Q. I am recovering from a love affair so horribly painful that if I start to tell you about it, with all its grisly details, I will never get to describing the problem I want to ask you about.
The people I care about -- my mother, my brother, my best friend -- were very good and patient with me for a long time, but I know that I am beginning to drive them crazy. I can't sleep, I can't concentrate on anything and I know I'm terrible company, because I can't take an interest in anything they tell me. They all keep saying I should "pull myself together," but nobody tells me how to do that.
My brother, especially, is furious because he caught me hanging around this man's office, hoping for a glimpse of him as he went to work. My brother wants me to hate the man, and I certainly have enough cause.
The fact is that I can't hate him, I still love him, and I can't stay away from him, even though it's more painful than I can bear to see him. I often go to his favorite restaurant for lunch, where he used to take me, and he's usually there with some other woman. But I can't help myself.
I'm writing to you, not because I think you or anybody else can help me about him, but because I know my behavior is alienating those close to me, and I want to know what I can say or do to keep them, and not have them give up on me in disgust. They say time will heal me, but it isn't true.
A. Oh, yes it is. But unfortunately, time works at its own maddening pace. Perhaps Miss Manners can suggest something quicker.
She realizes that the only thing that will engage your attention, in this state, is the object of your love. Miss Manners' hope is that if she suggests to you how to re-engage his attention, you will not abuse this by seeking to re-constitute the love affair. Just knowing that you can still reach him ought to give you enough strength to be able to pick yourself up with dignity and to walk away from the episode forever.
Your present behavior could not be worse. The fact is that even good people cannot bear the misery of those whom they have rejected. "There is always something ridiculous about the passions of people whom one has ceased to love," as dear Oscar Wilde put it. Allowing him to see your unhappiness can only develop his indifference into loathing.
The difference between the behavior of good people and bad, when they have ended love affairs, is that the good people pretend, even to themselves, that they want their rejected sweethearts to find happiness elsewhere. Bad people cannot bear that. In spite of their contempt for the misery they have caused, they are driven crazy by the idea that their worst behavior has left no scars. As soon as the rejected person has recovered so completely as to fall in love again, their version of love starts up again.
If you must hang around this man, do so in the company of another man (even if it is a friend of your brother's doing him a favor) with whom you seem to be ecstatically happy. Still better, stay out of sight and float rumors back of a new, passionate romance.
If the man you love is truly bad, he will show a new interest in you. You must not take him up on it, because then you will give away the fact that you still care, and his interest will cease.
Besides, your mother, brother, best friend and Miss Manners simply do not have the strength, among them, to go through another round of this with you.