Carolyn Hax: When love comes too soon after a breakup

Carolyn Hax
Columnist December 4, 2013

Adapted from a recent online discussion.

Hi, Carolyn!

Carolyn Hax started her advice column in 1997, after five years as a copy editor and news editor in Style and none as a therapist. The column includes cartoons by "relationship cartoonist" Nick Galifianakis -- Carolyn's ex-husband -- and appears in over 200 newspapers. View Archive

You espouse the importance of taking time for yourself to be whole and ready for a new relationship, and I agree.

A couple of months ago, I fell head over heels for this guy, and I know he felt the same. Unfortunately, he had just gotten out of a long relationship and never gave himself time to recover. That eventually caught up with him, and he recently asked if we could take a break so he could fully get over her and piece himself together before we became any more committed.

I agreed, and I do understand, but waiting is really painful. Should I continue with trust that our strong relationship will prevail in the end?


(Nick Galifianakis/For The Washington Post)

Anonymous

Well that’s a bummer, I’m sorry.

I don’t think it serves you well, though, to trust your relationship will “prevail.” Trust that the natural outcome of this waiting period will be the right one, whatever it is; trust that you’re going through the worst of it now, because we’re wired to get used to new realities, even painful ones; trust that you’re strong enough to emerge from this pain better than you were going in; trust that living in suspense without losing your mind is a life skill that, if you don’t possess it already, is well worth cultivating.*

Fill in the blanks with what works for you, just as long as your trust is centered on you and your choices, vs. what he does, which is out of your hands.

*How? By understanding that the thing you’re waiting for isn’t coming unless and until you witness otherwise, and by investing yourself in productive things you do control — knowledge, better habits, good causes, new adventures.

Dear Carolyn:

Haven’t spoken to my father for 2.5 years, for various reasons that boil down to his being very selfish and refusing to validate feelings.

He called the other day. Many, many people in my life think that I should let [my grudge] go because “that’s just how he is,” and that I’m depriving him of my child (born after I cut him off).

I’d love a relationship with him, but his message didn’t indicate any desire to resolve issues, simply to brush them under the rug. Thoughts?

Calling Dad

There isn’t much for me to go on here, but I do feel comfortable saying that I support unconditionally those who sever ties to people who are harmful to them.

When people are merely disappointing, though, then my advice is to try instead to accept that no one will ever be who you want them to be. We even let ourselves down by that standard. So, if that’s the case with your dad — that your main complaint is his not being the dad you wish he’d be — then think of what you want from yourself, and from other people.

You want to be accepted and loved as you are, right? And forgiven your shortcomings? And not set up to fail?

You can’t make anyone give you these things, but you can show how it’s done by calling him with your expectations set to “naught.” Given that Dad’s shortcomings appear to be of long standing, just make sure you go into it knowing your integrity is your only certain reward.

Write to Carolyn Hax, Style, 1150 15th St. NW, Washington, D.C. 20071, or tellme@washpost.com. Sign up for Carolyn Hax’s column, delivered to your inbox early each morning, at http://bit.ly/haxpost.

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