Sage advice

Had lunch under the trees with my dear Nana today. At 92, this old lady has seen it all, yet she still marvels at the first-of-spring shoots and fledgling birds as if a child, deriving immeasurable pleasure in a plate of food and savouring her glass of Sauvignon Blanc, as if all the joy of life is distilled in these simple rituals. She’s lived through a world war, raised four children and buried two husbands, my Nan, yet she listens intently as I jabber on about the minutiae of my life, never trivializing, never passing judgement.

When I first broke the news to my family of the failure of my marriage, my grandmother was the only one who didn’t have a thousand things to say. Instead, she held my hand in hers and told me, simply, that it would be okay – this from a woman for whom divorce was never an option, despite having married, first, an alcoholic depressive and, then, after my grandfather passed away, a cantankerous old ba$#@!d.

So, today, when I declared, “Nana, I’m falling in love,” she didn’t ask endless questions about his financial credentials, pre-existing responsibilities or relationship history. Instead, she enquired gently, “Samantha, is he good to you?”. And when I replied, “Yes, Nan, he makes me feel like the most special person in the world,” she simply raised her glass in a frail, trembling hand and said, “Good, dear, that’s all that matters.”

Then we sat together in silence, there in the dappled shade of those giant birches, the calm of a Sunday afternoon washing over us, and all was right with the world.

– Single-again Samantha

Trivial pursuit – Dating after divorce

“Don’t look for love. Let it come looking for you.” If I had a dime for every time some one’s told me that.

But, as hard as it is to accept sometimes, there is a good deal of truth in it. What I’m not saying is that sitting on the sidelines is going to do wonders for your dating scorecard. But that striding out, war paint on and weapons engaged, may not be the best way to bag a man.

Still, it’s difficult not to check off imaginary boxes when evaluating a candidate for Mr Right status: “What is his mother like?” “How would we look going out together?” “How many relationships has he been in?” “What kind of father would he be?” “How might he look in fifty years time?”

We get bogged down by the incidentals, when the questions we should be asking are the important ones about how we feel: “Do I feel special?” “Do I feel loved and respected?” “Do I feel that the relationship is bringing out the best in me?”

And what about all the men who don’t check all those trivial boxes? Are they instantly struck from the bar? This is was happened with Tim – I reconnected with the guy after some years and instantly found myself having a good time in his company. But he didn’t check my boxes. He was a balding, overweight salesman whose mother had walked out on him as a kid. His relationship history was checkered and he was no natural around the kid. But he was kind and considerate, funny and flattering. We drank red wine, we talked about old times and we laughed. Still, he didn’t tick my boxes so I cut him loose, albeit as gently as possible.

Sometimes I think we look so hard for what we picture Mr Right to be like that we fail to see Mr Endless Possibilities right before our eyes… And then sometimes we stumble right over him – I guess that’s why they call it falling in love.

– Single-again Samantha

Brenda Breaks it Down: Wanting to forget a relationship

Hi Brenda,

I’m a gay woman and I spent the last 5 years in a relationship with someone with borderline personality disorder and PTSD. It was on again off again many times over and I’ve finally walked away for good. She is in therapy though it’s not seemed to help, in fact, over the years her condition has worsened. I know she’s not been honest with the therapist. She drinks heavily with the meds she’s on for her disorder. I’ve seen so much, the out of control days and nights. The lies and the threats of suicide and the one attempt that landed her in the hospital. That one was supposedly to keep me from leaving.

I did walk away. I’ve finally realized I can’t fix her and I can’t be happy and healthy with her. I’ve pretty much gone through the four steps of battered woman’s syndrome, though I was never physically abused, it was all mental.

I have no idea how this will affect my future relationships and trying to explain this to someone that’s never “been there” is frustrating. I went through the depression and I’ve coped with the ideology of “fake it till you make it.” It’s working, though I still think about what I went through often. I feel like I’ve talked about this to death and I just want to forget and move on. My job is definitely an escape and I am cultivating my social life more and more. Do I just keep telling myself to give it time? I could go to therapy but I’m really not wanting to re-live it all again.

Dear I-Just-Want-To-Forget,

Wouldn’t it be great if I could tell the future? What I can tell you is that if you’re starting a new relationship with the same story you just shared with us about your last girlfriend, I guarantee you, you’re heading toward the friend zone faster than you can say “Dinah Shore Weekend” or “Meet Me in Michigan.” It’s frustrating because you’re leading with the frustrated you, the you that carries the shame or embarrassment or remorse or regret for getting into this relationship in the first place or for having it fail.

Here the deal darlin’, it’s okay to be human, to fail at something, to outgrow a lover. It’s okay to say yes to your own health and happiness. Yes, give yourself some time and while you’re at it give yourself some compassion and forgiveness, too.

Mental illnesses aren’t like other conditions, often they are hidden unless our potential partners share that information or are even healthy enough to do so. It’s up to us to know what feels right and to know that we deserve health and happiness, too. You walked away; you knew you deserved more, so there’s no need to “forget” what happened. You need to only remember what you’ve learned. I think you’ve got that covered.

– Brenda

How Not To Lose You

Dear Brenda,

I’ve been dating a guy for almost ten months now. We fell in love fast and hard and for eight months it was absolutely perfect.

However now as things come down to getting serious, he brushes our relationship off and has gone as far as to deny my sexual advances. I’m hurt, angry and feel rejected. Not just because of lack of sex but because I’ve not met any of his friends or family. I know he’s not cheating on me; I’m just not sure how to go about this. I realize I don’t want to be resentful but when I bring these things up he brushes me off and says I’m being ridiculous.

We’ve talked about a break and though I don’t want to lose something good I don’t know how to mend this tear. Any suggestions?

Dear I-Don’t-Want-To-Lose-Something-Good

Let me just point out the red flags that popped up for me when I read your letter.

Let’s start with, “for eight months it was absolutely perfect.” It’s so easy for things to be good in the beginning because you’re both on your best behavior. Mature love knows that no relationship is “perfect.”

Red flag number two.

He hasn’t introduced you to his family or friends, and yet you call it serious. If a man hasn’t introduced you to those closest to him, well… how serious is it? Not very. Either there is someone else he’s seeing or he isn’t as serious as you are.

Red flag number three.

Mature love listens. When you bring up things that concern you and he brushes them off, saying that you’re being “ridiculous” is dismissive and disrespectful.

If you want to mend these tears, then take a step back. Part of being together is being able to be apart. It’s knowing and taking time for your self. It’s having a life apart from his. Finally, know your worth. Know how you deserve to be treated and who deserves access to your body and your spirit.

I think the something good you don’t want to lose… is you.

– Brenda