What to do if your husband talks about his first wife a lot? Here, a seventy-something woman asks for advice on her second marriage.

 

 I’ve been married to this wonderful man for the past six years. It’s a second marriage for us both. He’s a widower in his 80s and I’m in my mid-70s and divorced. Here’s my dilemma. He talks A LOT about his first wife – “we did this, we went there, I remember when we...”.  I understand that each of us is the sum of our life experiences, but those are his memories, not mine. It makes me uncomfortable when he goes on about her and the days gone by. I’m not part of that ‘we’ and nor can I ever be. What should I do, if anything? Am I being selfish?

Bernice, Toronto

 

A   No, you’re not being selfish, but you may be taking it too personally. “It’s very common in a relationship to personalize something the other person is doing,” says Joe Rich, a Toronto-based social worker who specializes in family and relationship issues. Your husband’s stories, he says, don’t mean he had a better life with his first wife or that he’s insensitive to your feelings. “It’s just a developmental time of reflection. This man is at that age and stage in life when people talk about what they’ve done in the past.”

Mr. Rich thinks you need to change your expectation that he’s going to stop talking about his ‘other life.’ As a counsellor, he has plenty of experience dealing with second marriages and he hears your kind of complaint regularly. “There are always issues of what we call loyalty conflict. It’s endemic to second marriages.”

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