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Carolyn Hax: Her 'anti-marriage' ex is now engaged to another

By Carolyn Hax
Wednesday, October 13, 2010; C09

Dear Carolyn:

Please help me come to terms with the fact that, less than one year after breaking up with me because I wanted to get married and he didn't, my ex is now engaged to someone else. He had spent four years telling me how firmly anti-marriage he was. The worst part is that the fiancee is really insufferable.

Georgia

Really? That sounds like the best part.

Think of the possibilities the fiancee's awfulness allows:

It could mean your ex was looking for someone (presumably) very different from you -- which would mean your personality wasn't the problem, his taste in women was.

Or, maybe he's just as anti-marriage as always, but she is a bully, and she has his principles in a jar somewhere in the back of her medicine cabinet.

It could be, too, that his anti-marriage stance was a test to gauge how much of a pushover you were. Now, I don't necessarily believe he did that consciously; that would make him a monster. But I do believe that immature people -- i.e., those looking to get away with something (vs. be good for the sake of it) -- do push their companions to see how compliant they'll be.

Think about it. Your ex just spent four years enjoying your company while making sure you stayed outside the velvet ropes. He saw that he could, and then did, push you around.

And maybe his now-fiancee, when he tried his no-marriage line on her, said, "Suit yourself, but don't bother calling me anymore." Assertiveness could explain why you find her "insufferable" and he finds her attractive.

I am not, I repeat, not endorsing anything like playing hard to get -- or "playing" anything -- nor do I believe there was anything you should have done differently to snag a proposal: You want a guy who wants you, so your ex wasn't the guy.

Coming to terms with that hinges on the difference between regretting a mistake, and learning from it. You have nothing to regret here. You did your best with the information you had. The right guy would have loved you for it, and the wrong guy never would (though a decent one wouldn't have taken advantage, as this one seems to have).

And that's the lesson to take away here, I think: Don't try to get close to people who persistently, openly keep you at arm's length. His present engagement didn't break the bad news; his past disengagement did.

Dear Carolyn:

How soon do you know when someone's "the one"? I've been with my girlfriend only a few months, but we've been friends for a long time.

I've loved people before. I've been blind to people's faults before -- oh, have I done that! -- in the newness of an attachment. I've had intensely passionate sex that's convinced me I adored someone only to find that I didn't even like them.

But I've never just woken up every morning and smiled because I know that she's alive and that she cares for me.

This is new.

And so wonderful I don't even understand it.

Va.

Yeah, actually, you do. Congratulations.

Georgia, I hope you're still reading. Whatever your ex had to offer that you wanted to marry, wasn't worthy of you if it didn't include feeling like this.

Write to Tell Me About It, Style, 1150 15th St. NW, Washington, D.C. 20071, or tellme@washpost.com.

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