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Ask Ellie: Personality differences don't necessarily doom a marriage

There are differences in personal nature in almost every couple, and it doesn’t have to mean there’s a disaster looming

Dear Ellie: I met my husband online eight years ago. We’d both joined a dating site for people from Eastern Europe.

We were immediately attracted to each other. But I was extra careful because I have a big family here who were going to worry about me and judge him closely.

We talked every week for almost 18 months before he travelled to meet me in person. I was 43 and he was 46. I’d married young, had two daughters and was widowed at 40.

He was also divorced, and had one son, then 25, now working as an engineer. My daughters are now also in their mid-20s and working.

When he arrived here, every one of my relatives visited to scrutinize him, but I finally said: “Stop it. I’m going to marry him!”

It’s been six years now, and we bought a comfortable condominium together. We both say how lucky we are. Even when problems come up, I still love him.

But we’re arguing. He never talks to me about his ex-wife or their marriage and why they divorced. I feel like he’s hiding something he thinks I won’t like. I’ve told him everything about my first marriage.

Our wedding was a joy for me. I met his son who visited a while and found him very likeable. But when he phones, his father insists they talk privately because they have “family business” to discuss, but shares none with me. I discovered that he sends his son money regularly, even though he earns well. I only give my girls presents at Christmas and their birthdays because they’re independent.

My husband found a decent-paying job here. My daughters have come to like him a lot, as have some of my relatives.

My problem is that we’re opposites in one part of our life together: He is closed, I am open. He’s secretive, and gets angry when pushed to answer a question. That makes me worry even more.

I can’t just accept that the man I love has a “private” life that he won’t let me know about. I feel like something bad will happen because of it.

Secrets and Lies?

There are differences in personal nature in almost every couple, and it doesn’t have to mean there’s a disaster looming. But there’s definitely room for adjustment between your two different behaviours when it comes to sharing information.

You need to have that conversation, without accusations. Acknowledge that you had different first-marriage experiences. Ask only one thing about his past that really matters… why he won’t share that information, not what it is. Why? Because he’s a man you love, so you also have to show some trust.

As for sending money to his son, there’s no big problem so long as your husband pays his share of your life together. Maybe it’s his way of having a role in his son’s life, since he chose to move so far away from him. That’s a matter of pride, and he’s entitled to make that choice.

True, he’s not as open as you are, but that’s enmeshed in his DNA, a part of who he is.

If your husband shows you the level of love you feel for him … and if he’s there when you need him … and if your life together is more about being together, sharing a home life, accepting your family as now his, too, then you can stop worrying.

Reader’s commentary: The following is our personal manual on what not to say to parents whose child died by suicide:

“Our son passed away suddenly. He had schizophrenia and had been treated for many years. We’re just managing to cope.

“However, this is what been said to us by family and medical staff: “It must be a big relief for you.”

“Couldn’t you have done more?”

“People asking us for lots of details and insisting on visiting us. Some are telling us to reach out for support services. We are. But we are numb with grief and can’t easily reach out. Nor can we chat right now.

“Others are blaming us for our son’s death. I could go on but that brief summary is just the tip of the iceberg. To what we face/hear publicly.

“Maybe this insight into how devastating all this is, will help other parents and those affected by serious mental health struggles.”

Ellie’s tip of the day

Partners in life don’t have to feel or behave the same way … they just have to show mutual love and trust, to be a good match.

Send relationship questions to ellie@thestar.ca.

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