SCRANTON, PA—Roger Dittman, whose four-year marriage ended in June, is convinced that the romantic relationships of all his friends and acquaintances are "on the rocks."
"It's sad to say, but so many people I know are heading down the same path as me," the 31-year-old said Monday. "It's amazing how many dysfunctional relationships there are out there."
Dittman, whose divorce from Amy Dittman, 29, became final on June 6, is unusually tuned into the troubles of others.
"There's this couple I'm good friends with, Stephanie and Matt, who, on the surface, really seem to have a solid relationship," Dittman said. "They're totally inseparable, which may seem like a good thing, but they rely way too much on each other for their happiness. Wanting to spend the vast majority of your time with one person is not healthy. They're co-dependent instead of inter-dependent."
In addition to co-dependence, Dittman cited 15 other "warning signs" that a relationship is in trouble, including stagnation, abrupt change, lack of common interests, over-compatibility, and any marked increase or decrease in sexual activity.
Often, Dittman said, relationships are the rockiest when everything seems to be going well.
"For my birthday, my husband Barry got me this wonderful, incredibly expensive present: a first-edition copy of A.A. Milne's Winnie-The-Pooh, my favorite book as a kid," said Jackie Peters, Dittman's sister. "I thought it was a beautiful gesture, but when I told Roger, he said Barry must be feeling guilty about something, like maybe an extramarital affair. I told him that was ridiculous, but he just said I was probably in denial."
Though many of Dittman's friends are grateful for his honesty and insight, others would prefer that he mind his own business.
"If [Roger] starts another sentence with, 'Ever since my divorce...,' I'm going to throttle him," said Joanie Castona, a coworker of Dittman's at Scranton Surgical Supply. "Maybe if he weren't always offering unwanted advice and treating people so patronizingly, Amy might not have left him."
Dittman disagreed with Castona's assessment.
"Poor Joanie," Dittman said. "She must be lashing out at me because her partner Claudine is straight and afraid to tell her. I knew this might happen to those two. See, even lesbian relationships have their problems."
For all his pessimism, Dittman saves his greatest doubts for his ex-wife and her new love interest.
"That stockbroker Amy's seeing now, if that isn't a heartbreak waiting to happen, I don't know what is," Dittman said. "With both of them caught up in such busy careers, when will they find the time to be together? Then there are all those expensive dinners and weekend getaways, which can't be good for the wallet: Money squabbles are bound to drive a wedge between them eventually. Such a pity."