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Ask Ellie: Don't beat yourself up over ex-girlfriend

Advice: Three and a half years of a happy connection is a good run. She helped lift your spirits from the depths of loss after the death of your wife.

Dear Ellie: I’m a man, 63, whose wife died in a tragic accident eight years ago. Our two married children had moved to other cities for work. My whole sense of family was shattered.

I grieved and was extremely lonely. I finally decided to try online dating and met a terrific woman four years ago. She was smart, successful in her own business and very attractive. She was also 12 years younger than me.

I should have wondered why she’d choose an older widower when she already had all the qualities to attract anyone her own age. But I was too happy to worry.

My kids each travelled to meet her as soon as they could, possibly suspecting that the age difference meant she was after their future inheritance. But they soon saw that she came with her own security and income.

We had three and a half great years together, travelled to places we both enjoyed, and I felt revived from my grief. Don’t misunderstand, I still loved every memory of my late wife.

I just have trouble understanding what happened with this other woman. Just when we seemed to be most connected, she pulled away. Was it simply the age difference? Had she just felt sorry for me? Or was I some kind of experiment for her, like her wanting to see if she could get a man to be crazy about her, and then drop him?

Played by a Pro

Don’t beat yourself up or negate a great relationship. Three and a half years of a happy connection is a good run. She was an interesting and exciting “girlfriend” who helped lift your spirits from the depths of loss.

She clearly wasn’t looking for a husband or long-term partner. Instead, she offered great companionship, good times, new vistas to explore… and the opportunity for you to rediscover your own strengths and ability to thrive in the years ahead.

I won’t be surprised if you eventually see her as the person who showed you the grief-recovery steps towards embracing your own future.

Dear Ellie: I’m a woman, 32, who lived with someone in my mid-20s and split up two years later. I realize now that I rushed into that early relationship because I felt I had to show friends who were getting engaged and planning weddings that someone wanted me.

I’m smarter now, I have had several decent partners but, because I’ve not married, I feel that some of my friends “judge” me. But I just can’t accept “second-rate” relationships.

I have a lot to offer a full-time partner and refuse to settle for less. I’m smart, loyal, and I run a small business. But too many men I meet are focused primarily on a sexual connection, and resist discussing emotional feelings.

Have I now missed the marriage boat?

Time’s Passing

Rushing to marry for the sake of “been there, done that,” is like chasing after butterflies. They fly faster than you and don’t stick around.

Instead, the first step is to feel certain that you love a particular someone. This must be a gut-heart-brain connection of feelings. Love is the core emotion, existing as a certainty beyond just the goal of marriage.

Sex is an important drive in a relationship, but matters most when it’s mutual passion. Still, there must be deeper ties… the miracle gifts of admiration, respect, honesty.

Even when all the stars are aligned, it’s still essential to take time to build trust.

Reader’s Commentary Regarding people neglecting to write thank you notes for their grandparents’ and others’ gifts (Feb. 24):

“Lisi’s response was spot on! My nieces and nephew do not send thank you notes so I’ve stopped sending them anything more than a card or email.

“I was taught to not only write the notes promptly but that I had to mention the gift(s) specifically.

“I still do this but I would have appreciated even a simple “thanks for the present,” as acknowledgement.

“My older sister went a bit further years ago when my younger sister said she excused her kiddies from writing notes because they were busy. Older Sis said that, from then on, the gifts would reflect the last note’s quality.

“Guess what? No more gifts. Imagine that. It is a shame that traditional courtesies seem to be on the decline. Perhaps daughter and Mom, Ellie, can help remedy this with gentle persuasions.”

Ellie — We’ll try.

Ellie’s tip of the day

Every special relationship matters, including those which ended simply because their time was over.

Send relationship questions to [email protected] or [email protected].