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April 12, 1999   CONTINUED e-mail e-mail to a friend in need


Dear Breakup Girl,

In a nutshell: we broke up two months ago, but neither of us really wants to "let go" of the other. I wanted to give it another try. He wanted to wait and sort his stuff out and then *maybe* give it another try. I know, already I sound like a moron...

The basics are that we were together for nearly 2 years, the last 6 months of which were marked by his becoming increasingly distant. and then I started getting very hurt and a little psycho about it. I'm 29, unmarried, not exactly a superstar at long-term relationships. he's 36, divorced, apparently practiced in the ways of letting a relationship drag on miserably without doing anything about it. So I broke up with him, but even then said that if we were willing to work really hard at it, try couples counseling, etc., I still really wanted to be with him. Things just needed to change radically.

We've minimized communication, and at the beginning of this month we agreed to not-communicate until May 1. Then we'd get together and decide whether to try again, really let go of each other, be friends, never speak again, whatever.

Anyway, I can't take it. It's like having an anvil hang over your head all the time. this weekend, I finally freaked out and I emailed him, "I know you probably don't want to deal with me right now" (I had seen his best friend, who said that my Ex is worrisomely depressed and obviously not over me, etc etc) "and I won't push it, but I can't wait until may. Please think about getting together sooner to discuss whatever we imagined we'd discuss then."

His reply was an incomprehensible, waffly, very male piece of work. and it included "WE CANNOT COMMUNICATE UNTIL MAY. I'M TRYING TO HEAL."

Instead of respecting his need, and the agreement we'd both come up with about May, I came in late last night drunk, PMSing and hysterical. I wrote back at length. Essentially, I said: "Life is short. It's beautiful and fragile and I want to LIVE it, which I can't really do while I'm carrying my heart around in a little box, waiting to see whether you want to open it. So if you want to be any part of this life I intend to start living again, let me know now. Not tomorrow, not in May. Now."

Question 1: Am I being an impatient b*tch?

Question 2: Is he cruel to have refused, for this long, to either say "I don't want to be with you" or "I do want to be with you," instead maintaining that he needs to Find Himself or whatever, all the while telling me I'm wonderful and he can't stop imagining us getting back together?

Question 3: Are we so dysfunctional it's laughable for either of us to imagine having a decent relationship? If we can't even commit to breaking up, you do have to wonder. Please please please answer....

-- Mayday Girl

Dear Mayday,

See, that's what I always say about ultimatums -- or, that is, their prickly cousins: moratoriums, deadlines, and the like. No point in establishing them if you can't keep them.

Or, more instructively, no point in not keeping them if you can't learn something from the fact that you didn't. So let's see.

Questions 1 and 2: well, I'm not going to point fingers/call names. You're beating both of you up plenty good already.

Let me answer a slightly different question. Were you justified in breaking the code of silence? Strictly speaking, no. Emotionally, yes. Hey, if you were going batty, you were going batty. But. You can't expect him to buck up and speak up right back. You pipe up in advance of the deadline, you may be being true to yourself --which, goodness knows, is more than fine -- but you are also risking that whatever happens as a result will hurt more, sooner.

And right now, given that he's not exactly amenable to rescheduling, the only thing you can do is clench your fists and honor his request. Or your own ultimatum. Open that box yourself, Mayday Girl. (It's also marked "Question 3.") Not tomorrow, not in May.

Breakup Girl



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