I have a very good friend of more than thirty years who is single (divorced). She recently went through an unfortunate break-up with a guy she really cared about and with whom she envisioned a future for herself. It is the classic tale of one partner being faithful, true and authentic while the other is a “player.” In this case, the guy was weaseling his way back to an old flame, unbeknownst to my friend. Only when he deemed that mission successful did he announce to my friend that he was breaking up with her because he had “reconnected” with the other woman.
So my friend is feeling horribly betrayed, hurt, angry and, as we all do when we discover another person’s duplicity in his/her dealings with us, stupid. She keeps asking herself — and those of us who are her friends — why she was duped; why she failed to see earlier that the guy was capable of self-centered cruelty and manipulative behavior.
She keeps asking herself and us what is wrong with her. And I keep telling her, “There’s nothing wrong with you. He is the loser. You are better off without him. Thank God you found out now what he is really like before you invested more time in the relationship or — God forbid — married him!”
Sounds good, doesn’t it? Convincing? I believe every word of it because I know that my friend is a decent, honest, loving woman who truly deserves to be treated impeccably by any man with whom she is involved.
So why is it so hard for her to believe and, more importantly, live in accordance with those facts? It’s the age-old conundrum, of course.
Talking with her, I realize that I’ve been married a long, long time — 22 years this November / December.1 And it has been a long, long time since I went through the romance-related angst that she is feeling. After all, I haven’t been on a date since the first time I went out with BigBob in April 1985.2 So I vaguely remember going through what she is experiencing a few times, but it was many years ago when I was really young.
These days? If BigBob meets someone new and decides to go off with her, I will just ask where to forward his mail and wish them well. Seriously. I just wouldn’t have the energy or inclination to go through all of that drama again. And my friend freely admits that she thrives, to some extent, on the drama. In fact, I jokingly told her recently, “I don’t need to watch soap operas. I live vicariously through you. You supply all the drama that is missing in my tired, drab existence.”
I’ve reached a point in my life — perhaps because I’ve been married for so long — where I don’t need other people to make me feel complete or whole. For the most part, I have had the same friends for more than thirty years and I take great comfort in the fact that I don’t have to explain myself to them or tell them about the roads I’ve walked. They know because they walked them with me. I have also reached a point of knowing what matters to me — and what doesn’t — and I really can’t imagine myself pining for a man. Because I know that Sonya Friedman’s classic “Men Are Just Desserts” (which I read when it was originally published in 1983) holds true. Relationships are just the frosting on the cake. If we are happy and content by ourselves, we are never going to be happy and content in a relationship with another person. We will just bring our issues into that relationship, complicate it and it will, eventually, disintegrate.
Unlike me, my friend was not married for a long time. She has been single for quite a few years and I know that she is lonely and desirous of companionship and closeness. But those things are not worth having at any cost. I’m sorry to say that she is making herself physically ill over this break-up and my words of encouragement and affirmation, along with those of her other friends and family, have not caused her to change course. Yet.
She is going to have to dig deep within herself and decide that she is worthy of a healthy, validating relationship or will be just fine being single and on her own. Only she can determine once and for all that she is not going to settle for anything less, and the guy who did not treat her appropriately is the one who has lost a great treasure.3
Self-worth is a tricky concept that we all struggle with in varying degrees and circumstances throughout our life. But today I light a candle for my friend and all the women like her who are searching for happiness but need to discover that it is within their grasp. All they need to do to find it is look in the mirror and tell the woman they see there, “I am worthy.”
- Well, we eloped before the church wedding, so we actually have two anniversaries — November 2 and December 7. [↩]
- To put that into context for you, Ronald Reagan had just begun his second term as President and “Dallas” was still the number one show on television. [↩]
- His karma will catch up with him whether she is there to witness it or not. [↩]