Single File: A Major Question
DEAR SUSAN: I'm currently contemplating divorce. There are a lot of questions to ask you about, but the most important ones are emotional. I still have feelings for my husband, but they're not romantic or sexual. Next week I'll be talking with a lawyer to get legal answers, but what I need to know is: How do you know when a relationship is over? -- Amanda A., Long Island, New York
DEAR AMANDA: Three cold showers later, I can pretty well answer your question. In one word, it is connection. When one partner (in this case, you) loses emotional connection with the partner (your husband), it's the beginning of the end of the relationship. The amount of time it takes to reach this stage isn't fixed or known; it's purely a feeling -- a gut feeling -- that puts distance between you and your former love.
How it evolved and the reasons for it are subtle, but you probably have had some small inkling for a while now, hence your thoughts about divorce. But whatever they are right now, I urge you to proceed s-l-o-w-l-y in all things related to the finale of your marriage. Getting legal answers is a good idea, so that you have all your ducks in a row when and if the moment comes.
You should know your rights and obligations pertaining to divorce in your state. It's a good idea to bring a list of questions to your attorney so you don't forget something in the heat of the moment. And a weekend in the country is a good idea at this point, some quietude and privacy where you can sit under a tree or on a lakeshore and think things through.
Divorce is a huge step, disruptive and unsettling in the lives of everyone affected. (If you're a mom, you should plan a family council to explore your children's feelings about their home life. Chances are they already know more than you imagine. And what they don't know, they sense. The young generation is savvy and wise beyond their years.
But don't burden them with your inner feelings toward their father; save that for a counselor.) Be gentle with yourself right now. Avoid making major decisions or commitments. Meditate in as much quiet time as you can give yourself. As you relinquish one connection, forge even stronger ties to your inner self. But no hasty moves, if you please.
DEAR SUSAN: Answering your questions about opposite-gender friendship with and without sex, I have converted a lover to a friend and also have remained friends with men where no sex will ever be in the picture.
I can't even begin to explain how much both relationships have added to my life. A lover-turned-friend shows you that the love doesn't stop just because the compatibility wasn't there -- some of us work as friends but not as lovers. And having them in your life lessens the pain when a romantic partner steps away.
And the "sexless" male friend? Wonderful for insight; it's amazing to be able to relate to men as friends only. And it improves the way I treat my partner. In love we often become selfish. But in like, we are more accepting. These friends teach you to be as accepting of a lover's flaws as you are of your friends. Opposite-sex friends give insight into the male mind, and a standard by which to judge "the one."
I truly believe that friendship transcends gender lines and even our personal past - we can find things of value in any person. Limiting it artificially by gender is as ridiculous as limiting it to ethnicity. -- Carla T., Arlington Heights, Illinois
DEAR CARLA: And yet so many women are still stuck in the mold where friendly relations are strictly for other women. Men are another race -- aliens from Mars and beyond, necessary evils to have in your life if you want a family. But after that phase has ended, many women are all too happy to make a life without men, when they could be having a full life including them! But I couldn't be happier to report that the younger generation doesn't see the other gender ("opposite" is archaic) in the same stilted way. They hang out with one another dressed in no special way -- and relating in no special way, with honesty and casualness and a startling lack of flirtation! They may just be the pathfinders to amity and peace on this planet. You are certainly one, for sure. Bravo.
WEDDING RING SEX APPEAL. Some singles have the inside scoop on the wedding ring they don't have: wearing one adds something, some subtle glamour. While that gold band says you're taken, it also speaks volumes about your attractiveness. Someone thinks you're desirable and has claimed you for her/his own. Being spoken for can include as well as exclude. I dare you to test out my theory and let me know developments.
Have a question for Susan? You can reach her directly at firstname.lastname@example.org. We've uncovered another treasure trove of "Single File" paperbacks -- in perfect condition, signed by Susan, ready to enjoy. Send $15 and your address: Susan Deitz, C/O Creators Syndicate, 737 3rd Street, Hermosa Beach, CA 90254.