February 10, 2008 in Features

Time alone after breakup time well-spent

Carolyn Hax The Spokesman-Review
 

Dear Carolyn: Is there really something that wrong with starting another relationship right after another one ended? I mean, really: What am I “supposed” to learn or do in the interim? I miss companionship, I want sex, and what good is it to “mourn” the man who dumped me? His loss, right? Men tend to get “right back on,” pardon the pun. So, why can’t I? What am I missing? – Virginia

The point. Time alone can help people learn what went wrong or recover from unwieldy feelings.

Some people, of course, are well into their recovery before the relationship ends, or have nothing from which to recover. Others intend to be alone, but happen to meet someone else; no law says they have to say no. We do what we need – men included, by the way, as well as people who make ridiculous generalizations – and everyone needs different things.

When you get right back into a relationship for companionship and sex, then that’s exactly what you can expect: companionship and sex. Which is fine, if that’s all you want.

However, what you refer to as the “interim” is what many refer to as “life.” People come and go, and while some stay longer than others, there’s only one who’s there for the entire ride.

When people take time off, they’re really spending time with themselves. That’s a relationship worth having, too.

Carolyn: I just turned 30, and practically all my friends are having children. When I got the latest “I’m pregnant!” e-mail, my heart sank. It’s not that I don’t like children – I work with them and adore them – or that I’m jealous – my career is taking off, and even if I had gotten married this summer instead of breaking my engagement, I wouldn’t have wanted kids for years. But I think I resent that they’re all moving on without me. How do I reorder my thoughts so I can be happy with myself and for my friends at the same time? – Not Ready For Kids Yet

To use the usual examples: a soaring career means heavier responsibilities; homeownership means home maintenance; a committed relationship means no more big unilateral decisions; becoming a parent means you’ve breathed your last foreseeable breath as your own highest priority. For every big addition to your life, you pay a price of equal magnitude.

Flip that around, and the absence of these major life changes has at least one major advantage apiece.

So that’s how you reorder your thinking. By all means, admit freely to yourself that you’re sad about missing out, but don’t get so immersed that you forget to gloat freely to yourself, too.

If you’ve already counted your blessings, thanks, then the next things to count are your friends. How many aren’t 30-ish?

There’s obvious comfort in staying with the herd, but it also has a way of persuading you, over time, that the entire world is four-legged and hairy.

Step away, look around, feel the light on your face. Strike up a conversation with someone whose baby years are so far ahead, behind or out of the question that you feel out-of-place mentioning them.

Don’t just make an outing of it, either, but a habit. Diversity in friendships serves the exact same purpose as diversity in investments – to keep one blip from upending your entire world.


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