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April 27, 1998   CONTINUED e-mail e-mail to a friend in need


Dear Breakup Girl,

Your column has been one of my saving graces for the past few months. Your advice is very wise, and as I've read your columns weekly, I've been able to see myself progress from the deepest depths of break-up despair to the head-just-above-water stage. Things look a little brighter from here.

Last summer my boyfriend of six years broke up with me. We'd been in counseling for about a year because we were faced with that watershed moment -- to get married or call it quits -- and he seemed to be paralyzed by this decision. Marriage seemed to be OK with him as long as we were talking about forty years hence, but the idea of getting married in the near future seemed to fill him with dread and near-distaste. When he finally decided to end our relationship, though, he would not admit it was because he had any kind of commitment problem. Instead, he gave me the "it's not me, it's you" routine -- in other words, he was perfectly capable of getting married, but I just wasn't the person he wanted to marry.

When we broke up, I told him I didn't want for us to be in touch for the foreseeable future. As much as I knew I was going to miss him, I knew I wasn't ever going to get over him if I kept seeing him or talking to him. He has respected that wish, and we haven't spoken or written in eight months. I've gone through the full range of post-breakup emotions, and I've finally come to that place where most of the time, I can see what was wrong or missing in our relationship and know that I am better off without him.

So, that's the background. Here's my dilemma: My ex-boyfriend and I have a mutual friend who is close to both of us. This mutual friend has just called to tell me he's getting married in a couple of months. He wants me to come to his wedding. My ex-boyfriend will be in the wedding, and surprise, surprise, apparently he started going out with someone a few months after we broke up. They've become very serious and our mutual friend tells me that my ex is talking about moving to where she lives. He thinks they'll get married. This new chick is sure to be at the wedding.

So, should I go? Part of me thinks I can handle this and that it may even be a triumphant moment -- a chance to prove to myself how far I've come in my healing process. Another part of me thinks I'm only fooling myself and shouldn't set myself up for pain. Still another part of me thinks that even if I could handle it, maybe my ex-boyfriend and his new love won't be able to and that there could still be negative repercussions for me. And finally, there's the part of me that thinks I'll really regret it in fifty years (when I'm, hopefully, happily married and in a better relationship than I would've been with my ex) if I miss a good friend's wedding. I should mention, by the way, that this wedding is on the other side of the country, so there's no option to go for thirty minutes and bail out if the going gets tough. I'm hoping you can help me out. Thanks, Breakup Girl.

-- Wanting to do the Right Thing

Dear Wanting,

How healthy and well-adjusted of you not to ask me trickier questions like "Should I arrange to bring an intimidating date?" The answer, while we're on the subject, is no. Certainly not. That would be contrived, bordering on tacky. Instead, purchase an actual engagement ring (keep the receipt!) or score a loaner by mowing someone's lawn or something. To explain the absence of your betrothed, smile mysteriously and murmur words like "yacht" and "Onassis" into your cocktail.

Okay, Breakup Girl is SO kidding. Especially because she is going to tell you to go ... but NOT because you have anything to prove to your ex -- nor, for that matter, to yourself. Your close friend is getting married. He wants you to be there. So go. At this point -- since, as you say, you believe you're out of the throes of the most acute pain -- that obligation trumps the other concerns. Your friendship with the groom is also the only non-wild card here. Otherwise, don't set yourself up for feelings or moments that may or may not happen. It's not that simple. You may have a triumphant surge of Over-Itude, or you may have an aneurysm. Or, in fact, both. You're human. I mean, let's face it: you're over your ex while you're alone in your room; but you haven't really test-driven your healing in an, um, romantic setting. (As for whether your ex and his squeeze can handle it, by the way, that is so not your problem.)

So even if it mostly sucks -- hey, you showed up. Other people have hurt friends' feelings by missing their weddings for far less compelling reasons ("yacht," "Onassis," etc.). Doing that deed -- no matter how lousy it may feel in media res-- will make a big difference to your friend, and to you.

Breakup Girl



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