Brian, a 40 year old widower had second thoughts about an impending marriage to Callie, a single woman of 38 who had never been married, but had many previous boyfriends. None of her relationships lasted longer than few months. Brian had been happily married to his first love for 7 years. His wife, Beth had died 3 years before he met Callie.

Brian and Callie met eight months ago, and have lived together for the past four months. He was attracted to her curly red hair, intense blue eyes and trim, athletic figure. In that way, she resembled his wife Beth.

He had begun to question whether his strong physical attraction to her and her easy sexuality were enough reasons to keep them together.

He complained that Callie expected too much of him, demanding he spend his time exclusively with her. She resented his family and friends for attempting to take him away from her. After Callie refused to attend Brian’s nephew’s birthday party, his sister suggested he cancel wedding plans.

“My family was hurt by Callie. She seems to want all attention directed to her. She calls me often at work and gets angry when I'm too busy to talk. She tells me that she should be my priority.

“Callie is a student and works part-time. My job supports us, and when I work overtime, she gets upset. I tell her that if I don't do well, we will suffer financially. She doesn't seem to care, but when I can't afford to buy her expensive things, she pouts, and won't talk to me for hours. She acts like a spoiled child.

“Also she is very demanding sexually. At first it was exciting, but now it feels like a chore because she wants sex several times a day.

“My wife never complained about my sexuality. Callie has trashed photographs of Beth and demands that I forget she ever existed. I can’t do that and have given the remainder of photographs of Beth to our families. I wanted to invite Beth's parents to the wedding because they are my parent’s best friends, but Callie had a fit.

“I am beginning to think my sister is right, but we've rented a hall, sent out invitations and it's too late to back out withoug losing a ton of money.

“Is there anything I can do to change her?

“I don't want to disappoint anyone, but I'm getting cold feet.”

Brian’s situation makes an excellent case for the importance of pre-marital counseling before making wedding plans. Before even considering marriage, it is important to really know your future spouse well. When you experience conflicts, it is best to step back and look at what attracted you to this person in the first place and whether there is enough there on which to build a future together.

Was Brian drawn to Callie because he was lonely? Was he attempting to replace his deceased wife with someone similar to her? Is the similarity based purely on physical appearance?

If Brian’s marriage was satisfying, could he be unconsciously angry at Callie because she is not Beth? While that may be true, that isn’t the whole story since there are negative factors in Callie’s personality which would make most men think twice before going forward.

In Callie’s defense, if photographs of a deceased wife were kept on display after Callie had moved in, Callie, may view herself as replacement of the original (which may be true) and contributes to her need for reassurance. Brian’s first love represents a powerful rival to Callie. Photos are your link with the past and are yours to keep, but not to display because they keep you from moving on.

Wanting frequent sexual contact may be Callie’s way of having proof of your attraction and love for her, despite your having experienced those feelings with another. There is justification for Callie to feel that if Beth were alive, there would me no place for Callie in your heart.

Callie doesn't want to take her place, but to make her own place in your heart. Having Beth’s parents at your wedding is an unpleasant reminder to Callie of your past which she may perceive as an emotional threat. The reassurance she needs may be difficult for you to provide because of your own inner conflicts. An emotionally healthy, secure woman may not be threatened by the ties her mate has with his past.

From your description, Callie appears to be a narcissistic woman with an excessive need for attention. This may be reflected in her sexual demands as well. Callie may have a need that is impossible to fulfill without you experiencing appropriate resentment. Does she have redeeming qualities that attracted you initially?

If she truly is a narcissistic person, please take heed that such people have a tremendous sense of entitlement. No one can fully satisfy them.

Can you change her? It is doubtful. Can psychotherapy change her? Well, maybe-and only if she is uncomfortable with herself, still- there is no guarantee.

Pre-marital conflicts, without professional intervention rarely get better after marriage. They serve as a warning of what may loom ahead.

It is cheaper and much less painful to postpone or cancel a wedding than to go through the expense and anguish of a divorce.

Author's Bio: 

Sandra Levy Ceren, Ph.D. is a long time practicing psychologist specializing in relationships. She is the author of two relationship books, a professional text, ESSENTIALS OF PREMARITAL COUNSELING and of LOOK BEFORE YOU LEAP-A PREMARITAL GUIDE FOR COUPLES. Published by Loving Healing Press, these books are based on her professional experience and research.