I'm in love with my ex-wife. We've been divorced for three years but, once the anger disappeared, I started to find myself falling in love with her again. A jazz singer, she's constantly surrounded by predatory men -- a circumstance that leaves me feeling jealous. She's had several romantic and sexual relationships during which I, lovelorn, sulked. She says she still holds strong feelings for me, but is quick to point out that she is "afraid" to act on them. I love her, desire her and want her as my own.
What's a poor guy to do?
I think you need to accept that the relationship is over. Divorces are final. That's why you divide up your stuff, move apart and sign documents in front of lawyers. You don't sign a document that says, "Maybe we're not right for each other" or "I'm not sure I want to see you this weekend." You sign a document that says this thing that you committed to for the rest of your life is over. You made a commitment to remain together, and you found that impossible or distasteful, and so you had it negated. Which we all have the perfect right to do, and which is often the absolute best thing. But once it's done, it's done.
That doesn't mean your feelings stop. But you have to work them out on your own. Your ex-wife is no longer responsible for dealing with your feelings. Perhaps you haven't accepted fully that your wife is out of your life, that you no longer have any claim to her at all. I think that's got to be your first step: Admit that this thing is over. Gone. Done.
As to your jealousy: What if a complete stranger were feeling jealousy toward your ex-wife? Wouldn't that be nutty, that a man with no claim on her whatsoever would feel jealousy? But a complete stranger has as much a claim on your wife's affections as you do. She is a free woman, and you've got to accept that whatever she does in life is of no concern to you anymore. If you wanted it to be a concern to you, you should not have gotten divorced.
If there are children to support, or social and professional entanglements that mean you are thrown together from time to time, so be it. Take care of your responsibilities. But if you are hanging around the club watching her, taking note of whom she's with, rationalizing it to yourself that you're protecting her from these predatory men, you're in the wrong. She has said that she is afraid to get involved with you again, and you have implied that anger played a part in your breakup. So she is probably in some sense afraid of your anger. If she's afraid of your anger, she is not going to want your protection; your attempts to protect her will feel like attempts at control, and will only frighten her more.
Besides that, you just plain don't have a dog in this fight anymore. You signed your dog away.
If you truly love your wife, you will do what's best for her, and leave her alone.
Yes, I know, it's painful. It's a loss. But you have to feel whatever you feel about it and keep moving. Maybe to another town, with another club.
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Want more advice from Cary? Read yesterday's column.