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February 28

The 4.5-year itch

Filed under: Advice — posted by Breakup Girl @ 12:04 pm

Getting restless on May 25, 1998

Dear Breakup Girl,

I have this annoying problem with the 4.5 year itch. I’ve been through three engagements and am looking at yet another split. Problem is, I never seem to grow up; I can’t seem to stay with anyone for more than a few years. Inevitably, I get restless and bored. And I’m certainly not getting any younger. Do you think that the “pattern” is set? I mean, is it possible that I am the way I am until the end of time? I’ve tried therapy, couples counseling, chanting and prayer…nothing seems to work. A friend of mine has suggested (in all her kindness) that I simply haven’t met “the one,” that I have a deep-rooted fear of real intimacy…so I choose people who who are more interested in me than I am in them. She may be right. So, help! What can I do with myself? Should I just accept the way I am and cheat on my current partner? Just accept this as a way of life?

— Wanderlust

Dear Wanderlust,

We all tend to have strings of relationships; usually, this is known as Life, not something pathological. But three engagements? Wow, some of us, present company excluded, get only one. Okay, so first of all, all sarcasm aside, quit getting engaged. At least until you’ve gained a little more insight into this “pattern,” which, self-helpistically enough, is only as “set” as you make it. Also, no cheating.

Let me ask you this: what, in terms of therapy, etc., do you mean by “work?” Because even the best, most transformative chanting and prayer session doesn’t mean that the next relationship you then step into will or should last forever. You do a little couples counseling, you break up anyway — even if only because statistically in your lifetime, only a teeensy proportion of your relationships wind up in marriage — but then you get to think, “See, I was right, that pattern must be set.” And at that point, for all intents and purposes, it is.

Sure, maybe your friend’s insight is right. But — after all you’ ve done — how about some of your own? This is what strikes me most about your letter; I mean, what did you talk about in therapy? Whatever it was, I’m not convinced you were listening. Therapy/counseling, as I said above, is not magic, but it can help you know what you see when you look under the hood. If you want it to. So if your current relationship does indeed end, try not being in a relationship for a while. Except with a therapist whom you really think is “the one.”

Breakup Girl


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