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" Social Buffer | 2008 | Seven Seconds "

01.17.08 7:33 p.m.

It is very important that you do not compare your actions to your partner's or judge your partner's behavior as unskillful. Rather, focus on your own actions and take responsibility for them. Recall those times when you looked into your partner's eyes and saw the pain you caused this person you love to suffer. If you can admit your own faults, if you can see how hurtful your actions were and tap into a sense of concern for your partner's well-being, then compassion and loving-friendliness will flow.  

-Bhante Henepola Gunaratana




Listen, I know your fiancée and partner of over seven years dumped you. Hard. Really, I couldn't sympathize more, especially given that I'm you. And I know that you are taking at least token steps to get on with your life, going on premature dates has so far turned out fairly well and you bought that clauddaugh ring to signal to yourself that you were a confirmed bachelor. You aren't telling the students or staff about your singledom, which is probably a good idea. It's none of their business, no matter how often they ask after Emily, your "wife". At the same time, I have definite concerns that you aren't, exactly, getting over Emily and that really ought to be your priority.

Whoa, relax there, big guy! I know how hurt you were when this whole situation with Emily so promptly making her friend Tim - a friend with whom she had spent a lot of time together, who she was with hours before dumping you, and often overnight - into her cuddlebuddy. That's sort of why I am writing this to you. Checking her MySpace, feeling cut by remarks about how she is surrounded by her real family and the people who really love her (even after what you wrote) and that she napped next to a man, isn't healthy. Checking her Facebook status whenever you are on that site to see if she or Tim have advanced their status to the relationship she swore she didn't want? Does that remotely seem therapeutic? Yes, you are being polite, you are being civil, even though you feel betrayed by what has happened. You are trying hard to maintain this friendship, harder than I think most people would. But you are still doing these typical ex-boyfriend obsessions which are not helping you heal from the psychic wounds all of this has dealt you. Emily has gone on more than once, her voice a mix of contempt and pity, about what losers her ex-boyfriends turned out to be, how any man with whom she exchanged a kiss still followed her through cyberspace like a lost puppy because she was the best thing that ever happened in their pathetic lives. And now, you poor bastard, you are dangerously close to being spoken of in the same way, being painted with the same broad brush. You could very well become an anecdote she tells to future lovers and you frankly cannot afford that.

I know that you have taken additional steps to restore your mental health, including making an appointment with the therapist even after he dismissed you for not having sufficient issues to work through, even though you find him incapable of rising about Psych 101 babble and treating you like an individual. You didn't quit your job after the initial shock, though you originally took it and voluntarily distanced yourself from everything you loved so you could finally provide Emily a home and comfort while she finished her degree. You have kept up your appearance (actually having lost ten pounds since she left you, though you've been eating normally) and, despite being a trifle too maudlin to strictly be called normal, you've been social. You went on those two dates and you will go on more, whether you like it or not. I am especially proud that you have refused to yet burden someone else with your permanent company, though the urge was present. You saw that what you want and what you need were diametrically opposed and focused your rebound crush energy on dear Jenn, who was too good a person to take you up on it. You are talking to (and only talking to) a few promising women, though I am going to have to give you a few demerits for these women only existing on a dating site on the internet. Rather unseemly, no matter how much you justify that Keilaina met her husband there. Further, you are rereading those books which have always inspired you and put your life into perspective. I honestly do expect you to make a full recovery and be better for it, but you can't rush it and you shouldn't be trying. Just enjoy this interregnum before you fall for some brilliant woman and start this process of love over again. Get to be really strong and healthy for yourself and not for that future girlfriend.

I am aware that people, mostly strangers, keep asking if you are going to kill yourself over this. I know how much you just wish they would stop asking. Maybe they silently want that drama, the vicarious thrill of talking to the condemned and giving a temporary stay of execution. The question always surprises you. Is this common? How will killing yourself help anything? It would cheat you out of a satisfactory resolution to this story and you simply can't stomach that. Besides, if what you remember from Todd's death is accurate and generalizable, the truly suicidal tend not to mention their plans to anyone they think to be capable of dissuading them. They just get suddenly happy after a long period of morbid depression because they have made up their mind to finally end it.

I also know you can't help your dreams, where Emily and you are together again, where the sheer force of your combined love overwhelms any number of misadventures your unconscious mind can contrive, but you can't dwell on them either. She isn't coming back and you intellectually know that this is for the best. For longer than you care to know, you have been more invested in the success of this relationship, even as Emily pestered Becky about getting a bridesmaid dress and spent hours putting together wedding invitations. What people tell you is true, it is a far better thing that she came clean with you before the wedding, though it doesn't feel that way. You think that things might have been different if you lived somewhere else - if she could have only held off until after the honeymoon - things might have been different but how likely is that and how much would you have wanted that? Emily chose this new life of hers very carefully, lined up an apartment and more other things than you care to know, completely under your nose while you blithely adored her and tried to make her winter break as relaxed and pleasant as you could manage. None of the what-ifs matter confronted with that. She left you because it was what she felt best for her. It wasn't ever about you. She left you for Tim. She says she cares about you still, but this decision was only ever about her. Admit it to yourself. Accept it, please. Once you do, this will get easier. Once you move over a bit and start using her side of the bed for more than a place to store the next day's clothes.

You miss Emily, the taste of her lips, touching her bare back when you had trouble sleeping, the smell of her hair after she took a shower, how soft her forehead is, her lilt of her voice as she said that she loved you. You were well suited to her, even if the inverse may not have been true. The quiet spell you did eight years ago at your desk in the Dutchess Library to find someone matching most of the lyrics of Edwin McCain's song "I'll Be" (we need to get you better taste in music) didn't work, or worked unpredictably. She wasn't your fan, you were the greatest fan of her life and you still are.

You only got over what Jen had done, that adolescent infidelity, three months into your relationship with Kate. Cutting Jen off immediately, though you did it tactlessly and with full teen rage, was one of the best moves you could have made there. You only fully got over Kate a year into your relationship with Emily, because you didn't cut Kate off and tried to keep her as a friend even at the price of your emotional well-being and sexual health. (In the long term, this was worth it.) And now Emily has dumped you because she has decided she could never have the life she wanted if she was with you and it is brutal and you still believe so much in the myth of your former relationship that you cling to the idea that you two are quickly going to transition into a deep friendship, even as she misled you? The odds don't look great and you know that. It took you over seven years to see Kate and realize you had made the full transition to loving her utterly and never again craving her kiss. But, then again, you had full confidence in your relationship with Emily then, twenty-four hours before the breakup. It was easier with that knowledge. Everything was easier. Marissa, dear girl, said that you would be okay after the breakup because you are always okay. Then, full of grief that you had lost what was undoubtedly the best relationship you'd ever had, you pointed out that she had only known you while you were with Emily. Of course you were fine then. Nothing could hurt as long as you knew you had Emily supporting you. And you don't have that anymore, yet you have to go on living. You've done well, I suppose, finding new and more intrinsic motivations. You do things for yourself now, though sometimes have to excuse your newfound selfishness as simply making room in your life for some beautiful future love. You can't even exercise without it being for someone else (even and especially someone else who does not have a face or name to you yet) and that has got to change. You can joke that you are just getting ready for someone to eventually see you naked again, but you would do well not to believe it. (I personally prefer you claiming you are training to outrun the zombie apocalypse.) It is okay to do things for yourself, because they feel nice and make you a happier and better person. And you know that you are only going to stand a chance of finding the sort of relationship you want and need when you are too strong to want or need it anymore.

All of this hurts and it should. Show yourself some of that loving kindness, that compassion, you preach to others. Don't close off from the experience of being spurned. Let yourself bleed if only to clean the festering from your soul.



Soon in Xenology: Coping. Dates. Dia. Ideal Wives.

last watched: Juno
reading: Illusions
listening: A Light of Some Kind

" Social Buffer | 2008 | Seven Seconds "

Thomm Quackenbush is an author and teacher in the Hudson Valley. Double Dragon publishes four novels in his Night's Dream series (We Shadows, Danse Macabre, and Artificial Gods, and Flies to Wanton Boys). He has sold jewelry in Victorian England, confused children as a mad scientist, filed away more books than anyone has ever read, and tried to inspire the learning disabled and gifted. He is capable of crossing one eye, raising one eyebrow, and once accidentally groped a ghost. When not writing, he can be found biking, hiking the Adirondacks, grazing on snacks at art openings, and keeping a straight face when listening to people tell him they are in touch with 164 species of interstellar beings. He likes when you comment.

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