8:44 pm

Small town charm is worth the wait. Photo courtesy of

Dear Yenta,

I am approaching a giant crossroads in my life: graduating from a
masters program and looking for somewhere to live. Right now I live
in a mid-sized town, but I would like to go smaller. I like the
intimacies of small towns; the way a fourth of July parade can provide
a week’s worth of entertainment. What I don’t like is the
loneliness. I’m worried that moving to a small town would reduce my
chances of meeting a man to zero. I’m at an age where this has
become more important: I’m ready to meet someone and settle down. So
here is my question for you, one I have been thinking of for some
time–do I move to a larger city with a larger dating pool or continue
biding my time in the company of trees and old folks in small towns?

-Scared of Skyscrapers

Dear SOS,

Didn’t you see Field Of Dreams? If you want baseball, build a field. “If you build it,” my dear, “they will come.”

Finding love may be less about location and more about vision. Cultivating love is a practice, and one that, with a solid amount of hope and drive, should yield results. While it seems like everyone around you has found “it,” make sure you know what love means and looks like for you. Their love isn’t your love, and your love is contingent upon working on your own demons until you know how to navigate your own heart.

If you move to a small town and build a life of passion, intrigue, and self-care chances are you will attract the love of your life. Wouldn’t it be sad if you moved to a big city looking for a life partner, abandoned your real dreams and wishes, and were left lonely and single? Or what if you did find this man, but bagged your dreams?

A friend in South Africa once stressed the difference between “alone” and “lonely.” Alone in a small town with vision and drive and a cultivated life won’t hurt for a while. Lonely, however, has much less to do with having or not having a lover, and much more to do with your relationship with yourself. Cure those blues by being your own lover in the days/months/years between partners.

If finding lasting love is part of your plan, stop looking. Forget finding the one and work on finding yourself. The stronger and more full of self-directed affection you become, the brighter your star. And the brighter your star, whether in a small city, big town, country bumpkin nowhere: this person will be able to find you even on the darkest night.

So do what you love, where you love it, and have faith. It will come, when you very least expect it.

Or…if my optimism doesn’t sway you, try a city with a towny feel. Think Flagstaff, AZ, Santa Fe, NM, Greensboro, NC, Boulder, CO or other places that have a flowing population but a sense of containment. One friend suggested you move to a suburb, where you can dip into the big city dating pool while resting on the edges.

Still, I think go where your heart takes you. In a town of 500 in the middle of nowhere on the coast of Ireland you might just find your bartender husband. (See Leap Year for inspiration.)

Have a question? Ask Yenta via attn: merissag[at]gmail[dot]com.

Jacked Up On Jealousy

In Drama, Marriage on December 22, 2009 at 10:38 pm

Dear Yenta,

My husband and I have been together almost 5 years. When we first met, my husband was embarrassed to admit he’d married his college sweetheart – a marriage that lasted about a year – so he described her as a girlfriend until his big, dark secret was exposed.
I was pissed, naturally, and forbade further contact with her. If he was unable to be honest about the complexity of their relationship then of course he lost his rights to pursuing any further relationship or communication with her. I’m sure she’s a nice enough lady – heck, she doesn’t even live in this country, but she needs to buy a
clue. She knows what happened, knows I’m uncomfortable with her attempts to communicate with him (including attempts within the past few weeks) yet continues to try to make this pair a threesome. No thank you. My husband has no ill will towards her and they share a number of mutual friends, but I don’t care. I come first and am allowed to be selfish about this one. He denies contact with her – which for the most part I believe, yet her subtle ways of trying to engage him in her life have become unbearable for me. She has even gone so far as to friend all of my husband’s siblings on Facebook – some of which were children during the time of their relationship. I know the harsh words of ENOUGH need to come from my husband, but if he’s unwilling say anything to keep the peace, well then what should I do? Is there the possibility that I’ve lost the battle on this win…should I hang my white flag high and let these two have their friendship, but he loses our marriage in the process?

-Down and Out

Dear Down and Out,

This situation has turned into a poorly directed spiral of jealousy, control and deception. When it comes to maintaining an honest relationship, it takes two. One person needs to be open enough for the other to want to share, and vice-versa. You say “I was pissed, naturally” but your anger sounds misdirected. You put it all on this other woman, turning your hurt into jealousy, rather than addressing the rift in honesty in your relationship. Jealousy does not foster this openness.

In the 2.2.04 Psychology Today article, “Advice, A Jealous Fiancée,” Hara Estroff Marano writes:

“A little jealousy is reassuring and may even be programmed into us. It’s very common. A lot of jealousy is scary, and has driven people to some very dangerous behavior. There’s no reason to believe that jealousy will improve with time or marriage … Because jealousy goes right to the core of the self and its roots are deep, it is not something that can be banished by wishful thinking.”

From all the angst in this question I have to wonder first about your own relationship with your husband. Ok, so he married a woman he said he dated. Is he still married to her? No. He left her, found you, and vowed he would be yours until he died. If you don’t trust that vow then you need to revisit your relationship.

You need to search yourself and your partnership for answers, rather than trying to control this woman’s need for reconnection. It sounds like that lie your husband told really hurt you and ruined some sense of security for your marriage. How about starting by addressing that? Click here for help.

It is one thing to be insecure while dating, but marriage is a whole other ball game. It is a partnership that takes sincere long-term investment. And unlike dating, this investment comes from deep within each spouse, rather than deflecting drama to outside parties. It sounds like rather than obsessing over this other woman, who may or may not be a threat, you should start by focusing on the things you can actually impact, which are the communication, honesty, and general feeling of love and safety in your present relationship.

For more help try: Love Busters: Protecting Your Marriage from Habits that Destroy Romantic Love, or His Needs, Her Needs: Building an Affair-Proof Marriage, both by Willard Harley..

Couples counseling should come long before Facebook stalking. There are more complex questions to evaluate, like why did your husband feel embarrassed about that first wedding, and moreso, why in front of YOU, his supposed most intimate partner? Also, why won’t he close this woman out of his life? Is it possible that she is an important friend to both him and his family? And that, at the same exact time, so are you? Can’t a man have a woman friend and a wife without it being infidelity? After all, he left her and found you. And finally, let’s say he seeks more from her and is betraying you, you have to wonder why he looks in her direction not yours. Instead of hating her, you need a Cinderella-esque mirror on the wall to explain to you why you might not be, at present, with all this jealousy and controlling fearful behavior, the fairest of them all.

If it seems like I am picking on you, don’t get me wrong, it is only because you wrote in. It sounds like your husband deserves a real talking to and also has some major work to do.

Wedding, Squared

In Marriage on November 29, 2009 at 12:00 pm

Dear Yenta,

Mr. X, recently proposed to me. Mr. X, soon after the engagement, started freaking out about marriage and commitment. I cut him slack because he has a lot of emotional baggage, but it was torture for me. Meanwhile, an ex-boyfriend from my teenage years confessed his love for me, also proposing. Now I am torn between Mr. X and Mr. Y. Both would make amazing fathers and I want babies soon. I can’t decide between them and am afraid of losing whichever I turn down.


Dear Torn,

When a man gets on one knee and proposes marriage he is saying, or should be saying, a few things. He is saying he is mature, ready to commit himself to another. He is saying he is formed as a person, willing to hold up his end of a relationship in order to be yours forever. If, days after kneeling before you, he freaks out and makes this freak out your problem, chances are he isn’t holding up his end of the emotional bargain.

For marriage, two whole people should meet mid-way, unify, and create a life together of balance suitable, in your case, for raising children. This sounds strict, or idealistic, but we only live once and only choose once, supposedly, for marriage. Why not set the standard high and live a life in accordance with this high bar?

You know in your heart if X or Y is your match, better than any friend, family member or random online column could tell you. Or neither is your match, which is always an option. In choosing a husband you don’t have to settle, ever. This is your one life, your one partner. Are you sticking with Mr. X because you are afraid to hurt him? Afraid to leave the comfort of those five years? Or because you truly love him and want him to be the person who represents half of you forever?

And Mr. Y, have you kissed him? Is there chemistry? Will you feel braver or bolder with X or Y on your arm? With which man will you feel exquisite when you walk into a crowded room? Which man makes you feel more proud of your own identity when seen through his eyes? And which man do you truly believe in? Who will hold you when you are mourning, comfort you when you are birthing, and who would you want to comfort through equally challenging life hurdles?

This is not about a Vera Wang dress and a bow on a cake, this is not about right now or feeling less or more guilty, this is a decision about how much joy, beauty, and happiness you want to leak into your life. If Mr. X failed you after asking you to commit to him forever, what does that predict might follow down the road? Beware of potholes that turn into manholes, and don’t be afraid of the possibility of happily ever after. This prospect is often more terrifying than the prospect of a failed marriage and requires bravery and self-love to embrace.