December 11, 2012
Needing structure on November 30, 1998…
Dear Breakup Girl,
I have a boyfriend who is 7 years younger than me, and quite a bit more inexperienced in the ways of long-term commitment/love stuff (I was married ten years, have been divorced for 3, he has never had a relationship that lasted as long as a year <he always got dumped>). We’ve been friends for a year and a half, dating for 6 months. He’s just as sweet as he can be when we’re together, but when we’re not, it’s like I don’t exist. No calls, no notes, nothing. I don’t get it. OK, I’ve called him ‘cuz I couldn’t wait. Hell, I’d like to talk to him every day (a little 5-minute hi how are you love you call) but he seemed so odd and distant on the phone (usually at work alone in his office) that I quit doing that. We spend almost the whole weekend every weekend together, but I always sweat it during the week. Will he call? Should I call? Am I bugging him? What’s the deal?
Also, we’ve told each other “I love you,” but he rarely says it unless I say it first, and always with this weird look on his face. I hate it. I wish he wouldn’t even say it at all if he’s going to do that. I guess I’m touchy about it because I told him I was IN love with him after three months, but he said he wasn’t IN love with me. “You know I really care about you right?” he said.
Well, yeah, we used to say “I love you” as friends, but THIS IS DIFFERENT! “IN” LOVE IS DIFFERENT! Friends say, give it time, he’ll come around (or he won’t, I guess). Meantime I just get crazier and crazier for him and want to hear “I’m in love with you” but am afraid to ask. After all, three more months have passed, and he acts like he’s nuts about me when we’re together. Although, you know, he often speaks in generalities when we’re together, and that bugs the hell out of me. When we were both single he whined and whined about not having a girlfriend, no one to have sex with, etc. etc. Now he says things like, “Mmmmm, it feels so good to be held” not “It feels good to be with YOU” or he likes it when other men pay attention to me “my sexy woman” because I’m going home with him at the end of the night. It all makes me feel like he’s just happy to be dating SOMEONE, not especially like he’s happy it’s me. I’m over here all love-struck and hoping there’s some future (I am NOT thinking marriage anytime in the next few years, but I would like to feel like I have someone to share my life with) and he’s just happy he’s got someone cute to hang out with, show off, and have sex with. A friend calls and asks, “Are you free Saturday night?” and I say, “Let me call John and see if he had anything planned and I’ll call you back.” Someone asks him the same question, and he’ll go ahead and make plans and not tell me until Saturday during the day and then I get all disappointed and upset, and he gets upset because, “I don’t want to feel like I HAVE to check in.”
September 13, 2012
Last week, Feeling Adolescent wondered how many steps to take with a flirty fellow recoverer. BG and BR basically said, “Who-hoo!” But a reader named Christine stepped in to say, “Whoa!”
There most certainly is a “rule” about dating in the first year of recovery in 12-Step programs, and for a good reason. It leads to big emotional upheavals that dramatically increase the chances of “relapse,” or the return to the use of drugs and alcohol. The suggestion that a woman with only two months of clean time from drugs should get involved or pursue a romantic relationship is seriously in error.
I’ve been sober a modest eight years, but in that time I have known a number of people to drink or use drugs over “relationship” issues. The consequences of that happening are much greater than most people realize. A number of people close to me have died from heroin overdoses or having shot themselves while in a blackout. I will see that again, I’m sure. Recovery for an alcoholic/addict is really life or death, not a romantic puzzle. A relapse for an alcoholic or addict has greater consequences than is often portrayed on TV. It isn’t just “falling off of the horse and getting back in the saddle again,” a characterization I saw on that show “JAG” about military lawyers. Many never come back to recovery, or they try and never get more than a short period of sobriety again. I have seen this time and again.
I’ve known people who, after years in AA, froze to death on the streets of DC, across the street from the White House! Make no mistake, it could happen to your reader. And her sobriety is not the only one at risk. Many times, the person with longer sobriety who has a relationship with a newcomer also drinks.
There is a mechanism in 12 step programs called “sponsorship.” People can get help and emotional support from someone with more recovery experience and emotional stability. It has been my observation that newcomers (people with less than a year of continuous sobriety) are especially needy and vulnerable. The reaction/temptation is to attach to someone else as a distraction. Often it is a sadrepetition of previous poor relationship patterns. I seem to recall something you wrote about a new insight into oneself does not necessarily mean everything will be better with the next one. [See Duderino Rides Again.] You can double that for early recovery.
It never seems that way, though. I remember what it was like. Suddenly I didn’t have a hangover every day and I started to notice flowers and sunny days. Why not the sunny days of my heart? Can’t that awaken now, too? Yes. Just not yet. A little more time. It’s tough to see now, but severe damage has been done mentally, spiritually, and emotionally. We keep ourselves from really seeing how bad it got for a couple of years. So waiting a year is the least she can do. Thank you.
BG responds: Thank YOU, Christine. Our bad. So many people have trouble finding a natural buzz with someone in the first place, you see, we just get a little excited when someone actually does. So, FA, you may not be able to shut down your feelings entirely (nor he his). But yes, looks like you should discuss them with a sponsor to find out where to put them — if anywhere — ’til, oh, November 1999 at least. And let’s hope that the promise of “reawakening the sunny days of your hearts,” clean and sober, with him or whomever, helps all of you stay strong and well.
This comment originally appeared November 9, 1998.
September 5, 2012
Getting with the program on November 2, 1998…
Dear Breakup Girl:
First of all, I want to thank you for your site. I have been reading it for months, and am always impressed and amused by the advice you offer.
Secondly, I’m afraid I may be in the running for the longest advice question ever. I have tried to get it down to a minimum, but it’s still pretty long-winded and involved (sorry). Here goes: My third marriage (which lasted 14 years) broke up over two years ago. Since the divorce I chose not to pursue relationships because of my poor track record with marriage, among other issues. But during these two years a lot of things have changed in my life and I have a much better understanding and perspective. Although I am well educated and have a good job, bottom line, I am an addict and always got involved with other active addicts — not a good situation to be sure, but I had no insight into this until I got clean and sober.
I am getting tired of being on my own and would like to have a meaningful relationship. But it’s tough –I’ve been out of the dating/relationship loop for so long that I feel like an adolescent, which I definitely am not. Add to that the complications noted above, and I’m a tough sell, even though I am still an attractive woman. Up until recently I hadn’t met anyone that I wanted to get involved with either, so when it happened, I was pretty stoked.
About 6 weeks ago after a 12-step meeting I went to a coffee shop with a bunch of people and struck up a conversation with The Guy (TG). We really clicked — talked non-stop for almost 2 hours. That night he indirectly asked me to a dance (“Are you going? — I’ll be there….), so I went and we had a nice time. We danced and talked and he walked me to my car when I left, but he didn’t try to kiss me and we didn’t exchange phone numbers (I had told him I didn’t have a phone).
June 1, 2011
A reader comment from June 15, 1998…
Dear Breakup Girl,
You missed the boat on your answer to Sheri re: summer romance and the kids. Of course she should tell the guys she’s thinking about going out with she’s got children, and I liked the soft-pedal way you suggested she let them know. HOWEVER, she’s absolutely right about not introducing the kids. Well, maybe introducing (10 and 12 are old enough to be curious about who mom’s having dinner, movie, etc. with ) but certainly not including them in any events. You think it’s hard for just one person to be the dumper/dumpee — try having your whole FAMILY included in a mess like that. Some possible scenarios:
* The kids get overly attached and nothing comes of it — then regardless of who dumped whom — it’s your fault.
* He/She loves them so much when you break up they still want to see them — and the kids agree. This is especially true for kids just coming out of a divorce situation or haven’t ever recovered from it — Hey! Here’s someone to take up where mom/dad left off!
* The kids/date hate each other so much you’re doomed from the beginning. And there’s a good chance they will. Kids want all your time, date wants all your time…and everybody resents you can’t give it all to them (and what’s more, you’re supposed to choose who you love the most as in, “If you loved me, you’d ______”).
If you care about your children, you never let them get involved in your dating life, unless and until you start to maybe, just maybe (gasp, wheeze) think this is THEEEE one. Of course, hopefully by this time some of the major questions on both sides have been worked out. The kids may want to know you’re seeing XYZ for a movie Friday evening, but that’s ALL they want to know. (And all you should share with them.) Now, take all this and think “summer romance,” as in 3 or 4 months and end-o, zippo, that’s all folks…do you think this grief would be worth it on anyone’s part? Methinks not. (If you doubt my word on this, check with Breakup Mom — give you 5 to 1 she agrees with me.)
Breakup Girl responds: Sounds like you know what you’re talking about…all too well. And your comments are actually not consistent with what I said … or, anyway, um, what I meant. I should have made more explicit my distinction between “introduce” and “involve.” And — hmmm — now that I see what you’ve written so wisely, perhaps that distinction isn’t as significant or as un-slippery as I thought. So no, I don’t doubt you. But the reason I’m not checking with Breakup Mom is that she and Breakup Dad are on vacation. For the next few weeks, we’re on our own.
February 11, 2011
What are the principles governing dating? How have the “rules” been amended? Two letters from people seeking to form more perfect unions.
Dear Breakup Girl,
I’m in the process of ending a four-year relationship (ten years together overall). Due to severe heartache, I’m not looking for a more serious relationship. However, should there be an occasion where I agree to date someone from time to time, I’d like to know the “rules” of the game. It’s been a long time since I’ve been in the dating scene. What are the rules these days? Are women supposed to let men make the first move/call/email? Are women supposed to play hard to get? Dating was much different when I was 18!
Dear Breakup Girl,
I’ve been divorced one year, and I’m totally confused about “dating in the 90s.” (I’m bald, average looks, late 40s, overweight.) I don’t know what is expected of men today. Do you have any advice on: meeting single women, asking them out, phone calls, dinner, movies, cards or flowers, kissing, sex, week-end trips, over-nighters, and looks?
— Lost in the Midwest
July 9, 2010
Mixing work and play on April 6, 1998…
Dear Breakup Girl,
I’m a single guy in my mid-twenties. I’ve been seeing this girl for several months, and everything’s been fine until lately. See, she’s my boss — mid-thirties, recently divorced (about a year ago).
I know she’s probably just using me, but that’s okay by me when we’re not at the office. But lately she’s been wanting to get, er, frisky…at the office, during work hours. That’s where I draw the line. We’ve always been good about keeping business and pleasure separate up until now, but I’m afraid of getting busted in the act and ruining my reputation at work. But I’m afraid if I break it off with her, she’ll trash my career. What should I do?
— Jake in Jacksonville
You’re right; getting “frisky” at the office will not put you on the short list for Employee of the Month. Then again, neither will dumping your boss.
Oh, Jake, what were you thinking?! See, you guys, that’s why I’m telling you that whatever you pursue at the office has to hold promise of an Actual Relationship, not just Adult Xeroxing.
Bail, bail, bail. And pray that she doesn’t retaliate. If you do wind up having to leave, well, let’s just say that BG is not convinced that you had wholesome, promising growith opportunities at Disclosure, Inc. in the first place. Also, remember that if you interview elsewhere, you’re going to have to tell them why you left your previous job. I’d fib.