This letter writer didn't tell me where she lives. But she sent in a few drafts of her letter, so she obviously needs our help.
Q: Dearest Meredith,
I’m attractive, fit, outgoing, fun, and independent. I’ve had boyfriends since I was 14 – never in a needy way, but it was easy to meet & date. When I was 26, I met a guy & thought, finally – this is ‘THE ONE.’ In my eyes he/we were perfect (I was wrong). After 5 years he broke up with me – it was devastating. I remember thinking, this will take a few months to get over, it’s going to suck – but I can do it.
Fast forward 5 years. I bought a house, earned a masters degree. I put on a brave face, but my heart never healed. While I’m not (& never have been) suicidal – there were times I thought dying would be easier. I tried counseling. I remember the therapist said, “You will find love again.” I haven’t. I’ve dated, had one brief relationship, he was sweet, I got comfortable - but I didn’t love him so I ended it. I tried online dating w/ disastrous results, blind dates, I go to bars, sports/work events, I volunteer regularly – to keep busy & meet people. All while watching my friends get married, have babies, & buy big, beautiful homes in the ‘burbs. I’m happy for them, but it’s a grim reminder of how alone I am.
I’ve come a long way from the sad state I was in, but think of him often– it just happens. I’ve deleted emails/numbers, thrown away photos/gifts, but I can’t erase him from my memory. I feel like I won’t be 100% over him, till I find someone new – but won’t find someone new till I’m 100% over him. It’s a vicious cycle. I have more blessings than I can count – but I’m tired of being alone. Despite a tough few years – I’m in a better place & ready to meet someone – it seems nobody is left. during the 5 years I spent w/ the ex, 2 years in a funk, 3 years dating the wrong guys – BOOM, I’m 36 & I can’t find that spark, although I've met lots of nice guys. I’m NOT freaking out about marriage/babies, if it doesn't happen - ok. I don't think if give off that "desperate vibe" b/c I'm usually the one to end it. I’d just like to find a good guy, why is it so hard?
This is the advice I’ve gotten for 5 years: “Time heals,” “Good things happen to good people,” “Your turn will come”, “Stay positive”, “Focus on you”, “Living well is the best revenge,” “Hang out w/ your girlfriends / find a hobby / take a vacation”. If I get one more piece of crappy, cliché advice I’m gonna snap. I’ve heard it all – I’ve done it all. I’m still at ground zero – so now what?
– Miss M
A: Miss M, anyone who says “your turn will come” deserves a stubbed toe.
Your turn probably will come, but that’s beside the point. No one knows when, and no one knows for sure.
Your letter reminds me of this other letter. That letter writer was younger and in a different place, but the emotions are similar. I'll say it again -- sometimes getting over a real love takes years. Years and years and years and years and years.
One thing to watch out for in your case is whether you’ve developed an addiction to grief. Sometimes the body and mind get used to feeling miserable. That misery becomes like a drug – destructive and comforting at the same time. You may need to train your brain to feel other emotions. It will take more therapy -- and some discussion with said therapist about whether this is a depression. It’s time to consider all options. And please find a new therapist – someone who doesn’t spout affirmations for no good reason.
You should know (and explain this to your new therapist) that this isn’t just about your ex or your lack of a romantic partner. You’ve been through a lot – a degree, various moves, turning 35 (plus one) …and you’ve done it on your own. Don’t give your ex so much credit. You’re overwhelmed and a bit lonely, but he’s only a part of the reason why.
You ask, “Now what?” The answer is: you keep living. You do some more therapy and try to figure out some new ways to shake up your system. You make a list of the things that bring you pure joy and you seek those things out. You have a little faith that clichés get to be clichés because they’re often true.
You must also consider that you fell in love with your ex in your 20s, when it was easy to get to know someone without trying too hard. If you met your ex now -- at some singles event or by playing on a sports team -- I'm not so sure the spark would be instantaneous. In your 30s, you have to make more of an effort to get to know someone over time. It's a hassle and it feels forced, but it pays off.
Readers? Advice for the lonely? Therapy is key, for sure, but is this really about Miss M's ex? Is age a factor with this problem? Share some thoughts here. Twitter here. Read yesterday's chat transcript here.