Virginia Ironside's Dilemmas


Two months ago, I broke up with my wife after 10 years, and have nearly had a breakdown I've been so upset. It was all her decision. It's all I can do to go into work. But a couple of weeks ago, I met an amazing woman. I've told her I'm not in a position to say whether this relationship will go anywhere because I'm in turmoil, but she says she understands and just wants to help me. My friends say I'm mad, and should wait at least a year before getting into anything new, but this woman is making me feel happy again. I'm not being stupid, am I? Yours sincerely, Christopher

Virginia says... I'm afraid to say your friends are quite right to caution you to be wary. They may well also be right when they say you're mad – at least temporarily. But if you're unhinged at the moment, there is, to be honest, very little that I or your friends can do about it.

The scenario you describe is so common – and most of us have been through it ourselves. Break up with someone – or, sometimes, after a bereavement – and the pain is so utterly agonising that you look anywhere for relief. Often within seconds you're head over heels in love with someone else and often someone totally unsuitable. Until you've got over the pain of separation from the first person, you can't really judge your long-term feelings about the new one, however powerful they may appear.

Of course you've done your best by warning this new woman that you're in a bit of a muddle emotionally. Good for you. You've tried to put your cards on the table. The problem is that you're probably behaving rather differently to what you're saying. And she, likewise, may be so bowled over by your passion that she's saying that she understands that it might be short-term and it's all fine, while in reality she's probably swept away by it all and is falling deeply in love with you.

You're almost certainly on the rebound and the spring in that rebounding is likely to be exceptionally strong.

Now it could be that in fact you've met someone absolutely marvellous, with whom you'll have a wonderful relationship for the rest of your life.

But it could be that in about six months you'll look at this woman, the scales will fall from your eyes, and you'll see her as perfectly nice, perhaps, but nothing to write home about. It could be, even worse, that you discover that she's actually really rather grisly.

Don't stop reminding her that you're uncertain of your feelings. Don't, whatever you do, make any commitments or even dream of so much as saying you love her. Try as best you can to protect her, because it could well be that in the end she's going to be terribly hurt.

So your friends are wise to warn you. They might as well advise a man who's hurtling off a cliff to take care for all the good it's going to do him, but I can only add my own feeble voice and hope you hear a little bit of it through the winds of passion that are at present sweeping you off your feet.


Readers say...

Go for it

Why, when people are single again – because of relationship breakdown or even death – do friends and family insist that they wait an undefined "reasonable" amount of time before starting a new relationship? They often say they don't want the grieving person to be hurt again, but is that really the reason? In Chris's case, are his friends truly concerned for him or just being selfish as they are uncomfortable that their friendship circle will change? Life is short. Go for it, Chris!

Kevin Sykes By email


Be cautious

You have wise friends. Their well-meaning advice shows they love you and care for you, and do not want to see you in any scenario that reminds them of Paul McCartney's humiliating second marriage. They are being a little over-cautious, however. She is amazing? She makes you feel happy? That is exactly what you need at the moment! Enjoy your new relationship, but do not lose your head or go anywhere near a registry office.

Felicie Oakes By email


Next week's dilemma

Dear Virginia, My wife has never liked my friends but has tolerated them coming round occasionally. Now we've moved house and I want an old friend who lives abroad to see it when he's over here. But she particularly dislikes him, for no good reason. He has always been polite. I've suggested she go out for the day, but she refuses. She has in the past driven away so many of my friends I feel I need to make a stand. It is my house, too. But she just throws tantrums and says if I loved her I wouldn't do this. Otherwise we get on perfectly well. What can I do? Yours sincerely, Mike

What would you advise Mike to do? Email your dilemmas and comments to dilemmas @independent., or go to Anyone whose advice is quoted will receive a £25 voucher from the wine website Fine Wine Sellers (

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