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TODAY contributor
updated 10/5/2012 11:36:52 AM ET 2012-10-05T15:36:52

Dr. Gilda Carle

Need a quick answer to a relationship dilemma? Relationship expert Dr. Gilda Carle cuts through the fluff with her relationship advice in TODAY.com’s “30-second therapist” series.

Q: I have a female friend who has all the attributes I desire in a woman: she's smart, funny, has a good heart, etc. We used to be co-workers, have known each other for a lot of years and now we’re spending much more social time together. I'm almost finished with my divorce, after 22 years of marriage, and she's part way through her second divorce.  We've talked about dating, but she says she doesn't want to mess up our great friendship. But I get mixed signals. I've tried dating other women, but frankly, they just don't compare to her. 

I eventually want to remarry, and I don't see how she and I can just remain friends. I think she’d be that special person, but I'm not sure she feels the same way. We’re having so much fun just hanging out, that I'm unwilling to rock the boat now because frankly, it's a blast. —Color Me Confused

Dear Color Me Confused,
Confusion is standard during the exit of a long marriage. Although you’re dating like you’re totally single, it’s unlikely at this time you’d know who “has all the attributes” you “desire in a woman.” Your confusion proves you don’t know yourself well enough to judge another’s attributes!

Right now, your sole goal must be to convert confusion to clarity. Begin by analyzing your role in your marital breakup so you don’t repeat dysfunctional behaviors with someone new.

Continue having “a blast” with your friend.  As my Gilda-Gram promises, “If love is yours, you can’t lose it. If it is not, you don’t want it.” Until you’re more grounded, flex new emotional muscles, but leave your pelvic ones out of the mix! — Dr. Gilda 

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Q: My ex and I were together for 3 years and broke up 4 years ago. I’ve been dating a man for 2.5 years.  I love him and we’ve had many talks about marriage, children and growing old together.  However, my ex has called some of our mutual friends several times throughout the past year asking what he could do to get me back.  I never had any desire for us to get back together and have cut off all communication.  Recently, I ran into him, we caught up on our lives and parted. But ever since then, I can’t stop thinking about him and the "what ifs?" My current relationship is wonderful and I am very happy, so why are my thoughts going in a direction of their own? Please help! —Frightful Thoughts

Dear Frightful Thoughts,
Let’s do some math. You and your ex were together for 3 years, and you’re nearing that milestone with your new mate.  This is the common “anniversary effect” that typically refreshes bad memories. Running into your ex exacerbated the upcoming reminder, and now you’re frightened the love you currently enjoy will topple as it did during your last 3-year stretch. As unconscious protection, you irrationally wonder “what if?” to lift the hurt of the recollections. 

Acknowledge this real phenomenon, then enumerate the ways your present boyfriend meets your needs. This exercise allows you to respond proactively, rather than react fearfully.  As with any emotion, understanding it will ward off potential damage. It’s good you reached out to me! —Dr. Gilda

Do you agree with Dr. Gilda’s advice? Do you have your own? Share it in the comments below.

Want Dr. Gilda to answer your relationship questions? Click here to send them in!

Dr. Gilda Carle is the relationship expert to the stars. She is a professor emerita, has written 15 books, and her latest is “Don’t Bet on the Prince!”—Second Edition. She provides advice and coaching via Skype, email and phone.

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