Carolyn is away. The following is a past column.
Q: My girlfriend of a year and a half just broke up with me, saying she needed space. We both just moved to a new city (her for school, me for job/her). I donít know many people here, and we spent virtually all our time together, partly by design, partly by necessity. She indicated that it was too much pressure to deal with school, a social life with her new friends and a serious relationship. We talked pretty openly about marriage, and the breakup came as a shock. How do I respect her wish for more space while letting her know that I very much want to continue our relationship?
Ship Without a Rudder
A: I very much suspect she knows very much that you want to continue your relationship. Very much.
But if you need to reassure yourself, tell her in your exact words ó at the same time you explain that youíre going to respect her wish by stepping out of the picture, unless and until she welcomes you back into it.
Itís a bummer, but not as big a bummer as your relationship was becoming. By your own admission, you were totally dependent on her. Unhealthy, with a capital unfair. How long before you donated your entire sense of self to the relationship cause? Assuming you hadnít already.
Even in a situation where no one would expect you to have a rudder independent of hers, you needed to have one anyway ó even if it was a hobby or your job or a complete and unforced (and therefore not at all guilt-inducing) comfort with spending long stretches alone. Anything that takes the burden of your happiness off someone elseís back.
So. Release girl, find rudder. When pain becomes ache becomes void becomes action becomes a life, youíll look back on this giant leap and see it as merely an opening step. One I doubt youíll regret.