Dear Gayle,

My ex-husband and I have been divorced for many years. While we have remained on friendly terms, we are not what anyone could call close friends. Any contact between us is centered mainly around letting each other know about something that has happened to someone we both know. Neither of us is expecting that we would ever get back together.

I have gotten to know other men but for me, these relationships could never turn into anything more than friendships, and probably because I keep comparing every man I meet to my ex. Mannerisms, how they say things, habits. I just can’t seem to get to know someone as himself without always thinking, “Jack” wouldn’t have done it that way. I see the way my ex did everything as being better. I think this might be keeping me from moving deeper into a new relationship with someone else, but I don’t know what to do about it.

— Comparing

Dear Comparing,

What you are describing sounds quite normal to me. When we make a new friend, we compare him or her to our other friends. Our new job gets compared to our old one, and so forth. If your ex- was your only husband, and you had been involved with few other people for any length of time before marrying him, then you will most likely find yourself comparing new men in your life to him. You may want to remind yourself at such times that being different is not necessarily a negative attribute, and that, if you give yourself time, you might adjust well to someone else’s ways. However, it may be that you are comparing as a way to keep yourself from deeper involvement again. If you think that you could be using comparisons to protect your heart from ever being broken again, you may want to discuss your pattern of comparing with a counselor.

Dear Gayle,

Ever since my son was old enough to read, he would read his birthday cards out loud when he opened them. At his last family birthday party, (he’s a teen), he opened his card from my parents and read the printed message, but couldn’t read what my mother had written. I hadn’t realized he couldn’t read cursive writing before. I helped him through it so he knew what she’s said, but he was embarrassed, so now I’m taking time to teach him how. I guess I missed that they don’t teach it in schools much anymore. Then my one friend told me they don’t want kids to learn writing, just printing, except for their own signature. She told me she’d watched her college-age son and daughter struggle through signing their names on a document not long back. They don’t have to sign anything very often and they keep forgetting how. What I don’t get is why this has been stopped.

— Still Writing

Dear Writing,

I think we may have mentioned this topic before. Cursive is faster and as such, it has advantages, but it is also more likely to be difficult to read. I work in a hospital and have often had problems deciphering someone else’s handwriting as reading a patient’s chart. I have had fewer times of difficulty reading someone else’s printing, but it can also be a problem at times. (We are scheduled to soon be transitioning to having all patient documentation being done via keyboard.) I have always been able to find someone used to the scribbler’s script who can translate it for me. What worries me more is that, soon enough, our citizens will not be able to read an original copy of our own Declaration of Independence, or our Constitution. They will not be able to research archival records from the days before typing, such as the census records which were all hand-written. This could create a significant disconnect between the people and their history. If I look at the Constitution and it looks like some foreign language to me, I am more likely to not hold fast to what it says that affects me. I will start to see it as old fashioned, and be more easily persuaded to allow it to be purposely faded from prominence or changed. That is worrisome.

Some changes are for the best. Not all are. It would not surprise me if some people start doing private tutoring in cursive writing the way some people currently offer private guitar lessons, or math tutoring. I am pleased to know that you are teaching this skill to your son. I hope that you will find opportunities for him to practice it regularly — journaling, perhaps — or he will lose this ability the same way that your friend’s children have nearly forgotten how to sign their own names.

[Gayle Wright is a mental health counselor doing area agency and hospital social work. Send email to]

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