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November 9, 1998   CONTINUED e-mail e-mail to a friend in need


Dear Breakup Girl,

OK, let me put this in chronological order. I've had a few pretty rotten relationships in my past that lasted about 4-5 years. They were basically filling in for my absent father and were pretty lousy all the way around. Then I grew up and got more particular and thought I was bonding to a better type of man. I met my S2BX when I first started grad school six years ago. I should have gone with my first impression, which was that he was an emotional leech that would just put me through an emotional ringer. But after I met him and looked into his eyes I was hooked. I did the whole "get hot and flushed" thing whenever he walked into the room. Anyway, I can accept now that we were really more or less using each other and that it would never last, and that was OK, but at the time I was sure he was my soul mate.

However, the way he chose to end it was very painful. I think it was pretty unnecessary for him to use expressions like "If I'd known who you really were I never would have married you," and "Maybe it's just your fate to be second best." You see, when he went back home for a visit which I hoped would save our marriage he ended up having some bodacious fling with an old flame. Which he finally told me about 3 months later, just when I thought things were finally going to go well, and he admitted to it right in the middle of sex. Go figure. Now I realize that he said those hurtful things primarily for his own sense of closure, so that it would have to end, but he really devastated me and my self image that way.

Anyway, the real problem is this. After a few months of suicidal thoughts every single day I decided to give myself something to look forward to, to try out life again before I totally gave up. I went and visited friends again, I started writing stories again, and I decided to try dating. My S2BX and I had been completely separated for six months, and basically separating for at least 9 months. Soooo, just for fun I started looking at internet personal adds. I live in a small town and finding acceptable dates has been...um...interesting. For a few weeks it was fun, just looking around and seeing what guys said about themselves. Then I found one that didn't make me laugh. So I wrote to him.

After about two weeks of writing back and forth we decided to meet. He was sweet and funny and attentive and caring and I found I could talk to him about things I had never talked to anyone about and he felt the same about me. I thought I was looking for someone just to go to a movie with now and then, and I found Mr. Wonderful. Unfortunately, he worries that he is just a rebound for me. And I am not so rock solid certain that I can just say 'no way, love, it's not like that.' We've only been really dating for just over two months, and it has all gone so quickly. Not that I mind that, he makes me feel just like the person I always thought I am, bad and good stuff together. I just worry when I feel this cold pit in my stomach sometimes that he is right and I am using him as a rebound and I so do not want to hurt this incredibly sweet man.

It's not that he is the only person I was interested in since the devastating break up with my husband. I was very attracted to two men whom I never actually dated, which showed me that my emotions were not completely cut to the quick, and I did have a brief internet 'romance' with a very nice man with whom it never would have worked out anyway. But this feels like it could be long term and really positive. I just worry that I'm too close to be able to see the whole picture. I don't think I'm going to use him to bolster my self image and then want to strike out on my own as the 'new improved me', generally I am way too devoted to a relationship to want to do that. But I find myself wanting to say positive things to him that I've said before in relationships that were really going nowhere so that makes those statements seem kind of empty and superficial, like 'soulmate' or 'never felt like this before' or 'can see us old together.'

So, what do you think? Am I just flying through a rebound and that cold pit is telling me so? Or could I be on the verge of a great thing and the cold pit is mostly because I don't know how to deal with a good thing? Any ideas would be appreciated.

-- Amy

Dear Amy,

(S2BX = Soon To Be Ex?)

I can't tell you exactly what you're doing or how you're feeling. But I will tell you that I'm less worried about someone who writes to say she's confused after two months than I am about someone who writes to say she's sure.

'Cause, like, of course you're confused. Your last relationship ended extraordinarily crappily; some things got said that were so over the top that even though your brain knew they were absurd, they still slithered under your skin like those creepy oily wormy virusy guys on the X-Files. You were also left with -- am I right? -- that galling "I should have known" feeling.

So now you're seized with "I should know now." Makes sense. But you shouldn't know now. After many months, maybe. But after a few months, nah. Some people can barely get it together to go on more than, like, a couple dates in a couple months. You're asking a lot of yourself and your vital organs -- and he sounds a tad whinily insecure himself, which ain't helping. It's thoughful and conscientious to be asking these questions now, but try try try try not to worry about the answers quite yet. You sound pretty smart and lucid to me ... take your time, let it grow, notice and file away your doubts. You'll know eventually if it's Meant2B.

Breakup Girl



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