The Sadder but Wiser Girl for Me

I recently sat with a woman who had decided to terminate a 3 year plus relationship with a man who she’d thought would be the man of her dreams.

She grew up the daughter of a factory worker and although she saw her father as a wise and caring man, she dreamed of marrying a man who worked in an office building; one who wore ties to work or a suit, who could afford perhaps a occasional extravagant vacation, who would bring her flowers, ask her about her day, dance with her and set them up well in retirement.

Her first love was a boy she met in high school. While he had “clout” in the school hallways, he did not have such. He got a job in a factory, began to drink and would call her names.  She was frightened and confused but she stayed with him…..for 7 years. She left him after he beat her.

Her second husband was a business man who treated her well…. in public. He felt contempt otherwise.  He was so good-looking and looked well as a husband….why couldn’t he just love her all the time, not just with friends or at parties? They decided, after a few years of sleeping apart, to divorce.

Her third partner was gay. He lavished her with love….. as a sister or close girlfriend. But by then, she was just happy he didn’t hit her, yell at her, call her names. And if he didn’t want to have sex…. well ok. It was not what she dreamed of but it was better than before. She wondered about (but didn’t question) his sexuality. He left her for another man.

Her current relationship began like a “fairytale”. He was a businessman, attentive, giving; she was excited, happy. After a short courtship, she gave up all she had created living alone for 5 years to move in with him. Three months later, she began noticing money missing from their checking account, his habit of stepping outside to take phone calls, texts late at night or early in the morning and the constant presence of his ex-wife on the periphery of their relationship. When confronted, he’d fain ignorance, followed by admissions of contacts with and money given to his ex-wife, apologies and promises to stop…followed by more of the same.

So, she called and scheduled an appointment. She told me about her life and her decision to leave her businessman. She cried and told me she had wasted her life.

As she talked, I thought of a song, “The Sadder but Wised Girl for Me” from the 1960’s musical, Music Man, starring Julie Andrews and Robert Preston. In the film, Mr. Preston sings a song about wanting not a young and beautiful woman to marry but rather the girl that has lived life a little and experienced some of its harshness in life and love. His theory was that the young and beautiful woman would be very manipulative to get what she wants. The other woman however, would be more realistic and thereby more appreciative of his efforts. They, in turn, would both be happy.

I told her about “the sadder but wiser girl”. I further affirmed her decision (influenced by her father’s life and her own want for a better life) to marry “up”.  I challenged her to recognize that her previous decisions (to be with the men she had been with) were her best efforts at the time to create her hoped for life. I also challenged her to evaluate if living alone would not be better than the lives she had been living.

I encouraged her to grieve that loss of her dream and give honor to her father I further encouraged her to praise the dream her younger self (to marry an attentive business man and provided her a modest amount of the better things in life) and yet to tell this younger woman that she would, from hence forth, be in charge of her life dreams and would be remaking the dream she would live and strive for.

Ironically, at the end of the session, she told me of an old friend, a man, factory worker, who lives in a nearby town and who has, for years, periodically called her, asking how she was and if she would like to go for coffee.

More later…..