Carolyn Hax: Serious loss can lead to dramatic change

Dear Carolyn: How would you explain something like this: A woman in a seemingly happy marriage to Man A says that cooking or attending big social gatherings is just not her thing. Man A is disappointed but makes his peace with it because there are other great things about their relationship.

Fifteen years in, the woman abruptly leaves Man A for Man B, and with this new man, she not only whips up incredible meals on a regular basis, but has also become the gracious, exciting social butterfly she never was with Man A. How can she now do all the things for Man B that she was never able or willing to for Man A? – Anonymous

No one can explain this except the woman herself; it’s always possible she just didn’t love Man A as completely as she had thought, and then Man B upended her world.

Man A (“Adam”) probably believes that, but I’m not so sure it’s that easy.

Factor in the effects of 15 years of growing, maturing – or stagnating – and it makes sense that Adam and Man B (“Ben”) essentially met different versions of the same woman. And, they drew out different versions of her from there, based on their own personalities.

So: Celia (after 15 years of Adam) + Ben = a Celia that surprises Adam.

Divorce, or any serious loss, really, is also a significant player in dramatic changes, because it forces people to reflect on their pasts and themselves. Celia could have looked back on her marriage, decided her rigid vision of herself was a mistake, and resolved to loosen up with Ben. If this version of Celia had married Adam, she might have cooked and partied with him, too.

In the end, the question the Adams always ask – “Why didn’t she do that for me?” – might be the only straightforward part of the story.

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