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Ask Ellie: Why does my friend keep making bad partner choices?

Dear Ellie: My close girlfriend is once again involved with a needy guy using up all her energy. We’re both 32, I’m married and have three kids. She’s divorced, single, no kids, having had several other failed relationships.

Dear Ellie: My close girlfriend is once again involved with a needy guy using up all her energy.

We’re both 32, I’m married and have three kids. She’s divorced, single, no kids, having had several other failed relationships.

She’s sad at not having had a child yet, but she’s never had a relationship with someone who wanted children. They all seemed to care only for themselves.

Her ex-husband cheated on her over a few months. One ex-boyfriend insisted she drive the four hours to his northern cottage every weekend and listed what foods she should bring because he’s “too busy to shop.”

Another guy, divorced, often dropped off his nursery-age son at her place for the day, because he had “work deadlines to meet” … though she also worked from home.

There’ve been more stories, all similar. She’s caved in to all. I don’t understand it. She’s attractive, very intelligent work-wise, and exceptionally caring, yet can’t find a stable, happy relationship with a decent partner. Your advice?

Concerned Friend

This otherwise-smart woman needs to care more about her own relationship needs. She wants to have a child, but raising even just one with someone so self-centered doesn’t create a true partnership.

It’s her willingness to adapt to everyone else’s needs that have made her an easy “mark” for their taking advantage.

She has some wonderful personal qualities, but lacks social intelligence, needed when building a future relationship. She’s apparently unable to spot obvious clues.

She could learn a lot, however, if she began meeting online or in person with a psychologist or psychotherapist to discuss her relationship history.

They can explore why she keeps choosing the wrong potential partner, and is also openly vulnerable to their choosing her.

Encourage her to take time/effort to focus on herself and the future she wants, while facing up to why she’s not protected herself from users.

Often, peoples’ past experiences, looked at closely, reveal the answers and motivation needed in the present.

Dear Ellie: When I was 40, I was dating a woman I liked a lot, for several months. However, I was still only separated, not divorced from my ex, and shared custody of our two children.

I was surprised (and pleased) that my then-new “girlfriend” didn’t want any stated commitment. Her friend had confided that in several previous relationships, my dating partner had eventually discovered by accident that the man was married. The first one broke her heart. She called the wife and revealed all.

After that, she kept a rein on her feelings and expectations. I knew that she enjoyed my company (and our physical attraction) and I also enjoyed hers, but we weren’t going into the future together.

Soon after, I re-connected with my wife, and we tried hard to make the marriage work. Three years later, we divorced.

After five years of being single again, I entered into a second marriage and blended family that’s been very happy and committed.

I’m curious about your take on my experience.

Successful Second Time

It’s a story of the times, when marital separations have become relatively unsurprising. Yet, family breakups still have a profound effect on children, such that how they’re handled should be well considered before splitting apart.

Marital counselling can be useful, even if not fully satisfying initially to one of the parties.

Your experience was somewhat cautious, which was wise. The same is true for taking enough time for kids’ early adjustments before marrying another partner.

Feedback regarding the frustrated tuition donors to a niece who isn’t working during summer break (July 18):

“There’s a missing crucial question in these caring uncles’ look at her decision not to work/earn: What is her actual plan to pay for school?

“Depending on her program, $3,000 a year is probably less than half her tuition, and covers no living costs. Does she have a job at school in the fall to cover her (although summer earnings would be a good contingency)? Or, worst case, she’ll be burdened with a considerable student debt.

“Rather than focus just on ‘get a job,’ the important learning opportunity is to help her realize that debt is a burden that’ll limit her choices for years.

“If she didn’t get financial management guidance growing up, she may not realize the impact of not making important financial decisions.

“Consider this as a red flag on her lack of a critical life skill.”

Ellie’s tip of the day

Relationships that suit the needs of only one partner, reflect that person’s self-absorption and the other’s deflated (or weakened) self-esteem.

Send relationship questions to ellie@thestar.ca