trying again.

Reader M. F. asks:

I broke up with my ex a little while ago, but we’re hanging out again, and I’ve got hope in my heart it could work out. She knows me; she knows my faults. I feel like I’m being re-evaluated, except this time she doesn’t like me nearly as much as she did before. She told me she didn’t know if she could love me again. She did tell me to be more proactive — that was the main complaint last time, so I’m trying a lot harder now. Am I just being overly optimistic? Do you think I should be hopeful or am I just being stupid?

Dear M.F.:

hands and hearts

Image: luigi diamanti / FreeDigitalPhotos.net

I think as we get older (and I can say this because I know you’re as old as I am), our relationships morph. The lines between “dating” and “serious” and “friends with benefits” get hazier and hazier. Gone are the days when holding hands with a guy meant he wasn’t supposed to make out with anyone else. Gone are the days when you knew you were “going out” because someone actually asked you if you’d like to go out with them.

Maybe I do look fondly on those days of yore, but I am mature enough to admit that having something undefined can be twice as thrilling as knowing for certain. I have a few tidbits to share with you.

Enjoy the not knowing.

If you’re not sure you know what you want, or you’re not sure you know what she wants, be thrilled about that. Remember, you can enjoy your single life to some extent, even while you two are getting to know each other again. Try your best not to have a goal in mind. Just enjoy her company, and enjoy the feelings you have around her. As Hamlet said: There is nothing either good or bad,
but thinking makes it so
Experience this. Live it. Make this good for you. You have the power to do so, even if it hurts like hell when she decides it’s not going to work.

I heard “Hold on Loosely” by .38 Special this morning on the radio. Great song. Great advice. “Hold on loosely, but don’t let ago.” The harder you squeeze, the harder you want things to work out, the more quickly she will slip through your fingers. So just let things roll.

Get in touch with your feelings.

Keep track of them. Write it all down. (I know you’re a writer, bub.) It makes for good material later, but more importantly, you can check to see if you’re really in love with this girl. Apparently she wants you to change. Sure, being proactive may be a nice personality trait you want to pick up. But changing yourself? That’s a tall order. In my life, whenever I’ve felt I wanted a guy to change, it meant it wasn’t going to work out. Also, you feel like she doesn’t like you as much this time. That says a whole helluvalot about how you feel. You deserve to be liked, too, and for who you are, not for your potential.

Keep her feelings in mind.

This isn’t going to be the advice you think it is.

In spite of several years of feminism, we girls still have this nasty feeling that being unmarried and unchilded after 30 means we’re spinsters. And not just any spinsters, but cat ladies. Science is out to prove us right, too — apparently we lose most of our fertility after 30. Also, there aren’t men out there who are worth our time, because ya’ll have just quit being as on the ball career- and education-wise as we are. We’re supposed to settle. There are books about marrying the guy even if you don’t feel head over heels for him.

I don’t tell you this to make you feel badly. I want you to know that this may (or may not) be going through her head. She may be willing to give it another try, not because she thinks you’re as amazing and fantastic as I know you are, but because she’s afraid of being a cat lady. All this feeds back to getting to know your feelings about it. If you’re okay being “the one I settled for”, don’t worry about it. If you’re not, keep the issue in mind.

Talk to her.

Open lines of communication are always necessary, even if they cause you grief. Tell her how you feel openly; ask her how she feels. Talk about seeing other people if that’s what’s going down. This is a hard one to balance with the “hold on loosely” thing, but it is possible. Just be honest. It will make things better, whether they work out or not.

I hope things work out, ’cause as your friend I know how seriously awesome you are. But even if they don’t, I hope this is something you don’t regret doing. Trying again can be worth it — there are plenty of people who get back together after they break up. Good luck.


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