Recognizing problem is a step toward rediscovering yourself
Lonely in Luziana: My boyfriend went out of town for a friend's wedding, and I realized I'm lost without him. I go to work, I come home, I waste time till the nightly phone call, I struggle to fall asleep afterward. Most of our friends are really his friends, so my social life has been nonexistent for the past five days. This has been a huge wakeup call for me and I don't know what to do next.
Carolyn: First, be proud of the nice catch. Not the guy — I mean the realization that you've let yourself deteriorate into a subset of somebody else. That takes guts to admit.
Next, make an appointment to get screened for depression. Aimlessness plus sleeplessness equals a checkup, if only to rule some things out.
Next, force yourself to imagine his absence as indefinite. What would you do every night if you had more than five nights to fill? Conjure it, research it, do it. Not just while you're alone, but after your boyfriend returns, too.
Consider making at least one new activity a physical one. So often, once you get your body moving, your spirits get moving, too. The correlation is proven, if not an individual guarantee.
If you can find an activity that involves other people and a purpose beyond you and your rut — charity, politics, art — then you'll jostle your perspective a bit, a valuable rut-busting trick.
And finally, don't be too tough on yourself. It probably took you a long time — a lifetime, even — to lose yourself in your day-to-day life, and so don't get discouraged if it takes some time to declare independence. Make small changes, see where they take you, repeat.
Don't expect friends to pretend ex-boyfriend has disappeared
D.C.: All my good friends are friends with my recent ex, whose mention is still pretty painful for me. I've tried telling them I'm not ready to talk about him yet, but they can't help mentioning him in passing when he's so relevant to everyone's lives, still. I know he sees them when I don't, and I don't want to be possessive, but I feel uncomfortable with that.
Time for new friends? Or am I being unreasonable to think my close friends could join me in pretending this heartbreaker doesn't exist for a while, till I get over him?
Carolyn: It's perfectly reasonable to ask friends to spare you detailed reports on your painfully recent ex. They owe you that.
To ask them not to mention him "in passing" though, when he's still their friend, is to make your problem into everyone else's.
Life is really painful sometimes. Sometimes you have to watch other people enjoy something you recently lost. Sometimes you have to accept there are limits to what your community can do, and things you must face on your own, even when you're in agony.
Facing your loss, in turn, means there's no place for "pretending" — not for your friends, and definitely not for you. He exists. He interacts with your friends. He laughs. He will love again, maybe soon. He didn't evaporate.
But neither did you. So, tell yourself this until you believe it: "I want us both to be happy again." Then, figure out conscious steps you can take to hold up your end of that deal.