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Dearly Departed

Emily Flake

By Mink Stole | Posted 3/12/2003

Jerry, the man I've been involved with for the last several years, recently relocated to another city. We'd been sort of drifting apart anyway, so even though he (halfheartedly) asked me to go with him, it didn't really make sense. My family is here and I love my job. Until recently, I had a great social life. I thought being single again would be great, but it's a lot less fun than I expected. My birthday was last month, and I threw myself a big party, partly for the birthday and partly to remind people I'm still here and still want to be friends. I know a few single people, but most everybody I know is either married or in some kind of long-term relationship. When Jerry was still here we spent a lot of time with these people, and I really thought of them as my friends. However, even though everyone showed up for the party, none of my married friends has called since to suggest getting together. And they're evasive when I call them. I thought these people liked me. We always laughed a lot and had great times together, but now I feel like a leper. What's up?

Single and Shunned

Dear SAS:
Nature tolerates a vacuum with more grace than the married world accepts an unattached female. By allowing yourself to become "man-less," you have broken the covenant, upset the balance, and turned harmony to chaos. The same women you once happily chatted with at dinners and parties now either pity you or suspect you of predatory designs on their husbands. The men who casually flirted with "Jerry's woman" don't know whether to hit on you or run the other way. The easy camaraderie you once enjoyed is now open to all sorts of new and potentially threatening interpretations. In other words, you make all these married folks uncomfortable. And you will continue to make them uneasy until you reattach. It's unfair, it's discriminatory, and it sucks. But, with few exceptions, that's the way it is. You're out of the club.

You don't have to give up your married friends entirely. If you want, call occasionally to stay in touch, but don't expect too much from them. Concentrate on your single friends. Not only will they be happier to hear from you but they already know how to function solo and can help you adjust. Being single can get lonely--not that marriage is any guarantee against loneliness. Achieving happiness while single takes work, but being single has its advantages and there are a lot of people who prefer it. Once you readjust your social expectations, you might enjoy it.

My former fiancé has come back into my life and says he still wants to marry me. The main reason we broke up two years ago was because I wanted to wait until we had both finished grad school. He didn't. Well, now he says he knows I was right, that he wasn't ready then. But now he claim's he's ready. I still love him, and we've both gotten our degrees and have started our careers. Plus, there doesn't seem to be anything stopping us from starting our life together. Except one. While we were separated, he was sexually involved with other women. He says it was just sex and that he had no emotional connection to them. He swears that I'm the only woman he's ever loved, that he misses me terribly, and that he wants to be with me exclusively from now on. Can I believe him? Is it really possible for a man to have "just sex"? He is the only guy I've ever slept with, and I can't imagine sleeping with someone I didn't love. Am I ridiculously naive?

One Man Woman

Dear OMW:
For a woman smart enough to get through grad school, you're remarkably unsophisticated, which is a nice way of asking, what planet are you on? Have you never read a novel, watched television, or been on the Internet? Of course men have purely sexual relationships. And here's a news flash: So do women. Do you think condoms and birth-control pills are sold only to married couples? Honey, the world is full of sex, and not everybody remembers--or even wants to remember--his or her partner's name the next day.

I'm not going to debate the morality of premarital sex here, but if your fiancé says he didn't love those other women, he's probably telling the truth. I'm not suggesting you grab the next guy you see for an anonymous quickie, just so you can "see for yourself" or "even things up." It's not for everyone. But, for a lot of us, separating the physical from the emotional, and not suffering untold miseries, is possible and pleasurable. (I'm not condoning rampant promiscuity. It's never OK to take advantage of someone, to be unsafe, or to lie for sex.)

Also, many of us eventually want to make a deeper emotional connection, which seems to be the case with your fiancé. But at the time of his "involvements," he was a free, single adult. Plus, assuming the women he was with were of age and were smart enough to decide for themselves, he's done nothing wrong. Let it go.

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