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Ask Ellie: Many people are much stronger emotionally than they think

Casual meeting for a date worth a try

Dear Ellie: I’m 34, married for seven years with no children. It just didn’t happen in the first few years, and then I gave up. Ever since, my husband was less interested in sex because he knew how frustrated I felt about not getting pregnant.

We discussed adoption but he wasn’t willing and wouldn’t change his mind. I knew there were other options, like in vitro fertilization, but after one attempt when it didn’t “take,” neither of us could even talk about it.

Now, I’m divorced and supposedly “free” these past six months, but I don’t feel it. All my close friends are pushing me to start dating online, and I keep making excuses.

Then something happened this past week that’s got me thinking I need to do something, or I’ll end up more miserable.

A man who’s a regular consultant to a different part of the company where I work, emailed me to ask how I am.

I was shocked. Even though he’s always nice and chatty with me if he sees me (my office is on the same floor as his but we don’t work on the same matters). We’ve never talked as regular friends, just workplace acquaintances.

When I hesitated, he said he’d heard that I was “going through a tough time.” He apologized for taking the chance, but said that he’d always found me friendly and positive, and he knew from his own experience how a marriage breakup can make you feel hopeless for a while.

Then he said that I mustn’t stay in that mood, because I’m “too nice” to hide myself at home. He said he understood it may be too soon, but he’s hoping that we can have coffee together after work, sometime.

I surprised myself and just quietly said, “OK, I’ll let you know.”

I haven’t emailed him back. And I’m terrified.

Part of me wonders if I can even give something that simple, not really a date, a try. Before my divorce, I would’ve met him in a moment as part of knowing a colleague.

Now I’m wondering if he’s just thinking I’m vulnerable, and that he’ll make a pass or even worse, and I’ll sink even more depressed at how my life has changed.

What do you think? Should I meet this guy just to see what it’s like to be on a simple coffee date? Or, should I follow my best friend’s advice that I should go and see if he’s really a good man who’ll lift my spirits?

Depressed Divorcee

You do need a lift to your spirits. and a casual meeting with a man you already know is worth a try, so long as you don’t stress yourself into negativity.

You’re stronger than you realize. You emerged from a difficult marriage in which divorce was mutually agreed. You’re a problem-solver, not a relationship failure.

This man is unlikely to make any inappropriate moves so don’t build an excuse for not meeting him. Call on your normal confidence, listen/chat without dragging out your whole “story.”

Leave no room in this simple friendly meeting for social anxiety to ruin your chance to relax and be your best self.

Remember, you rose above personal pain during difficult years in your marriage. That’s behind you now. You can create your own future. Live, date, keep close friends. Deal with depression if it persists.

Reader’s Commentary on a letter-writer’s interest and thoughtful reflection on the very different insights and thoughtful teaching that comes from the reading of obituaries (May 14):

“I was pleased (and I also almost felt validated) for learning that others, besides me, read the obituaries and that doing so is not macabre!

“I live in Northern Ontario where the Saturday Star arrives on the following Tuesday of each week. I reach for the Business section and immediately turn to the obituaries.

“They are not just death notices. Rather, they are mini biographies of people’s lives well lived, and some not unfortunately.

“I wouldn’t tell a lot of people about my love of obituaries nor of my fondness of touring cemeteries. It’s all about appreciating history and the stories left to tell just once more.

“I thank you for publishing that letter sent to you and your most comforting response.”

Ellie’s tip of the day

Many people are much stronger emotionally than they think. If they firmly decide to rise above sadness and false guilt over past hurts, they have a real chance to rebuild their self-confidence.

Send relationship questions to ellie@thestar.ca.

Follow @ellieadvice.