Put your dying relationship to sleep

You didn’t see the Unibomber latching onto the first girl to wander by his shack. No, old Ted was self-sufficient and perfectly content to live alone. But before you decide to give up romance, look closer at Kaczynski’s life. He might not be the ideal role model. For underneath his flawless exterior was a lonely, angry man.
When you break up with someone, there is a tendency — especially if the relationship was overbearing — to tell yourself you don’t need anyone, that you’re content to fly solo. That can be a healthy thing, allowing you to focus again on the other aspects of your life, many of which you have ignored during your romance.
Yes, avoiding a new relationship right away can be a good thing, if you can withstand the loneliness. It is difficult to get accustomed to all the time you have once you painfully tear the leech off the skin of your life. What will you do rather than talk and fight and go out to eat? What will you do alone?
Well, first you must realize that being alone does not have to imply loneliness, although that beast will most definitely sink its cold fangs into you. In fact, the first weeks after the break-up are all-important for deciding your future: Will you set yourself free, or be stuck in your co-dependent purgatory for yet another year?
The discomfort of loneliness, that feeling at 6 p.m. when the workday is done and you are home and the sun is setting and you have no plans for the night — it is a dangerous feeling.
The danger is that you’ll find yourself calling him again, saying you’re sorry for things you said, even things you really meant. You find yourself asking him out for drinks, “just to talk.” At the bar you’re laughing, the scene sharply contrasting with your boring home, your boring life. Now you both get in his car, to his home and into his bed.
Pink Floyd tells the story: “A momentary lapse of reason that binds a life for life.” While you might not be bound for life, you will wake up in the morning with a nagging feeling that you made a mistake, but then there’s breakfast, and you’re back in that comfortable routine.
To avoid this, people have developed a mechanism to help them break the cycle. In a circle of women, each takes turns saying, “I’m done with men. They’re all assholes.” We forgive her language and nod, as if to say, “Sing it sister.” You don’t hear men saying this out loud, but men don’t really form these comfort circles. A man might be found watching television or working in the garage.
“Sorry to hear about Tracy,” you say.
“Ahhgh. Bitches,” he says with feigned aloofness.
The meaning is the same. For a while, both will carry the pain of their loss and cope by reminding themselves of their dislike for the opposite sex, while professing their emotional strength. A harmless device, the tool is usually transparent in that it is clear the person is trying to convince him or herself along with their audience.
For reasons of its usually short life span, this period of cynicism is not something to be feared. When a person says they are considering lifelong celibacy, just smile and commend them for their strength.
And remind your friends, and yourself, of the rut of dependency and complacency, and escape it by avoiding long-term commitments with short-term prospects. Don’t confuse the comfort of companionship with the intimacy of a true romantic friendship.
When you finally realize that the past years have been pointless, write that down and paste it on the fridge so you’ll remember. Use the tool of vilifying your ex, posting pictures of him at his worst: stewing in his own juices on the couch, stumbling around drunk and sloppy, hitting on your friends — anything to keep those misguided emotional triggers from firing, sending you to the phone to make that desperate call.
Remind yourself of your strength. If necessary, insist you’ll never see men again. While it’s usually a front, at least it helps remind a person that they can live without someone, that they “will survive,” as the song says. As a matter of fact, buy that song, it will help.
Eventually, assuming you don’t retreat to a shack in the boonies, you will start dating again, and find that the clarity of time has turned your former lover, that person with whom you could not live without, into just another lesson on the long road into the arms of your true love.
Brian Close is the Daily’s opinions editor. He welcomes comments at [email protected]. Send letters to the editor to [email protected].