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August 17, 1998   CONTINUED e-mail e-mail to a friend in need


Dear Breakup Girl,

Ok...so I guess I have two questions. I was just reading your bit on long distance relationships so here goes. About two years ago I broke up with my boyfriend of almost three years. A year ago, I asked a complete stranger out. Completely random -- I thought he was cute, he said yes -- voila, lunch date, movie we hit it off quite well. I end up getting sick -- as in having surgery sick. I move in with my parents -- 3000 km away -- to Washington state. He visits here twice, I visit there once. Each time he has been here, he has been very affectionate, very sweet -- we've made travelling plans together etc. We both agreed before I moved, that a commitment, a formal relationship, would be ridiculous. Mainly due to the enormous distance and the fact that neither of us is ready. (I want to be single for a bit due to my tendency to merge with the other person and lose my personality -- other story.)

Fine. Groovy. So, a few months ago, I went to visit him. At his house -- he lives at home as he is getting into real-estate and has it easy. He behaved very, very differently. He was distant, not as affectionate. Didn't talk about plans -- wasn't as nice even. Now, I had just come off of my period, so hey, I thought maybe it's hormones right? All in my head? But, now that I'm home, and we talk on the phone every Sunday, I'm getting the same vibe. (He had email for awhile and in type, was his usual self before my visit self -- and he was like that at the airport when I was leaving too! Grrr.) I know he hates the telephone, but prior to my visit, he didn't let that stop him from being sweet. What is going on? A couple of my friends are convinced he is seeing someone else -- and yet, we agreed on complete honesty. Is he seeing someone and is too uncomfortable to tell me? I would be fine and taking it one day at a time if there hadn't been this strange shift in his behaviour towards me. Was it my being in his house? Here is this commitment-phobic person (he says he does not want to get hurt, bad things have happened in the past and he is just very nervous of getting close) and I'm in his bathroom brushing my teeth, talking to his mom and dad, chatting with his sister while he's at work...did it scare him? freak him out? Any advice to stop this noise in my head would be wonderful!

Second question: I miss my ex. and the thing is, he was a good person who was in his first long relationship -- OK, first relationship -- and behaved badly. In a nutshell, he could be a real a**hole sometimes. Driving me to tears over ridiculas things, calling me stupid etc. Lots to do with how his parents treated him. However, he does have a good heart. He is no longer speaking to me. I did the breaking up -- we tried to be friends. I was OK with it -- he didn't know how to handle it. So now he is not communicating with me in any way. This hurts. This hurts very very bad. I miss him terribly as he was also a very good friend before any sort of romantic relationship developed. I want to call him, talk to him. He has said, before he stopped communicating with me, that I could call him anytime. His mother and I still email -- I lived with his family so I'm pretty close with her -- but I feel like if I called I would hurt him more -- even though sometimes I need to talk as I am going through a pretty scary disease right now, am in a new city with no real friendships and he is the only one who really knows what to say to take away my fear. What do I do? My head says leave him alone, but my heart is just screaming to talk to him!!! I don't want to get back together with him -- no desire for romantic involvement. But I want my friend back. Ideas?

-- Jennifer

Dear Jennifer,

First of all, I hope you're okay, health-wise.

What you've done in your letter is what journalists call "burying the lede." Don't ask me why it's not spelled "lead" (as a placeholder, we also abbreviate "To Come" as TK, go figure). What it means is that the real key point is not at the beginning, but rather hidden somewhere in, oh, the third paragraph. Let me dig it up for you: "I am going through a pretty scary disease in a new city with no real friendships." With the first guy, well, we can speculate all we want about whether he's seeing someone or whether the tooth-brushing thing gave him the willies, but I'm just thinking that (a) distance and (b) disease are a wicked lot to shoulder in a non-formal relationship. He probably just doesn't, um, want to. The "lede" also explains why your heart is screaming to talk to your ex. You are lonely, scared, sad, restless; the past appears more comforting and enticing than the present. So if you want to give him a call, fine. See how he feels about it. But that's not really going to fix things. You need to do that hard-to-explain-how-to-do thing called Making Friends (see above). Is there a way (online? throught a hospital?) to find and hang out with people facing the same health problem that you have? That might help you shoulder some of the burden that you'd like to unload on your maybe-not-so-sturdy ex. Also, since it doesn't sound like you're incapacitated, you really just do need to get out there and do stuff with new folks, somehow. In so far as possible, don't lie around being a Sick Person. The people and relationships you've left behind can't really offer you the nurturing you need anymore. Start now: you need to set up the friendships and support systems and commitments that will be in place for years TK.

Breakup Girl



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