Dear Patti,

I feel so much tension. I don’t think I can go to one more wedding this summer. It’s hard enough watching yet another happy couple promising to stay together forever but it seems like I’m the only person in attendance who is single. I know it’s not really true, but I feel like people are staring at me and wondering what’s wrong that I’m there by myself.

My boyfriend (Danny) and I broke up two years ago and he has already married (even though he said he would never get married.). I’ve tried to take the advice of friends and put myself out there in the dating pool, but every guy I meet just doesn’t measure up in looks, personality, intelligence or financially like my ex. I thought after two years I’d be over him, but I’m not. How much longer do I have to wait before I feel that kind of spark again with the opposite sex?

    

  — Cathie

Dear Cathie,

There’s no specific timeline for moving on when it comes to the issue of grieving. Grieving takes different forms depending on the intensity of the relationship. It’s important  that you allow the passage of enough time to reclaim your own self as an individual before you rush into a commitment with someone else just to keep from being alone or lonely.

What sensations come forth when you think about your ex? If there’s a heaviness in your chest, unspent tears, stomach cramps, muscle tension, a lump in your throat, etc., it’s likely that your healing process is not yet complete. Being able to talk to someone about these emotions is a good start, especially if that person holds a position of neutrality. Professional counseling, for instance, will allow you to explore your true feelings in a safe environment, examine whether there are lingering patterns from past relationships (including childhood), and how to love and nurture yourself when you experience self-doubts about your desirability.

Let’s look at a few other considerations.

Do you have difficulty letting men slip under your defenses and get close to you? When someone has anxieties about intimacy, s/he will often keep potential mates at bay. If that person does manage to get close (i.e., a friendship that transitions into romance), it then becomes a devastating loss if it doesn’t work out. This can sometimes lead to building even higher, thicker walls around one’s heart and soul so as not to get hurt again. And while it’s easy to romanticize the past relationship and even idolize a lover who is no longer in the picture, it makes it that much harder for anyone new to compete for your affection.

Are you now looking at every potential relationship with a critical mindset, perhaps even harboring a sense of anger against the male population in general? If so, you’d be likely to even find fault with your ex if he returned to your life. On the one hand, you don’t want to always be the single girl at everyone else’s beautiful wedding, yet on the other an unconscious hostility toward the opposite sex might be preventing you from forming new attachments. If you think this may be true, I recommend psychotherapy where you can process these buried resentments and explore your ambivalence.

Since mate selection is one of life’s most important decisions, think about what qualities Danny had that you feel are essential. Exposure to a wide variety of men may lead you to the realization that limiting yourself to a “type” (i.e., a Danny clone) is keeping you from discovering wonderful attributes and insights that others have to offer.

Lastly, it concerns me that you’re equating your psychological well-being with “waiting” to feel whole again. If you’re telling yourself that nothing will be right or meaningful until you find the right man, it’s diminishing the freedom of choice you have at this very moment to make a difference in your own life. Allow a rebirth of energy and optimism to pursue the things you’ve always wanted to do and that bring you joy — with or without a partner to share them. 


Patti Carmalt-Vener, a faculty member with the Southern California Society for Intensive Short Term Psychotherapy, is a psychotherapist in private practice with offices in Pasadena, Santa Monica and Canoga Park. Contact her at (626) 584-8582 or email pcarmalt@aol.com. Visit her Web site, patticarmalt-vener.com.