Afraid of Losing Herself

Q: I've read some of your responses about issues with relationships. I liked what I read and thought I would bring my question to you. I have a gentleman friend who means a lot to me. The feeling is mutual, which is great and kind of scary at the same time. I don't have a good relationship track record. I was with one man for 18 years, married for 13 of those years. I've been divorced (single) for 3 years and honestly believed I would be alone for the rest of my life. That is, until I met Rick. I don't know what the future holds for us and try not to think about it. I feel overwhelmed by my emotions when I think of him, when I read his emails, when I hear his voice on the phone. I'm a 50-year-old woman for Pete's sake, not a hormonally charged teenager. I have a career that I'm quite proud of, friends who care about and support me, interests and hobbies of my own. In short, I have a life. Yet, I turn into goo at the mention of his name. I'm thinking this isn't a good thing. I lived for my husband and marriage. In doing so, I lost myself. I want Rick in my life. I don't want Rick to be my life. Please help. -- Leann, 50

Dr. Susan: Congratulations, Leann. Not on falling in love again, which anyone with hormones can do. But you get props for having learned some valuable lessons from your first marriage. Some people make the same mistake over and over again, and I can see you're not likely to. You've given up your individuality before, and you didn't like what you became: an accessory to a man, living his life instead of the one you were meant to live. This time your awareness of the risk means the same thing isn't going to happen again. So don't let your fears get in the way of what could be a beautiful relationship. Don't avoid closeness. Rick is not your ex-husband, and you are not your younger, more foolishly submissive self.

As for feeling overwhelmed by your emotions at the start of a love affair, welcome to the club, a club, by the way, which includes people of all ages, from puberty to very old age (not 50 years old but more like 100). So far, so good. Your anxiety is natural. Luckily, the teenagers don't own all the hormones! What I'd recommend is that you take it as it comes, and when the time is right, i.e., fairly soon, open up to Rick that you're a little anxious about losing yourself because you like him so much. See how he reacts. When I was seriously dating my second husband, he told me to be myself. With little experience at that, I said, "How do you want me to be?" He didn't fall for that, and repeated, "Be yourself." I hope your Rick convinces you that he wants you just the way you are and isn't expecting you to give up your friends, your career, or your interests. You can have your own life and be happy in a close relationship, too. Good luck!

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