Thursday, July 12, 2007

Ask the Bartender : Advice Column #4, #5

Hey Bartender,

About five months ago, I experienced very, very horrible break up with my first serious boyfriend of two years. Having been the one to break up the relationship, I met much resistance and was told (by him) that it might very likely be too hard for him to ever speak to me again. I have since started dating a man who I am very in love with, and we have a fulfilling, healthy, and happy relationship.

All I want is to have an honest conversation at some point with my ex when we both feel ready, in order to share perspective, make peace and salvage something of a friendship. I really do feel that we would be much better as friends than a couple, and would like to feel like he is still in my life, even if on the periphery, but he has to want the same thing, and I fear he will not be able to help make this happen. I know that I need to be patient, but what if so much time passes that it no longer feels important to him to reconnect? Somehow I feel it is important to get past the hurt, and that the longer I wait, the harder it will be to get past it, the easier simply to just accept the idea that we will never try to make some kind of peace. And I wonder if I am going to be more hurt for hoping and waiting, though I have no other choice, except to expect the worst.

You have to make peace with yourself, not with him. Sometimes when love ends, it's best to grieve the people we were, as well as the relationship that is over. You will never be the woman who dated him again; you are a new you now, who is wiser and more experienced than you were before. You can make choices besides being hurt. He might not want to reinvent how you two know each other, and he may never be ready to be friends with you. That's his choice, not yours. If you are open to the possibility of having him on the periphery, or even closer, in your circle of friends, that's all you can do. He has to decide to want that, or not. You also get the power of choosing to be in his life or not, but only if he lets you. Until then, you need to live your life without him in it. This is not a worst case scenario , it's just a path. There will be many people in your life, lovers and friends. These people may appear and leave and return in your life, but you have to change constantly, in relation to them, and regardless of them.

Closure is often a thing you must find alone. The hurt you fear in the waiting and hoping for him to come back to your life platonically, the "expecting the worst" that you anticipate in his not wanting to be friends, these feelings are about you. For him, it seems OK to leave things as they are now, some what unresolved, less worked out than you would like. Unless he comes to a place where he wants more resolution, the honest conversation that you want to have with him may never happen, but until then, you can have that conversation with yourself. You can live with the lessons you learned from that relationship, even if you live without learning anything else from him. And who were you when you met him? How has that woman changed? Who are you now, without him, past him, on to the next?

Some lovers become friends, some lovers become legends of our pasts, and some lovers become nothing at all. These are the sultry murmurings of old men at drowsy bars. Drink like they do. Give that pain a soak in some strong spirits, not for a life long habit - just for a little while. Find a dive that has Nina Simone in the jukebox, bury your quarters with her name. Locate the best spotlit seat at the bar and take it. Drink the best sherry or brandy in the house, hum along with the music. Having little holes burnt in your heart where old portraits stare through the shadows is what makes a life well lived. This is how your soul grows old, and how the music and the strong drinks, begin to make sense.

Hey Bartender,

My brother has been dating his girlfriend for about 4 years. He loves her dearly. She is intelligent and sweet, and committed to him. He is a very rambunctious and funny guy, and she is very quiet, but they compliment each other well.

They have been living in different cities for more than one year. However, my brother's girlfriend will be moving to the city where he lives this coming fall. She will be starting graduate school there. She did not choose the school because of my brother, necessarily, but they both consider the opportunity to live in the same city a chance to take a step forward in their relationship.

This last weekend, my brother's best friend from high school visited him. She is hilarious, beautiful, and very energetic. Throughout the years they have bonded through their similar senses of humor and interests. My brother expressed to me that having his old best friend around has led him to question his relationship with his girlfriend. He asked for my advice. I find that his best friend from high school is a much better fit for his personality than his current girlfriend. However, I also see the value in a committed relationship, and can imagine that he could also be happy with someone like his current girlfriend. I don't want him to decide to spend his life with someone boring just because it is safe. How should I approach advising him on the situation?

Comparing your loyal, smart, and intelligent girlfriend to another girl, is never a way to feel safe in a relationship, and not a nice way to treat your lover. His conflict is not about her failings, but about his doubts. Is he afraid of the relationship moving to the next level? Is he not really in love with her? Is he afraid to settle down with a committed partner? Does he want to see other women? These are questions that only he can answer, and presenting them to her without answers will unsettle, and likely, scare her. She's taking a big risk by moving to a new city for him. He should begin by making her feel safe in his city.

Sure, it could be a gruesome scene if she moves to a city for him (even if she claims it's for grad school) and it doesn't work out. But let's not set the scene for the greatest amount of tragedy. Relationships are strengthened when the two people identify problems between them and work through those challenges. If the problems are insurmountable, then the relationship will fail, but ideally- both individuals will learn and grow within the partnership. It's easy to question the foundation of your love when your lover is far away- distance creates doubts. After four years, I think we both know that the current girlfriend deserves his effort to make their relationship work.

Listen, he should try not to worry about it. Either she'll come to town, and after a period of adjustment he'll be really happy with her finally around. Or he won't. He won't be able to break up with her until he's really ready, and when he is, he won't be able to stop himself. Meanwhile, he should try to reconnect with his long distance love, and make her feel welcome as she adjusts her life to nestle better into his. Perhaps, when all the anticipation is over, she's exactly what he's looking for. After all, four years is a long time to wait for someone just to break up with them when they finally arrive.

As for the high school friend, if she were such a perfect fit, she would have won his heart long ago. Something about the two of them doesn't add up, or it would have already happened. Maybe she doesn't want him, or there's some part of her that he couldn't stand to date. Either way, if she's so perfect for him, eventually nothing else will work out, and they'll find each other then. No reason to wreck his life in the meantime, and no reason to let her cause anxiety about someone who he already loves.

To advise him, you need a round of something refreshing. You need a beer that's poured, and then you still have to wait for it. Duvel - a Belgian beer, served in an amazing tulip glass, nearly half full of head that resembles whipped cream. The label reads, to be poured without haste. A perfect pour of this bottle requires a few minutes of admiration, a little distance, and a willingness to taste the aromatic foam above the beer before you get a true sip of the fine Belgian golden ale. A slight aroma of bananas lingers in the head; you'll taste the sweetness of the beer blended with the spicy but mild hops, then, a delicate and flowery finish. Buy your brother's girlfriend a six-pack of this beer when she gets to town, it can last at least three years in the bottle. Hopefully, despite all his doubts, they can last longer, and be happier than any drink could make them.

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