‘Unfriending’ in Real Life

Dear Paulo, How do I relate with someone whom I lost all respect for as the result of our romantic relationship that is now over? Unfortunately, I can’t just avoid him, because we share a social network that includes several friends and interest groups in common, and neither of us wants to lose a big part of our life just because we didn’t work out.
– Delilah, Portland Age 33.

First of all, let go of any residual blame. Forgive the other person for not having lived up to the projections you shined on him (and vice-versa, to be sure). We all have a reflected sense of self, and enjoy being other-validated. It feels good to be desired and appreciated; it’s intoxicating. But now is the time to hold onto the part of you that is self-validating. To this highly conscious part, everything happens for a good reason (i.e. personal growth), and it just doesn’t matter what other people think (they don’t do it that much anyway :-).

Considering that you are going to be running into this guy, however, it’s useful to realize that you will be having an ongoing ‘relationship’ with him, whether you like it or not. What you are dealing with here is changing the form of this relationship—as opposed to the notion that a “relationship” must be all or nothing.

You had hopes with this guy for intimacy, and discovered that (for mutual reasons) it’s not going to work. So, what form do you want now? If you are reacting emotionally and are still shouting “nada,” you are blinded to what may be in your best interests. If you are not ready to get beyond reaction, then perhaps you really should totally avoid him for a month or two. Time heals all wounds and you’ll come around to being able to treat him as an acquaintance you can’t rely on … and whom you cannot take too seriously. (What a fool that he passed up the opportunity to adapt to and change himself for you, right?)

Most intimate relationships begin by meeting someone at work or in our social groups. Nothing against online or blind dates, but this local, organic approach often feels more natural and can work out (for a while). But even though your wider group of friends may have observed and been privy to the details of your relationship, you never agreed to bet your entire social life on a single relationship, did you? Don’t politicize what happened. Be cool about the fact that “you win some, you lose some.”

If you find yourself feeling out of sorts in public when he’s around, just try to act naturally. Avoid conversations with him, ignore him as best you can without being pointed or obvious about it. Carry on doing what you like to doincluding going out with someone else from a common group. Don’t even consider what others might think or feel … you’re self-validating now, baby. Do your own harmless thing without regard for whatever you think others might think—we never know what people are thinking (hint: it’s generally about them, not us)! As they remind us in 12-step programs “What you think of me is none of my business!” Instead of worrying about what others might think, focus on learning as much as you can about how to hold onto yourself (and pick better partners as a result). And don’t forget to enjoy this learning process. After all, that’s one big thing relationships are for!

Equal partners

I have 3 children, my youngest being 14 months. This is the first time in my life that I have not had to work and am able to be a stay-at-home mom. My dilemma is, first of all, that I feel guilty because my other kids might feel that they got the short end of the stick because they both were in daycare by the time they were 3 months old. Secondly, I also am used to working and making my own money (good money) and I don’t like feeling I have to ask what’s in the bank, when my husband gets paid, if I can pay certain bills, etc. It’s a control issue I guess. My biggest issue is I’m always thinking will my future be financially secure for my kids & family even if I’m not working? I would feel much better & secure if I knew we would be financially comfortable either way. Hope to get your advice & thoughts.
– Michelle
Tampa, Florida

Michelle, you have no reason to feel guilty. Trust your internal guidance system. After all, would you want to deprive your third child of as much maternal attention as you can, just because you were not able to give as much to your first two? Outside of worrying about what others might think (an external guidance system), that doesn’t make sense. Why not celebrate your good fortune and the good fortune of all of your children, who can see more of their mother now?

This is a big change. That you have some feelings of insecurity about it is totally understandable.

I suspect that the issue of being in control is the bigger one for you here. You took pride in your ability to earn a good living and contribute to your family financially; that is understandable. Since you didn’t say one way or the other, one assumes that your husband supports the idea of you being a stay-at-home mom. If so, it stands to reason that you should not have to give up financial knowledge or decision-making power in the family, an equal role in all the business of the two of you. Perhaps, if you have not fully discussed how you intend to manage your collective finances as partners, you should!

Also, it probably makes sense to stay up to speed on your professional skills, because one never knows what will happen in this economy. What is needed right away is for you and your husband to come to an agreement on how to manage family finances, as well as how you can provide the best care for all your children. Clear communications will result in a better understanding and a stronger bond between all of you.

Blindsided by Abandonment

Dear Paulo, After 30 years of a “wonderful marriage,” as my husband called it, he is asking for a divorce. We are both 55 and I believe there is another woman. He apparently has been planning this for about 8 years. “I don’t LOVE YOU anymore!”

I thought we had the perfect marriage: beautiful home, kids through college, ready for retirement. Now, I am told, I will need to get a job and take care of my self. If you have any words of wisdom, I am all ears. I have told him that I am willing to forgive and forget! I know I am not the only one that this happens to … how can a person be so selfish and cruel? I have cut his hair, done his laundry and raised our children for those 30 years, not to mention, moved 8 times for his job and worked and found employment for my self.

– Barb, Houston, TX

Figuring out his psychology is not that relevant any more (you’re probably not that good at it anyway, considering how unaware you have been for 8 years). Unfortunately, living in a bubble only contributes to bitterness later on, which feeling now hurts you more than it hurts him. It will help you make better decisions going forward to become as self-soothing and objective as possible.

You obviously don’t have to believe what he (or anyone else, including your children) tells you about what you need to do. The transition from co-dependence to independence is challenging, but you are on your own and must make your own decisions independent of what he or anyone else wants. Surely you have some community property rights and more options than you may be able to clearly see right now. Things are never as bad as they seem and often come with a silver lining that we don’t recognize for months or even years later. Start building faith in yourself.

When the vow “until death do us part” was instituted, human beings probably lived to be 40. The primary reasons for marrying were different too — having to do with survival and clan politics, not love. In any case, we were making a commitment of 20 years or less. Death from any number of causes — even simple infections — was always lurking. Now chances are good that you are going to live another vital 25-30 years.

It’s a new life for you now, one where you can focus on taking care of yourself for a change! As difficult as the transition may be, it could be enlightening. It hurts like hell to be blindsided and feel rejected — and it’s difficult not to argue for pure victimness and prolong the pain with self-pity. Please forgive yourself for being naive and look for new opportunities to awaken and develop as time heals your wounds, which it will. In the meantime, get counseling and avoid despair as best you can.

Marital reconciliation woes

My husband and I have been separated for 4 years. We have seen each other on and off. I have always been the one to walk away from the relationship each time. Recently I have experienced a huge karmic kick in the butt. I have been trying to make amends with him and have apologized profusely. He has basically rejected my suggestions to try again and work on our marriage. I know we love each other still and I do feel him around me. Where do I go from here? – Monika, Concord, MA

How many times do you think you can you reject someone and expect him to come back for more? It may be too late. He’s given you more than enough chances, he may feel that he can’t trust anything you say. Or perhaps his ego needs to exact a price (beyond apologies) for all the rejection. Are you willing to go beyond apologizing and make amends … to deal with that karma you mention? Is there anything you can generously offer him to try to make up for what he feels he’s gone through? If you’ve hurt someone, saying ‘sorry’ is too easy and never enough. Try adding “… and what can I do to make it up to you?” and hope the other party will give you something (within reason) to do. This is a way to make amends, if that’s really what you want to do. It is too late if he is no longer interested in giving you one more chance to demonstrate that you really care — to make and keep an agreement to do something to make up for your repeated rejections. No matter what does or doesn’t happen, this doesn’t have to be all bad. Perhaps leaving the relationship was the right move in the first place and all the jerking around was you second-guessing yourself. That doesn’t make it right, but for that you can forgive yourself and move on.

Lifestyle mismatch

Dear Paulo,

How do you reconcile a seemingly intractable relationship imbalance and uncertainty of a future? My significant other and I have been together for 5 years and share many values, experiences, and interests. The imbalance is in how our different scales of economy translate to differences in leisure time, discretionary dollars, and planning for a future. He is proud that he worked hard to create a lifestyle that gives him flexibility in his schedule and ample leisure time to travel, exercise, watch movies, or just hang out.

My work is mostly an 8-5 gig with 3-4 weeks of vacation. I value and maintain a wide circle of friends. This along with cooking nourishes my soul. We spend a lot of time together and maintain separate homes.


To be honest, I am jealous of the free time he has and don’t see being able to join him in his lifestyle for another 10-15 years. That leaves the period between now and then ambiguous. I would like to have a collective sense of direction for a future together if we are going to commit our lives together. I feel the imminence of middle age and need to be aggressive about “catching up” to his economic scale so I can join him in 10 years or create a plan where he subsidizes me so I can join him in the leisure activities he wants me to partake in. Otherwise, it’s hard for me to see a future in this imbalanced situation. Ideas?

— Ellen Portland, OR. Age: 50

I assume you must love him, because you want to be with him more. As a result of what you cannot currently have—and comparisons between the free time he has v.s. what you have—you are jealous of your boyfriend’s lifestyle, an emotion that gets restimulated several times a year. Obviously, if you’re not careful, your frustration could turn into resentment, which is toxic to any relationship.

You have been in relationship for five years now. At this point, what you see is what you get. He’s probably not going to change much. It’s hard to imagine you all of a sudden being able to increase your vacation time from work … are you expecting him to read your mind and step up with an offer of commitment and support? Men are not very good at this. If he hasn’t brought it up by now, there could be lots of reasons (including plain old inertia). It is up to you to come right out and ask for what you want. And try to do it without making it an ultimatum (at least the first time :-).

We cannot change the past or other people. Two things you CAN change are your point of view and attitude. Ask yourself: If your boyfriend does not feel, for whatever reason, that he can give you the necessary financial support for more shared leisure time and a commitment to some future security together, can you find a way to be content with some imbalance and focus on the half full glass? Can you enjoy all the good things that you have in the relationship and stop comparing its imperfect reality with some ideal or dream? After all, nothing in life is ever perfectly balanced.

Synchronicity or wishful thinking?

Dear Paulo,
I am wondering if you can give me any insights to the meaning of ‘synchronicity.’ I recently met someone who is unavailable that I have developed a deep connection to. I have never experienced this level of connection to someone I barely know. I have had many synchronistic events occur to me that seem to make me unable to clear this person from my mind. His initials show up everywhere, as well as his age, birth date, name, the town he lives in, songs — you name it — I’ve experienced it. These occurrences have happened almost daily over many months. Any insights you may have will be appreciated. Thank you.

– Beth
North Plainfield NJ (Age range: 40-49)

Either this is what they mean when they talk about life being magic, or you are obsessed with an unobtainable object of desire (you did say he is “unavailable”, right)? You will find out which it is soon enough. In the meantime, let me applaud you for noting all the synchronicities … what fun! In this case, they are being noticed because of a particular love interest, but the experience is also a reminder that synchronicities, or ‘meaningful coincidences,’ are happening in all parts of our lives, every day, usually overlooked. Perhaps the everyday variety are more casual, but these are the “signs and omens” referred to in scriptures (and one can only wonder how much of what they saw back then was attributable to wishful thinking! :-).

“Synchronicity” means that all things are interconnected — not only in space, but in time. As we view a person’s birth chart/horoscope wheel in astrology, for instance, we are reading a map of a moment in time. Everything in any given situation is related to everything else in that situation in terms of timing (i.e. dancing), as well as substance. Using divination systems like Tarot or the I Ching (my favorite), the timing is right now and the reading offers advice that is jumping out of of the substance of timeless wisdom.

Why not add some “applied synchronicity” in the form of an I Ching reading or two? An authentic I Ching or Tarot reading is reflective of whatever you are focused on when you cast the coins or shuffle the cards (or if you use the energetically-authentic techniques on Tarot.com). The best thing about the activation of the Synchronicity Principle via an interactive divination experience is that we should get some rather specific advice — a good idea whether to make some move, stay still and do nothing for a while, or take a strategic retreat from whatever situation we are referring to.

It’s great fun that you are getting so many signals from the universe about this guy, but I think you know not to read too much into what might be a lot of projections reflecting your attraction and desires, after all. (Have you ever bought a new car and then start seeing signs of them all over?) In any case, this is a good opportunity to learn something important about yourself, or get to know someone who could play a role in your life, even if indirectly.

Cast the I Ching. I’ll bet it will nudge you to try to get to know him without overloading the process with too many expectations (i.e. wishful thinking). Here’s wishing you a fun educational adventure!

Why can’t I just fly away?

Dear Paulo, I’ve been thinking about quitting my job, leaving my boyfriend, and running off to France or elsewhere. My French isn’t fluent, so I don’t know if I can get a job. I was thinking of maybe going to Fiji and studying French there. But I’m also signed up for a class in the fall I want to take, and our lease is up in a couple months, but we could go month-to-month then. Or my friend’s goddaughter might be interested in sharing an apartment, but if I’m leaving the country or even this city, should I really do that? And should I give up a secure job to go off without a plan?

– Suzanne, NYC (age: 40-49)

So many things you are willing to leave, my goodness! I wonder what’s troubling you? I mean, life can be hard, but you have a job, a primary relationship, evidently a decent place to live, some sense of community — and you want to chuck it all to move to a country where you don’t know anyone, do not speak the language, have no prospects??? It’s a romantic notion, but what’s going on here?

Of course, your dream could be a wonderful adventure — for a French major in her 20’s who wants to bum around France for a while (and until her folks send her enough money to come back home). But that’s not you … you are in your 40’s, evidently need to work, and you don’t know the language in a country with high unemployment and a finicky attitude about the pronunciation of its language. (Btw, they don’t speak french in Fiji … that’s Tahiti 🙂

The adventure of leaping into the unknown can be wonderful, but I sense that something more is going on here. Whatever it is inside you that is making you want to split, it’s better to bring it into the light and deal with it rather than flee in any direction its shadow may be pointing. You can do it … and it’s a worthwhile adventure of another sort!

Running away from problems — like taking a drug for temporary pain relief — only burdens you with greater pains to deal with in the not-so-long run (aka the “hang-over effect.”) Suzanne, you are vulnerable to digging a serious hole for yourself here, if you are not careful. Consult the I Ching … also, with someone wise who you feel you can trust, and tell her everything, before you make any huge leaps, OK?