This week, one reader wonders how her sister should cope with the sudden loss of her husband, while another asks if he should tell his girlfriend that he cheated before they were officially together. Relationship expert Dr. Gilda Carle cuts through the fluff with her love advice in TODAY.com's "30-second therapist" series.
Q: I devoured your book, “Don’t Bet on the Prince!” Here’s a challenge: When you bet on that prince, you could win 22 years of marriage, but what happens when he dies suddenly? Then what? My brother-in-law was married to my sister, whom he dated since she was 16. It was a 40-year connection. He died without warning, leaving behind two daughters, ages 16 and 20. Maybe my sister lost the bet after all. How does a wife, mother and lover cope when dealt such a losing hand? What happens when your life, love, and work (they were a creative team and business partners) were so tied up with that one unique relationship? —Mourning
I’m sorry for your loss. I once bet on a prince who was my love, my best friend, and my inspiration. When we parted, I felt barren. I wrote “Don’t Bet on the Prince!” to protect others against such sudden feelings of emptiness. As much as we fantasize about a fairy tale life, princes can leave, cheat, become ill, or die.
Fortunately, your nieces will forever have the role model of a healthy parental bond. But they might be skittish about investing in love so deeply, so suggest that they attend some grief counseling. For your sister, let my book help her build the emotional muscle she doesn't even know she has. Sadly, withstanding this kind of shock will take time. —Dr. Gilda
Q: I was dating a girl for about one month. We had not been intimate. I went on a boat cruise, and before the boat left, I impulsively and drunkenly texted her that I wanted her to be my girlfriend. She responded, "I would like to talk about it in person, but of course."
After being on the cruise for several nights, I ended up getting intimate with another passenger. I immediately thought, "Oh, I have to tell her what happened," but before I spoke to her, I sought the advice of family, friends, and the Internet. Essentially, everybody recommended that I do not say anything to her. So when I saw her in person, I asked her to be my girlfriend again, but this time face-to-face. She agreed, and we were intimate for the first time. She then said, "I'm glad I can now call you my boyfriend. Can we make today the official starting date of our relationship?" I agreed, and thought this worked out perfectly.
What happened on vacation was before we were officially dating, and also before anything intimate with us had happened. My friends and family all agreed I should feel no guilt. Even though I agree, I am still faced with a lot of guilt. I think about it EVERY day, and I feel overwhelmed by what I did. Should I tell her? Or, should I not tell her? If you think I shouldn't, how can I stop feeling guilty? —Stuck
When people decide to spill their guts about a past diversion, it’s either to support their relationship, or to sap it. You seem to be certain about this girl, so it's unlikely you want to sabotage your union. So what good would come from divulging your sexcapades before you were officially a couple?
As my Gilda-Gram™ says, “The issue you see is not the issue at stake.” I suspect you’re suffering from unresolved guilt from a similar involvement in your past. Dig deep, and make peace with your history. Perhaps write a letter — and don’t send it — to the person you hurt. The objective is for you to wipe out the debilitating memories holding you back from enjoying love. —Dr. Gilda