DEAR CAROLYN: In June, I ended a long-distance relationship after several stormy months. There was a lot of back-and-forth, depression on both ends and difficulties in communicating.
The evening when we finally broke up for good, she attempted suicide. Very fortunately, she told me what she had done and I was able to call the paramedics in time. We spoke once she got out of the psych ward and have had no communication since then.
I’ve gone to a therapist several times, which has been helpful, but difficult now with a new work schedule.
My problem is that I’m having trouble moving on. It’s not that I still want to be with her, it’s just that I don’t want to date anyone. This was about three months ago, so it’s not as if it happened yesterday, but I have zero interest in pursuing any relationship. One person I met wanted to get physical and I just had no interest.
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What’s going on here? I’m 32 and virtually all of my friends are married or starting families. I feel like I should want to pursue a relationship, but dating holds no appeal at the moment. I feel I’m becoming too comfortable with this state.
DEAR UNMOTIVATED: What’s going on here is that you had a traumatic experience and you haven’t yet recovered enough to want to take that same risk again. It doesn’t need to be any more complicated than that.
Had you instead been on an amusement park ride that nearly killed your girlfriend, I doubt you’d be mystified by not wanting to line up for it again.
Creating something volatile with one person doesn’t mean every, or even any, other relationship you have will be just as unstable, of course. But forcing yourself back into circulation before you’ve made sense of your emotional state just invites confusion, miscommunication and self-sabotage; it’s hard to get what you need when you aren’t clear what your needs really are.
Now is the time to reflect – or continue reflecting – on this difficult relationship to see whether there were signs you missed or contributions you made. It’s also time to work on finding contentment as you are, since that will be your point of reference when you do feel ready to date again.
That you’re concerned about getting too comfortable after three months solo, versus three years, suggests you’re in a hurry to find someone, and that can lead to circumstances where you, among other things, overstay in a stormy long-distance relationship, or agree to one in the first place. Time pressure motivates us to tune out normal, healthy doubts, whether we’re choosing an appetizer or a car or a mate.