Don't be once bitten twice shy...
February 27, 2010 5:08 PM   Subscribe

Relationship Filter...One of my best female friends went through about 10 years of a bad marriage....

She admits she should have never married the guy and now blames herself for staying in for so long. She finally left him a couple years ago.


She began dating a guy last year who was perfect for her. He was kind, loving, and she told all of us that he could be her soul mate, however, about a year into the relationship, she suddenly broke it off. When I finally pressed her into talking about what happened, she said that he didn't do anything wrong at all, she just started to worry that things COULD go bad and she didn't want to get hurt again. She said "once bitten, twice shy"

What kind of advice can i give her that just because the ex was a jerk, not every guy will be one...
posted by keep it tight to Human Relations (12 answers total) 2 users marked this as a favorite
That's a tough situation. It's one of the things that no matter what you tell someone, they really have to learn it for themselves. For something that's lasted this long, it's going to take time. So really, it's all about patience, and it's all about being cognizant of what the situation is.

So, perhaps, the best advice I could suggest is try to remind your female friend about similar times in her life where things at the moment seemed dim, but then got better, and in hindsight, all that worry and negative outlook was for naught. Thing is, this advice doesn't usually work so well, people tend to trick themselves into thinking things are different this time. Basically, you're not going to change someone's mind. So, perhaps the best thing to do is just consistent show how true the statement is and be a staple support system for them. They'll figure it out on their own in time.
posted by miasma at 5:12 PM on February 27, 2010

I don't think this is the sort of thing where your advice is needed or welcome at this point in time. She will just have to deal with this on her own schedule and no amount of you or her other friends telling her that this guy is "perfect for her" is going to help her get over this faster. 10 years is a long time and she's bound to take some time to recover from this.
posted by peacheater at 5:13 PM on February 27, 2010 [5 favorites]

It's very possible that after 10 years of a bad marriage, your friend has developed a highly-tuned sensitivity to aspects of a partner which are not acceptable to her.

Respect her radar, give her time, space and a lot of moral support. She knows not every guy is a jerk, she just wants not to jump right back into a LT relationship again.
posted by jamaro at 5:15 PM on February 27, 2010

I started calling these things bullshit hangovers. Like real hangovers you can do stuff to make it less painful but what you really need is time. And staying away from the hair of the dog.

Things I've done to make it less painful - being open with partners about the previous relationship and why I may seem to over-react to some things. Allowing myself the over-reaction but then working through it so I don't keep doing it. Giving myself time to heal and grieve and get angry. Having fulfilling and awesome relationships that aren't romantic.
posted by geek anachronism at 5:27 PM on February 27, 2010 [2 favorites]

She began dating a guy last year who was perfect for her...When I finally pressed her into talking about what happened...

She may just want to keep their problems private. The only people who know if a relationship is perfect are the people in it.
posted by sallybrown at 5:41 PM on February 27, 2010 [1 favorite]

Well, depending on what happened during those 10 years of marriage, it could be anything from PTSD (trauma) to a personal, self-defeating tendency, to any combination of everything in between.

There's simply is no way to tell from the outside (probably not by you, and certainly not by the internet).

The best advice you could probably give would be for her to seek professional counseling.

I know that may sound like a cheap, pat answer, but it truly is a major first step into self-discovery, even if it doesn't last. And the "self" is the only thing that can ultimately help your friend.
posted by DavidandConquer at 5:47 PM on February 27, 2010

Please don't push her.

I was married for seven years and got divorced. I never dated again after that. Nothing on earth is more annoying than my friends, my family and random strangers trying to tell me that there is somewhere a man for me and I should learn to love again.

If you don't want to annoy the living daylights out of your friend, you shouldn't pressure her to talk about things she doesn't want to talk about, and you shouldn't try to tell her how wonderful being in a relationship can be. The whole of Western civilization is all about how wonderful being in a relationship can be - you repeating that sort of thing to her isn't going to help.
posted by winna at 5:58 PM on February 27, 2010 [8 favorites]

Agreed with peacheater. I think you should just leave her alone and let her process her own feelings, heal, and make decisions for herself. Let her know that if she ever wants to talk, that you're there for her. I know you want good things for her, but pressing her into talking isn't cool, because then it becomes about what you want to know vs. what she wants to open up about. Maybe she didn't want to be in a relationship with that guy. Maybe she thought she wasn't deserving of being with a great partner. Those are things you can't talk someone out of and that they have to work on on their own. It's not about knowing not every guy is a jerk or will turn in one. She's gotta process this on her own. You can be supportive of her process of course, but you can't press her to do things she's not ready to do or doesn't want to do.
posted by foxjacket at 6:36 PM on February 27, 2010

There are two halves to every relationship. I'm sure your friend's ex-husband was a bad guy, but her staying with him that long suggests that there are also things she needs to work on about herself-- whether that be her self-esteem, her boundaries, her sense of "normal" in a partnership, whatever. Likewise, her choosing to end this latest relationship suggests that there was still something about the two of them together-- her + him, not just him-- that wasn't quite right.

Just support whatever work of self-discovery and healing she's doing right now, and you'll increase the chances that when the next good guy comes along, she'll be ready.
posted by Bardolph at 6:40 PM on February 27, 2010 [1 favorite]

What kind of advice can i give her that just because the ex was a jerk, not every guy will be one...

This isn't about that. This is about how she's coping with the fear that they are all like that. She couldn't deal with that emotion as it was happening to her, so she broke up with him to remove the fear.

She's got to learn a better way of coping with that and the only way to do that is through therapy.
posted by Ironmouth at 9:08 PM on February 27, 2010

She finally left him a couple years ago.

One of the things that's hardest to explain to people who have never been divorced is just how long it can actually take to get to really be done with it. If she's having relationships right now it's very likely in the context of "recently divorced person" and not in the context of youthful abandon.

If she starts up a pattern of dating guys for a while and then dumping them suddenly then you may want to suggest she talk to a professional about it. Doing it once sounds more like her figuring out what she's comfortable with right now.
posted by Tell Me No Lies at 10:18 PM on February 27, 2010

Be supportive and keep your advice to yourself unless she asks for it.
posted by balls at 5:03 AM on March 1, 2010

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