The dilemma At 33 I’ve just brokenÂ upÂ with my fiancÃ© after aÂ year of agonising and depression. It was aÂ relief, but the impending sense of loss is unbearable and he’s asked for two more months to fix it.Â We’ve beenÂ together for 12 years and engaged for six. Around our engagement I fell for aÂ friend, and although I didn’t actÂ on this I can’t seem to return to my pre-2007 awe for my fiancÃ©. I also dislike weddings. In 2008 I kissed aÂ couple of people, last yearÂ IÂ sleptÂ with a stranger and last month I riskedÂ even moreÂ on a one-night stand.Â I feel more of aÂ brother-sister type of relationship with my fiancÃ©. IÂ did tell him about this, but he didn’t take it seriously. Details would destroy him so I ended it based on his short temperÂ and antisocial nature (we rarely go out and he avoids my friends). He is my best friend, knows me inside out, makes me laugh and cares for me greatly. He’s the most decent and loyalÂ man I haveÂ ever known, and would be a wonderful father, but I can’t picture usÂ walking down the aisle or my romanticÂ feelings returning.
Mariella replies I hate to think how you’d treat an enemy! Seriously, what does best friend mean? You’ve lied to him, been unfaithful then blamed the break up on him â€“ it’s hardly A* behaviour on your part. Now you’ve left him with the challenge of “fixing it”. You’re right about one thing â€“ your relationship, in its present state, isn’t worth prolonging.
I haven’t had exposure to his failings but, as you point out, they aren’t the primary cause of your split. It’s not your ex who would benefit from some serious navel gazing but you. As any agony aunt will confirm, identifying other people’s faults, like spotting issues in their relationships, is far easier than tackling your own. Achieving familiarity and some kind of accommodation with your own psyche is much harder work, but there are enormous rewards if you put in the effort. Your letter gives me a fairly clear picture of where you should start.
Sabotaging your relationship with random and, I daresay, unsatisfactory sexual trysts is an act of self-harm â€“ blaming others for your own choices is another. I note your use of the word “awe” as an emotional state to aspire to, suggesting that your concept of what a long-term relationship requires is quite unrealistic.
Interestingly, the qualities you credit your ex-boyfriend with are some of the most valuable â€“ decency, loyalty and a potentially great parent would feature high on most people’s wish list. Awe, on the other hand, is not much in demand, and even in Jane Austen’s time it would have been deemed a little old fashioned. More pertinently, elevated worship, like over-powering passion, stands little chance of surviving the daily realities of domestic life.
Losing your sense of awe can only be a good thing; blaming your break-up on this poor man’s bad qualities, instead of your own inability to commit, is not.
There’s no need to list your sexual digressions to justify your decision to end the relationship, either to him or indeed to me. These trysts are not the reason you and your partner can’t be together â€“ they are a symptom of why you aren’t ready for a long-termÂ relationship at all. The devil is not in the detail of who and when, but in your need to seek out such short-term distraction from long-term problems. What made you think that telling your fiancÃ© about his failings was a better way to go about it than voicing your own doubts?It seems an act of cowardice and emotional insecurity to point the finger of blame at the man you’ve betrayed.
You say this man didn’t take you seriously when you told him you felt it was more of a sibling relationship. Yet again it appears you are looking for someone else to take responsibility for what you feel. If he had “taken you seriously”, what did you expect him to do about it? Owning your actions, no matter how dysfunctional they may be, and understanding your own desires are basic requirements for a happy adulthood. No wonder you are in such a state of confusion. You are looking for answers in all the wrong places â€“ in bed with strangers, in anÂ unsatisfactory relationship, inÂ pursuit of a different partner, but never within yourself.
Get to know and like yourself better and you’ll find it so much easier to build aÂ relationship with someone else. Adulthood, marriage and parenthood will be far richer and more rewarding when you are no longer living with a stranger.