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December 21, 1998   CONTINUED e-mail e-mail to a friend in need


Dear Breakup Girl,

I really need the advice of a neutral third party. I'm in third year med school -- I met my boyfriend in second year and we've been together for about a year. Everyone knows us as the cute couple at school because we're both really outgoing and are quite well-known in the school.

Well, "Jerry" was my first love. I'm a loner by nature and enjoy my own company very much. I also work very hard at school and am super-involved in lots of activities so I never had much time to date in my teens and now in my early twenties I met J. We seemed to have everything in common yet we are so different at the same time. He has dated many women, and is very right wing, while I swing to the left. But we've both been through our parents' messy divorces and share a distrustful nature as the result. J has been supportive of me and has helped me resolve a lot of issues but now I think I'm ready to move on.

But for the past month I've been trying to think of ways to tell him and I just can't. I love him and I always will but now it's more a sisterly/brotherly sort of love, not a passionate desire to be with him. He was my best friend before we got together and I wish he always would be. But I know that if I break up with him I will lose him forever. He thinks we will eventually settle down together as two very sucessful professionals. I think its only fair that I let him free to meet that someone right who he can settle down with. At the same time I am also ready to move on, date, and discover for myself what it is that really creates a spark in a relationship for me.

What should I do? How do I tell him? I figure the Christmas holidays would be a good time to make this change since we're both away from school and it will give us both some time to recover before school resumes. Please give me some advice, I love him and don't want to hurt him.

-- R

Dear R,

Oh, ouch, I'm so sorry. This one -- well, duh, like any breakup -- is going to be tough. Mainly because you still adore him, but also because you are going to have to do some painful PR back at school. Groan.

But you know, R,.aside from being sweet and firm and kind and honest and forthright, there's no one, like, "way to tell him." It's not like there's something you can say that will -- as opposed to something else -- make him say, "Right you are! I'm not hurt! You're free to go." Come on.

So you can't completely his feelings, but to some degree, you can spare them. Don't sugar-coat: they may have declared Nutra-sweet non-carcinogenic, but it still has that saccharine aftertaste. Don't patronize; it will make him (a) mad, and (b) say,"Well if I'm that great, then why are you dumping me?" Don't tell him you think it's best for him. Don't talk about being friends. Don't bring his politics into this (especially because they may be the only thing bringing him joy at this time). Do talk about how you feel, what you need, where you feel your life should go. But don't expect him to, like, agree. Just do the best you can. Which may still lead him to the conclusion that you're the worst person on earth. It doesn't mean you messed up.

And about your timing. Holiday breakups, eeeuw. But I believe that your logic, in this case, is sound. It will give you both some recovery time before having to go back to school as the couple formerly known as the cutest.

One more thing: I know and am touched by how much you still care about him. I say the following to just about everyone in your position, but I think a doctor-to-be needs to hear it loudest and clearest of all: you cannot be the one to heal him. It's not like you should abandon him, bleeding, in the ER, but you cannot be his longterm physical therapist or primary practitioner; trust me, it just doesn't work. It may also drive you more nuts than most that you can't make it better. Be prepared. And don't be surprised if you need to prescribe yourself some bed rest.

Breakup Girl



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