First off, let me tell you how happy I am to see that you are back and healthy. I've been a longtime reader/fan of your column. I've read the recent letters and responses regarding gut instincts and I'm not sure if my situation entirely applies, but maybe it could make a trilogy.
I'm in my late 20s. I was in a serious, committed relationship for six years that ended with a broken engagement last year. I had an extremely difficult time dealing with it and got very depressed. We stayed in contact after separating, which was a mistake in retrospect, and things got very bad and we stopped communicating this past February.
Since then, I have dated a few women whom I liked very much but didn't feel that spark. I wasn't looking for anything serious and then, BOOM, out of nowhere, in late April, I met a woman who is several years younger than I am and we had an instant chemical reaction. We hit it off like nothing I've ever experienced. It was seamless and intense and incredible.
Unfortunately, she was only visiting my city and actually lives about 600 miles away. Like me, she was also not looking for a relationship and definitely not anything long-distance. We had both done that before and knew how difficult it can be.
Regardless, we felt so strongly about each other that we decided to give it a shot. I went to visit a couple of times, she came to visit me, we met in the middle, I met her family, etc. We always had a great time, but things started moving too fast too soon and we started talking about the future, and whether I could find work there or she could find work here. Anyway, after we attended a friend's wedding, she left to go on vacation with family for 10 days. We couldn't talk much during that time because they were staying in a small town without many communication options. When she returned, everything seemed fine, but it wasn't. The following day she abruptly called it off via e-mail. If I take her at her word (which is difficult because I know I said a few thoughtless things), then she believes that she doesn't want a relationship right now. She likes living her fiercely independent life in her city and isn't ready for any kind of commitment or responsibility to anyone. She's young and we got serious very fast. I believe she went on vacation, thought about it all, and realized she wasn't ready for any of it. I can understand this, but it still came with no warning.
My concern is this: I trusted my gut on this relationship and got burned. Now I'm realizing how much I hate being alone, whether it's in my apartment, or out somewhere, or whatever. I was in a relationship for so long and I don't think I fully processed the end of it before starting this intense new relationship. I'm falling into the old pattern of constantly thinking about what I did wrong, whether or not I could have changed the outcome of this relationship, and I keep seeking the advice of family and friends. Perhaps the pattern is the problem. I'm obsessing and casting a wide net for input because I feel like I can't trust my own instincts. I feel this way because my instincts, or my gut, keep failing me. I knew this relationship was unrealistic when we met, but as time went on, we seemed to be working toward a goal together and I started believing it would work out. I guess that was rather naive of me. I think I'm starting to annoy my family and friends with my advice seeking, but I can't seem to stop (as evidenced by this e-mail to you). I know, on some level, that I have to heal and figure out a way to be comfortable and content alone. The problem is: I don't know how to do it.
My Gut Was Wrong
Dear My Gut Was Wrong,
What we mean by "trust your gut" isn't so much to go against all evidence but to listen to your feelings and your intuition and use their subtle signals to help you decide. Don't ignore your passion. Honor your passion. But honor your passion by talking to it and saying, Passion, you know I like you a lot, and you're a lot of fun, but you've also gotten me in a lot of trouble over the years, and I'm not always going to just come running every time you call. You're powerful and you're fun and attractive but you're also sometimes inconvenient and dangerous and scary and if I might add, at times, just a mite weird -- like some of the ideas you come up with are just against the law. I recognize that without you, Passion, I would probably not be alive, nor would much dance happen. Still, you're not my only guide to happiness.
We're talking balance. We're saying don't be afraid or blind or rigid. Honor the passion and its flight. Honor also the law of gravity as it pulls us relentlessly back to earth. Hear that, Icarus?
Now your problem is how to manage the aftermath.
In going to your friends and relatives with your tale of woe, you have a choice. You can ask them to let you off the hook and tell you it was just bad luck, or you can come clean and say yes, I know my part in this, I took a risk because I really wanted that woman in bed with me, I wanted her in bed with me so much I did not give a fuck what happened afterward, and I honor that time spent in bed with her, I burn with disappointment and heartache and loneliness but goddamn, it was worth it, and what I want from the world now is not forgiveness but simply to be readmitted to the fellowship of flawed persons, to have the companionship while I get over it, not to be told any lies about how special I am and what a shame it is or how mysterious it is but just to be admitted and held close in the circle of humanity while I get over my own dumb but beautiful mistakes.
My friend, I am with you, I am on your side, I get what you are saying and I have been there. But you say it yourself. You knew from past experience what you were getting into: "Regardless, we felt so strongly about each other that we decided to give it a shot."
It was too good to pass up so you went for it.
Bingo. Let's ride. Screw the blizzard and the rattlesnakes, this whiskey tastes so good I'm going to keep riding till I fall off my horse.
So now, in dealing with the aftermath, what I would want to hear you say is that it was worth it, that she was magnificent, that what you had with her was magical and priceless and unforgettable, and that there is no blame on her, that you relish every minute she was willing to spend with you and do not begrudge her an instant of the time she is spending apart, and that you are gladly paying the cost, however hellish it is to pay, because it was worth it.
You're paying the tab for an epic run.
You have a massive hangover of the heart.
Let's not dishonor it by pretending it is less. It is not. It was big. Had you but world enough and time, maybe she could have been the one. But world and time are implacable foes of passion.
You also said this: "I knew this relationship was unrealistic when we met, but ..."
I love how the word "but" so often links statements of unassailable fact with dubious feints of exculpatory fantasy as though they were of equal measure.They're not. You knew what was up but you took a flying leap.
What you can do now that will make you proud when you look back on it, is you can pay the tab freely, largely, honestly, with your head held high and your chest thrust out. You can pay the tab and then tip big.
Leave a little extra for the gods.
Then soon you will be healed and ready for your next adventure of the heart, this time with a heart that is seasoned.
- See what others are saying in the Table Talk forum.
- Ask for advice. Letter writers: Please think carefully! By sending a letter to email@example.com, you are giving Salon permission to publish it. Once you submit it, it may not be possible to rescind it. So be sure. If you are not sure, sleep on it. You can always send tomorrow. Ready? OK, Submit your letter for publication.
- Or, just make a comment to Cary Tennis not for publication.
- Or, send a letter to Salon's editors not for publication.