Category Archives: Breakups

Flying Solo

Dear Jewish Fairy Godmother:

I am newly retired and newly single at pretty much the same time. My husband
and I parted amicably, as such things go, because we realized we had very
different ideas about what we wanted to do with our newfound freedom. We
could have stayed together but honestly, after many sessions in counseling and
with one another, we realized that we were more excited about the idea of facing
life alone than together, with the proviso that if either of us really needed help, as
in facing a serious medical crisis, we would ask the other what would be
possible. So if we don’t find the new connections we hope to, there is some faint
hope of getting back together, though probably not legally, once we’ve paid for
the legalities of separation. My friends think I am nuts, especially the ones who
have been single for so long, and I think would love to find a nice guy like my
hubby. Once they know him intimately that might not be true, but for now they’re
talking about having my head examined. How can I explain that after forty years
of togetherness, I am ready to be responsible only for myself?

Flying Solo

 
Dear Flying Solo:

There’s an interesting knowledge gap in your question. You know far
more about your husband and your marriage than your friends,
regardless of what you’ve said over the decades, and the single ones
know much more about being single than you do. That’s a
conversation worth having, though perhaps not so quickly with a
“friend” who wants to supplant you in the marriage bed.

 
Being a senior single has its own perils and pleasures. Yes you are not
responsible for another person 24/7, which might be especially
onerous as medical complications increase. But like the great 30 Rock
scene where Alec Baldwin tells Tina Fey she might die choking in her
own home without anyone there to save her, the downsides of alone
are tangible and not always comic. If you are genuinely good buddies
you could suspend the “cleave only unto one another” part of the vows
and take some exploratory down time. But if you are both set on
freedom, then do all the legal niceties and do your best to keep it
amicable. I’ve seen it work, and seen it fail, but good intentions
matter. Tell your friends what you told me: It’s time. I’m happy. So is
he. Wish us well. And then go forth and do whatever it is you’ve been
longing to.

Have To Change!!!!

Dear Jewish Fairy Godmother:

I feel like my whole life needs a retrofit. My marriage of 25 years has been up
and down for two decades. We love one another but it has always been volatile,
and I don’t mean in the good ways of make up sex. I’m very clear that I wouldn’t
pick him again, but we have a house, kids, dogs, debt, and many more ties that
bind. I’m also in a job I have wanted out of for years, and frankly I’d rather live in
another state, but my husband refuses to relocate. Fortunately our children are
grown, but each of them has approached me so say they can tell I am not the
happy person they used to know. My friends say much much more. My counselor
won’t tell me what to do, and asks me fifty questions a week, none of which I
seem able to answer with anything other than tears and saying “I feel stuck” over
and over. I have a degree and ironically I solve other people’s problems for a
living. Where do I start?

Have To Change!!!!

 
Dear Have to Change:

Here’s some simple advice: don’t change more than one thing at a time. While
I’m sure it’s tempting to move far away now, that seems like a rash over-
response. Jobs are easier to come by than marriages, especially if you may start
over somewhere else. So I think you need to start with marriage counseling.
Somewhere along the way you may decide you want to change your personal
counselor as well, but in the short run, sticking with someone who asks good
questions, even if you haven’t felt ready to answer them, will give you a sense of
stability. Ask your counselor for names of someone you can see with your
husband, assuming he is willing. If he is not, your problems are even bigger than
you describe.

 
Unless your job is severely physically or emotionally debilitating, that would be
last on my list to change. Looking for and starting any new job is stressful, and if
you may relocate anyhow, it seems like a waste of energy. Work on your
relationship, but within a specified period of time to either make it better or agree
to a trial separation, one that would enable you to have a grub stake to start over
either where you live or in a new place. But know that once you leave your home,
the chances you will stay together decline precipitously. So marriage first, then
choose between job and trying out a new place to live. But stay in counseling no
matter what. You will need the support.

Shocked and Scared

Dear Jewish Fairy Godmother:

I’m devastated and I don’t know how to start repairing my life, which I
may have to start over. This will be complicated but here goes: I’m 35.
I met David my first week of college. We married five years later when
we both headed to Boston for grad school. After grad school we
decided to put off a family until we had each gotten more established
in our careers. I’m a planner and he is a techno-communications
specialist. We got good jobs, bought a house, and casually started
family planning. A few years in, without even one miscarriage we
investigated our apparent non-fertility issues. The problem turned out
to be his low sperm count, and after much agonizing, planning, and
saving, we started a complicated program of in-vitro fertilization.
Amazingly both of the fetuses that we implanted were viable and two
plus years ago we had a pair of fabulous twins (one boy, one girl). Like
most couples with newborns we went through long periods of sleep
deprivation, exacerbated by not only the twin thing but the fact that
David and his best friend had decided to start their own business, a
decision the other wife (not a parent) and I agreed to.

 

The past five years have been a non-stop stress ride, punctuated by
occasional moments of bliss but mostly characterized by stress, tears,
arguments, and lack of sleep. Today David told me that rather than
going for the vasectomy we’d agreed might improve our absent
intimacy, that he’d decided he wasn’t ready, because he might want to
have more children, but not with me!! In the ensuing conversations he
said his “best friend” is a young woman from work whom he hired a
year ago, that he “hasn’t felt close” to me for a very long time, and
that he’s looked into how much alimony/spousal support I might have
to give him!!! Where do I start picking up these pieces????

Shocked and Scared

 
Dear Shocked and Scared:

Not every marriage lasts; far too many do not. That’s not the kiss of
death, but it is a reality you may need to confront. David sounds far
less mature than I’d want for the father of my children, and a much
worse communicator than I’d expect from someone you’ve been
relating to half of your life. Your summary doesn’t sound promising
from a stay-together point of view. But it also doesn’t ensure the
outcome is divorce.

 
The real question is whether both of you want to work on repairing the
marriage and trying to stay together. Even if both people enter
couples counseling with the intention of healing their relationship, the
process may not get them there. But if either or both are just going
through the motions, and secretly have a foot or more already out the
door, then the process is not good investment of time and money.
That said, you should begin by asking your friends for referrals to a
good couples counselor. Refrain from citing all the hurtful things he
has said. Hard but important. If your employer has an EAP (employee
assistance program), you might start ASAP to share aloud the
conversations David’s been having in his head. Listening will be hard
but educational and revealing.

 
In addition to actively trying to understand what he’s thinking, get
your own head and heart into individual counseling. That’ll help you
understand your own values and life priorities. It’s critical that you
don’t go through this next period of your life merely being reactive to
what he brings to the table and what he wants. Your vote counts too.
You should also, gulp, consult a good divorce attorney. That doesn’t
mean you’re going to file. But you do need a brisk and thorough
education on your rights and responsibilities from someone who’d be
prepared to be your advocate. Divorce attorneys have seen this horrid
drama before. They can protect you and reassure you that lives and
hearts torn asunder can also be kept ticking and be legally protected.
There’s potential spousal support at play as well as child support, not
to mention your common assets of a home, savings and/or debts.

 

Mostly you need to know that you haven’t been a blind fool to stay in a
relationship that may now be dying. If you could have anticipated your
current problems you’d have done things to keep them from erupting
as they now have. But you don’t need to feel like a victim of his anger
or unhappiness or your own confusion or shame. Focus on figuring out
what you most want, and then see how close you can get. Not just for
your own sake, but for the kids’. Give healing and reconciliation your
best shot. And know there are many ways in this world to be happy.

Once Bitten

Dear Jewish Fairy Godmother:

I dated someone for six months last year. It ended with a whimper
after I had surgery, and my desire for intimacy went to zero. He was a
good friend during my recovery process, but made it very clear that he
no longer considered us to be dating after the second month when I
didn’t want to cuddle or kiss. He very quickly got involved with a
woman that his ex-wife introduced him to (and apparently liked a lot
more for than she did me, as she always seemed quite hostile when
we were dating). But when I bumped into him at the market two days
ago, the first thing he said after “Hello!” Was, “I’m single again. Do
you want to get dinner and a movie on Saturday?” I accepted, but I’m
not sure if I should have added, “But only as a friend, nothing more.”
In fact I think he’s a nice enough guy to spend an evening with, but
he’s proven to me that he cares more about having a girlfriend than
being a good partner.

Once Bitten

 
Dear Once Bitten:

Having dinner and seeing a movie does not a relationship reunion
make. If he’s been a decent friend, then treat him as one, and assume
that his interest is that of a single person looking for companionship,
not automatically a hookup. If he asks you explicitly if you have ever
or would ever reconsider rekindling your relationship, you can answer
truthfully. But in the absence of that question, you should assume that
his news about being single is just that, news, not an invitation to get
back together.

 
If he does ask, and you do decline, he may ask why not. Then you can
choose to be diplomatic or brutally honest. If you value the friendship,
I’d counsel some form of discretion, and an answer that lands
somewhere near I think we are better as friends. Truth is he may
vanish again once he meets the next willing gal.

Too Picky?

Dear Jewish Fairy Godmother:

Is there ever a good way to break up with someone? We’ve been
dating for six months and there is absolutely nothing wrong with this
guy. He’s funny, smart, kind, considerate, financially independent, and
good in bed. On paper, he is exactly what I have said I am looking for
in a new partner, and certainly far ahead of the curve on either of my
previous mates or the guys I have dated between and since them.
What’s the problem? I’m bored. I know it’s not a fancy or dramatic
reason to want to end a relationship. But after six months I feel like
we’ve been together for six years, and I mean six years non-stop
locked a room and can’t breathe. The conversations are flat, the
stories repetitive, and any of “the incredible lightness of being” that I
have felt before when I fell in love with someone seems not just
elusive but remote. There’s no sense of yearning, no sense of
excitement, and the old-robe- and-slippers familiarity is stifling. If I feel
that now, what would happen in a year or four? I’m not getting any
younger and can’t afford to waste too long with the wrong guy.

Too Picky?

 
Dear Too Picky:

You left out loyal and kind from your list of descriptors. There are
hundreds of women who would race a moving train to be in your
situation. And while I am empathetic at your longing for the romantic
ideal, most lives are lived at a simpler, and yes often boring, pace.
Embrace the relationship for what it is: solid and reliable. Suggest that
you surprise one another with alternating responsibility for surprise
adventures. Enroll in a tango class. Or a cooking class. Or lean to play
an instrument or foreign language together. Commit to a volunteer
effort where you will assist those whose lives make yours look like
paradise. And if you are really ready to toss away a safe but boring
relationship, tell your honey you want to date other people. But please
don’t write me six months from now and tell me there are no good
people to date.

Ex and Happy About It

Dear Jewish Fairy Godmother:

What’s the break-up etiquette for returning items that were left ay
one’s now ex’s house while we were being intimate? I have a variety of
his items at my place, as does he of mine. Some are of a personal
nature, and others are as varied as clothing and a ukulele. We are
saying we want to stay friends, after six months as lovers. I suspect
he has already started to date again, and that the “let’s be friends”
phase will be short, as in it will last only until I have been formally
replaced, after a dating process that a mutual friend has implied has
already begun with a bang.

Ex and Happy About It

 
Dear Ex/Happy:

If you can handle the exchange with humor and equanimity you might
be able to find and enjoy the irony, perhaps even to recall why you
were sharing those items in the first place. You will, however, need to
resist the temptation to ask about his social life, no matter how blatant
the conversational opportunities are. Being able to be friends with an
ex is an art form. For longer lasting relationships it can be harder,
because people have tended to let resentments build up.  But the
alternative is tossing the items and the friendship, which seems like a
waste.
 
As long as things are amicable, suggest a coffee meeting “for a
hostage exchange to share back the things that’ve been living at each
others’ houses.” I’m sure he’ll be relieved that you brought it up,
because there’s nothing more awkward than having a new flame ask,
“Whose is this???……”

Ready for Wife #2

Dear Jewish Fairy Godmother:

My wife and I decided to get a divorce two years ago. Life got in the
way. First we had to agree not to be adversarial, then had to figure out
how to deal with our biggest respective assets: our house, my 401K,
and her state-sponsored retirement account. By the time we’d made
sense of that I was in a new relationship and she had relocated to
another state. There are no children and the pets were amicably
resettled, so we decided to use a mediator. We went to one
recommended by a local attorney with whom I had worked
professionally in the past. The woman must be her sister or someone
who owes her money!! Four months later she has still not filed the
paperwork that she told us would be done in the first month. She has
“lost” or “misplaced” various important documents that are critical for
the process, and otherwise screwed things up so badly that both my
wife and I are ready to throttle her. We’ve invested $1500 into a
process we could have probably handled better ourselves. What can
we do?

Ready for Wife #2

 
Dear Ready:

You have two goals: get divorced and get remarried. In the process of
accomplishing the first, you need to divorce both your wife and your
first mediator. Focus on divorcing the mediator first, as she may be
listed as your agent of record. You can do this while you look for and
agree on a second mediator, if the plan below does not work.
Start by writing a letter to both the mediator and cc the attorney who
recommended her. Detail the timing of your contact, the promises that
were made, and then detail the list of mistakes and lost documents, all
the while maintaining a tone of aggrieved civility. Explain that you are
terribly dissatisfied and question both the competence and
professionalism of the mediator. Say that you want a detailed schedule
that she will adhere to (as in, divorced by Date X) or you want all your
money back. Say that if she can accomplish the divorce or return your
money you will reconsider your mutual decision to send your letter and
file a complaint to her licensing board.

 
My guess is that you will get an informal apology from the referring
attorney and either quick action or a refund from the mediator. If the
latter, go to Mediator Number 2. Most importantly will be to have an
independent counsel review the financial arrangements before you
sign off on them. Once a divorce is final you will need to live with the
outcomes.

The Ex

Dear Jewish Fairy Godmother:

My ex and I are very good friends. He relocated to the city where I live
after having a major heart attack. We live very close and are good
friends, enjoying meals together several times a week and sharing
responsibility for our pooch, which lives primarily with me. But now he
is in a new relationship with a woman whom I know from synagogue.
There’s nothing about her that I dislike. In fact, I’ve been social with
her in groups in the past, occasionally going to a movie or the opera
together. But something about seeing them together as a couple rubs
me the wrong way. He and I had made plans for Thanksgiving and a
variety of other events. Now he wants to include her. I don’t want to
be the pissy ex, but I DON’T WANT TO!! What can or should I do?

The Ex

 
Dear Ex:

Eventually either the relationship will dissolve or you will adjust to it.
But in the short run it is natural that you’ll have feelings of anxiety and
jealousy. If your true goal is to remain in his life as both a friend and
an ally, you’re better off acting like a happy friend than a jealous ex.
That’ll feel hard, so use your own friends or your counselor to process
your feelings, not your ex. To him you should be as gracious as
possible, and as supportive of his health and happiness as your facial
expressions and vocabulary will allow. Remember his new beau is also
someone who’s there to help in case of another future health
emergency.

 
Do not, repeat not, bad mouth his new sweetie to anyone who might
repeat what you say. Focus on events where you can be with them in
a larger group. Thanksgiving dinner or other dinner parties are good
examples. Avoid being the third wheel alone with them, and be
cautious about anything that might resemble a double date, even if
you start dating someone new yourself. Concentrate on being calm
and relaxed when you are around them. It might take a drink, but be
careful about drink number two, three, or more.

Time’s Up!!!

Dear Jewish Fairy Godmother:

I was married for twenty-eight years. I had the same job for the last
twenty-four of those years. During that time my relationship declined
systematically. My wife blamed my job. I blamed her drinking and
addiction to pills. She was right that during that time I gave much too
much to the job. I gave up half my weekends and vacations whenever
there were unpredictable deadlines—read regularly. I had various
health problems that all boiled down to “stress.” I missed family
events and trips, and yes I tended to put the relationship in second
place behind the job. But I needed it to support us, including two
moves for jobs she thought would make her happier. (My employer
graciously let me telecommute long before such things were
commonplace.) We have been separated for two years but haven’t
made much progress towards a divorce. She moved out of state for a
job (leaving one that paid well and where she had lots of security).
I’ve been soldiering on doing my thing at work and trying to figure out
how to move from being separate to becoming exes. Now I am finally
ready to date and realize that I want more freedom from the job (No
more nights and weekends! I’ve had it!) and from her (No more
stalling! Let’s lawyer up and settle up!). The fact that I’ve met
someone who could be very special helps, but it’s more than that.

Time’s Up!!!

 
Dear Time’s Up!:

You convinced me!!
You don’t say what you do for a living, but I’m betting it is a
professional job with deadlines that are imposed on you by others,
usually without enough warning. That’s not to say everyone should
just roll over and have no boundaries between their personal and
professional lives. In fact, one should not. Life and death, yes. But
short of that, my diagnosis is that you’ve been a shlubb too long and I
applaud your desire to change.

 

 

Whether or not your marriage would have imploded with a different
job, no one will ever know. But you do have a choice to make about
how you want to live the rest of your working years. Say it with me:
Work is not life. Life is not work. If you want a recipe for starting anew
relationship off on the wrong foot, keep doing what you’ve been doing.
If you want to give it a fighting chance, go in and tell your boss, My
doctor says I need to change how I’m living or I’m going to die of
stress. The good news is that no one can give you the same kind of
hard time over a health issue that they can over dating. Your
communication to your soon-to- be-ex wife also should not involve your
social life. Instead, it should be, It’s time. Let’s do this. If the new
girlfriend sticks with you through the transitions, you’ll have found
someone worth investing in.

Horrified

Dear Jewish Fairy Godmother:

I was married for ten years and a mother for nine of them. I have an
MBA. My soon-to- be-my- ex-I- hop-please- God husband had a pot
habit. I make a good income a manager. He got fired annually from
every teaching job he had. One of the jobs actually lasted two years,
but then he went behind the gym and smoked pot with some of the
parents during the spring play. He’s not stupid, just irresponsible, lazy,
and self-indulgent, though he does love our daughter. We have had an
informal joint custody arrangement for two years and are now filing
paperwork to send this sorry mess. His lawyer just informed mine that
he will be filing for spousal support as well as child support. My first
words were: ^&$$&^!!!! (&*##%^!!!! ^$W&&^!!!!! $%#*^!!!!
%^#*#%^!!! I supported this louse for far too long. Other than
trusting my lawyer, do you have any good advice to offer?

Horrified

 
Dear Horrified:

I’m not an attorney and a lot will depend on the laws of the state you
reside in. Pot smoking is certainly more acceptable than when I was
young, and if your hopefully-soon- to-be- an-ex has a medical
marijuana card he may well qualify for exactly the support you don’t
want to give. I don’t know but you will need to educate yourself asap.
Assuming he doesn’t have a smoke ring loophole, you might ask your
lawyer to ask that he has to qualify as drug-free before each visitation
with your daughter. There may also be rules about exposure of
children to drugs you can use. I’d consider getting letters describing
why he lost all previous jobs from each of his former employers. Line
up every piece of evidence you can to demonstrate why he’s been
dodging adult responsibilities for a long time and hope you can
minimize the damage he’s caused to your life. And be thankful you
have only one child actively in your life now.

Yes I’m Angry

Dear Jewish Fairy Godmother:

My husband and I have been separated for two years. I moved to
Florida to pursue a dream job and my desire to live by the ocean and
swim every day. He stayed in the Midwest at a job that has been
killing him for years, and to which he has always been willing to give
the time and attention that he wasn’t giving to the marriage or me.
Neither of us was a financial drain on the other. I have a public
pension and he has a sizeable 401K. We also have a house. We’d
causally discussed “splitting everything down the middle,” which
seemed fair to me, or did before I got a letter informing he that he is
now in a “serious committed relationship.” The object of his affection is
15 years younger, a medical office assistant with a young daughter.
I’m sure she thinks she’s found a gold mine. Am I being a B-word for
wanting to make the divorce is he now formally asking for hard for
him?

Yes I’m Angry

 
Dear Angry:
Yes, you are. And while I don’t like the B-word, I think your self-
diagnosis is accurate. Your (soon-to- be-ex) husband stepped up and
told you the truth. He could have said nothing, could have said It’s
time to get divorced or could have said he was “just dating” if he were
trying to hide things from you. I’m not a cut-throat divorce attorney
who might have some insights into grounds related to a “serous
committed relationship” by a married person. But given the history of
your relocation and discussions of divorce, I suspect the arguments
would lack punch.

 
Two years is a long time to voice getting to closure. Unless there were
serious prospects and mutual desire to reestablish the marriage, it
makes most sense to me that you get on with the separation of all
entanglements, legal and financial. You can tell him what you think of
him and his new honey as much or loudly as you like. But new love is
deaf to reason. If he’s going to get involved with a younger woman
who appreciates his established assets, that’s really more their
business than yours. Move on, as nicely as you can.

Still Hurting and Hoping

Dear Jewish Fairy Godmother:

Several years ago I had an affair. It was deep emotional, torrid,
dramatic, and exciting. We’d known each other for a few years through
a volunteer group. I was single. He was married. Insert all the usual
platitudes about a wife who understood his “needs” but didn’t fulfill
them, and his assertion that he had her permission to fill them outside
the marriage, that she knew he did so, but they didn’t talk about it,
and that no one would get hurt. Wrong, wrong wrong!! I got hurt. I fell
madly in love with him. I still think the first year of our affair was the
best in my life. I felt free, desired, appreciated, adventuresome. All in
all, I felt seen. It petered out because health issues on my part left me
less available and slowly we returned to our former ability to be in a
room and not feel like we were on fire. But it still hurts. I miss the joy
of it and in the wee hours hope he’ll come back. Now one of my good
friends has confided that she is on the edge of a similar relationship
with a guy from her office. She needs someone to talk to, and wants
my advice. What do I say?

Still Hurting and Hoping

 
Dear Hurting:

You tell her the truth. Part of the reasons affairs are so exciting is
exactly the allure of the hidden and forbidden. It adds a layer of
mystery and excitement, one that is organic in new and true love, and
is intrinsic to the heightened intensity of an affair. You also tell her the
truth of the down slide, the months of sadness and hurting that you
experienced after the affair ended.

 
The reality is that once someone is besotted with lust, it is very
difficult to dissuade them that the pain they will experience later is
actually inevitable. Most people believe that their affair will be
different, that their prospective lover might actually transform into a
future mate, or that somehow they will escape the fate of most
mistresses: spending lots of time waiting for calls that don’t come and
visit that don’t happen. Most people who cheat on a partner do so in
spurts, and want a fresh, new stimulant each time. Your old lover isn’t
coming back, and hers will likely repeat the pattern. But you will have
a friend to talk to about it.

Everything Changing Fast

Dear Jewish Fairy Godmother:

My wife and I bought a house in a college town five years ago. The
market never goes down, but is also not going up as quickly as the
rest of the world. We are in the beginning of a reasonably friendly and
mutually desired divorce. In order for the process to finish we need to
figure out the value of all our assets, from our retirement savings to
our 70’s rock records. She’s moving away but I have to decide if I
want to keep the house or not. It needs lots of fixing up but we’ve
been here five years without having done it, so it’s livable. I could do a
lot but have no idea what my finances will be in the new reality. Catch
22. Chicken and egg. Insert all the platitudes you want, but the
bottom line is that I don’t know what to decide. I do want the divorce
to happen. Too many decisions to make at the same time. How can I
rank my priorities, including whether or not to keep or sell the house?

Everything Changing Fast

 
Dear Changing Fast:

When life gets reorganized very quickly it sometimes makes sense to
keep your center stable. I’m not a financial expert, but if you can
afford the current payments by yourself (assuming they’d stay the
same if you don’t sell or refi) then my vote is to keep the house for
one year. That’ll give you time to get all the circumstances of the
divorce finalized, understand what your needs are for living alone, and
get used to being a single guy again. After you have lived for six
months by yourself you will have a while lot more information than
you do now.
If you like living alone, don’t feel the house is too big, and feel like the
DIY projects give you a hobby and enhanced living space, then you’ll
probably decide to keep the place. If the market has shifted a lot,
there may be advantages to staying, refiing, or selling. And though I’m
not a financial advisor, it seems likely interest rates will stay low, even
if they’re no longer at rock bottom. Make the divorce simple by not
tossing the house into the mix. A side note: very few divorces are
friendly. If you can keep yours that way, more power to you.

Lost

Dear Jewish Fairy Godmother:

I had a disastrous year last year. I married too quickly someone I met
on the internet. I quit a great job and relocated to another city. All of
course with great fanfare because who does not wish a 50-year old
woman well after she has been single for fifteen years. He turned to be
an abuser who raided my savings account and almost drove me to the
loony bin. I moved back home but have barely been out of my rental
(a secluded cottage on the property of a close friend). I’ve lost twenty
pounds, look like crap, and am still very afraid of trusting anyone,
especially my own instincts. I have very tentatively begun to contact
people, very much motivated by the need to find a job. But even my
counselor agrees that I am probably not ready to rejoin society until I
stop shaking at loud noises. Do you have any good advice about how
to answer people who greet me delighted to see me, take in my
condition, and expect me to tell them the story?

Lost

 
Dear Lost:

Your situation calls for a two-pronged approach: verbal and non-
verbal. For people you genuinely care about, tell them the truth, either
in person or on the phone. Not the so-help- me-God truth with all the
gory details, but the general truth in a way that they feel included in
your process and compassionate about your situation. You’ll know
what boundaries to set after you do this a few times. The risk is that
you spill too much and people pass on the details, so I’d encourage
that you use your vulnerability and let them see fragility and tears,
more than too many words. That’ll engage most people’s desire to help
and quell their desire to gossip.

 
For others, print up the equivalent of a 3×5 card that you can carry
and hand people as you say: It’s been a really rough year. I don’t
want to talk about the details. Here’s the mini-summary. And on the
card have a very short list that says: I made a lousy choice too
quickly. I had a horrific experience. I am trying to get back on my feet.
I need help networking for a decent job. If you know of one, email me
and I’ll forward my resume. If people press for me, plead an
appointment and leave. They’ll get the hint, or should.

No Heat

Dear Jewish Fairy Godmother:

Is there any nice way to say “Thanks but I’m not interested in you in
that way?” I started dating someone very nice whom I met on a dating
site. In theory we have a lot in common that should make us want to
hook up: similar age, both Jewish, intelligent, funny, similar life
history. I like her and it is clear she is interested in me. She’s gotten
into a habit of almost daily texting or emailing, and has given me
many invitations to do things in the future. I think she’s a very nice
person whom I might want as a friend, if I was looking for more
friends. But when I think of a life in which she never again appeared, I
don’t feel any sense of sadness and when I am with her, I don’t feel
any desire to kiss her. It’s been almost two months and it feels like we
should clarify where we are. Should I initiate a “Yes, but”
conversation, or just let things gradually drift away?

No Heat

 
Dear No Heat:

There’s no substitute for “chemistry” and virtually no way of predicting
what will trigger it. Some people think they have a “type” but they
don’t go trailing after every woman with red hair and/or great legs.
Chemistry is an elusive but powerful factor in any incipient
relationship. You can’t substitute for it with an intellectual delineation
of reasons why. Sad but true. Also note that if the chemistry is too
strong it can lead your “picker” astray in lots of bad ways, and you
might fall for exactly a wrong person. Most of us have learned that
lesson the hard way. But there’s very little antidote for the absence of
heat and mystery.

 
All of that said, don’t give up without at least a kiss or two. Compatible
partners are hard to find, and while heat’s great as a springboard,
successful partnerships work best and longest with a solid basis of
communality. By starting a conversation with, We seem to have a lot
in common. Have you thought about taking the next step? You are
almost dooming the response. The key word is “thought.” Instead, a
kiss, after some preliminary handholding, would obviate the question.
How about a scary or sentimental movie that might lead to some
hand- holding, an arm around the shoulder, and a goodnight kiss.
Then see if you want to talk or touch.