Breakups and Beer Goggles

How do you survive when your first-love, now-ex-husband is still living in the same house as you? And when you know it’s time to give the old beer goggles a rest …

Q: The gist is, I married my first love and he was … my first everything. That was nearly 20 years ago. We were best friends and everything to each other. Now it’s over. And I, literally, cannot afford to move on until the house sells so I’m in limbo hell. Being a 40-year-old-divorcée is such a cliché, but that’ll be me.


Typing this up just made me feel sadder, more regretful and, yes, embarrassed. Some people say talking about their problems makes them feel better, but I haven’t found that. I feel the shame I’ve heard that women experiencing domestic violence feel: like it’s their fault so they don’t want to talk about it. No, there is no domestic violence involved. It’s “just” the aftermath of increasing emotional coldness and distance all the while he constructs his new life.


I could go on and on about what happened, giving reasons for what’s happened (I waiver between blaming him and blaming myself), but I really need some advice on how to get over a breakup while still living in the same house. (I know: bad idea.) – No Blue Skies For Me


A: I’m so sorry. Breakups are bad enough, but when you have to interact with the other person every day, in the same environment where you had sunnier days, they’re absolute torture. And in this piss-poor economy, the sad fact is many broken-up couples are in your position.


So what can you do to ease the agony? First of all, take heart that those overused clichés -- Time heals all wounds; This, too, shall pass; That which doesn’t kill you only makes you stronger – are clichés for a reason, much as they might grate on your nerves to hear right now. But because this is your first love, and your first breakup, I presume, you don’t have any previous experience to draw on. So don’t force yourself to feel better just now; instead, trust that things will get better.


But you don’t have to watch in mourning as he constructs his new life. Focus on yours instead: get out with supportive friends, volunteer (helping a bigger cause or someone in need always helps put things in perspective) and pamper yourself with exercise and good chocolate. And can you stay with friends or family for a while? If sharing the house is your only option, then set up some rules (no bringing home new dates, division of labor and chores) to make the situation as tolerable as possible. Finally, never underestimate the powers of a snappy new haircut and some time away (monasteries often offer cheap lodging).


Now, a few don’ts: Don’t get consumed by the blame game, don’t sleep with him and please don’t feel embarrassed or shameful about any of this. On the contrary, you should be proud of yourself for having the guts to put your heart out there. For a taste of what real embarrassment should look like – and, hopefully, a laugh – read the next letter. And remember that there are much, much worse clichés than 40-year-old divorcées.


Q: I was at the Va-Hi Festival this summer, and my buddies and I had a good 5 hours of drinking. We go to this big house party afterward and I ended up dancing with this girl that was very cool and seemed cute enough. We grinded (and made out?) for a while. I was pretty foggy the next day but I did have her number in my pocket.


I called her and she sounded even cooler than I remembered. So I asked her out for the following week. When I got to her place, I thought the person who answered the door must be her roommate, she was hideous-looking. (I know how bad that sounds.) She lets me in and says, “I will just be a minute!" I realized [crap], this is HER, and I’m thinking, Can I just run to my car and drive away? Can I fake an illness? But I sucked it up and we went to dinner as planned. At the end, I just gave her a polite hug and left. I did call her eventually to say I didn’t think we were a good match, but she didn’t take that for an answer. She’s STILL calling me, texting me, months later. She even found out where I work. So do I tell her the truth? – Embarrassed


A: Yeah, you tell her the truth – that you had a rollicking good time the night you met but that, sorry, is as far as it went for you. That you’re just not interested. And that she should save herself the trouble of calling and texting because you won’t be responding, at all, anymore. Because – and don’t be afraid to trot this word out – you’re a little concerned she’s turning into a stalker. Then, block her phone number and e-mails, and, if necessary, screen your calls at work. The one thing you don’t want is for her to show up crying at your cafeteria one day in front of your co-workers.


And here’s another truth for you: If you’re so smashed that you can’t recall what the gal you were swapping spit with looks like – or that she was so “hideous” you considered ditching her in the daylight – it’s time to give the ol’ liver a rest, pal.






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