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February 2, 1998   CONTINUED e-mail e-mail to a friend in need


Predicament of the Week
In which Breakup Girl addresses the situation that has, this week, brought her the most (a) amusement, (b) relief that it is happening to someone else, and/or (c) proof that she could not possibly be making this stuff up.

Dear Breakup Girl,

My wife and I have been married for six years. She rapidly became unaffectionate and irritated-seeming. We have had numerous "relationship talks" which take the form of "I know, I act cool toward you. I need time alone." She is reading A Room of One's Own. I try to give her space, but she seems to need a lot of space. I am a very low-maintenance type, but I would like to be touched, hugged good-night or told I am wanted at least weekly. She says she does not want to end the relationship, but I think I that's because I am a good babysitter for her 13- and 17-year-olds, a good companion for going to the movies or Europe, and a good maintenance man for the house. She says we have a good "business" relationship; I want to feel appreciated. Should I cut my losses and look for someone who clearly loves me, or is distand friends a fair deal in this world?

-- Norm!

Dear Norm!

Someone is missing the point. In A Room of One's Own, Virginia Woolf makes the ahead-of-her-time case that what stands between women artists and greatness, are the practical -- and, in fact, political -- matters of independent income and actual workspace. I mean, imagine, if June Cleaver had just had a den, she might have been the next ... Helen Gurley Brown. Anyway, in Woolf's book, this "room" is not a bubble-bath retreat; it is a place where significant contributions to society are created.

Now. In a relationship, "having space" is a human need and a worthy end in itself. But ideally, one of its side effects is that the space-haver returns to the relationship invigorated, refreshed, and thus better able to contribute to the partnership. Needless to say, this is not exactly the case in your house.

So. Your needs are not too much to ask; they are too little. Jeez, one weekly hug? "Distant friends" is a fair deal only when the two of you have some sort of "arrangement" that you're both getting something out of it (say, a room of one's own in the West Wing). I'd say you're the one who needs to curl up with Woolf and figure out how your independence -- and, someday, a powerful partnership with someone who thinks you rock -- might make a significant contribution to society.

Breakup Girl



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