Starting Over…

I often read your column for the laughs, but noticed that you also help people with more serious matters and I think you might be able to help me.

My situation is that I am in my late forties, a lifelong lesbian, and recently ended the relationship with my partner of nearly fifteen years.

While I have good women in my life and a lovely community, the issue that becomes clear to me is that most of these women, and most of this community, all know me as part of a couple, so that nearly every interaction I have now still relates to the break-up, or the relationship, in one way or another.

We are doing well, my former partner and I, in our strategies for dealing with people inquiring and such, but I find that I am exhausted more often than not and just want a fresh start.

I am starting to realize that the ending of this relationship actually feels a bit like needing to start over, not just about my partner but life on the whole.

I am certainly used to going about life with her by my side, and am finding that I long for space where I can simply figure out who I am again without her, and where I don’t always have to talk about the relationship.

I do know that the women friends I have are not trying to be a bother, but I do tire easily of this and just want some solitude from it.

I don’t know how this need for space and time might shift in the future, but I would like to have a few suggestions for now. I would like to develop a social life that feels invigorating.

Auntie GG replies…

Wanting a social life and a social circle that feel invigorating and new after a major break-up makes major sense – and all the more so when considering the dissolution of a relationship that lasted well over a decade.

And though you and your former partner both sound well-adjusted enough around the break-up (congrats, most sincerely), the ending of a long-term relationship turns out to not just be about the people involved in the relationship, but all those around them:

The friends, family, co-workers and even casual acquaintances who were also quite adjusted (and perhaps invested) in the idea of these two people as a merged unit.

In this way, the two of you are not just ending the relationship as romantic partners to each other, but you are also changing the social and emotional basis upon which you have each interacted for fifteen years – and other people have a hard time letting go of your relationship, as well.

One layer of this is quite simple:

People are used to interacting with you, thinking of you and loving you as a part of a couple, as a part of a two-some. They are used to considering you and your partner and this is a shift that can be difficult to make, initially.

But underneath this layer is the true grit, as it were:

You will find that some well-meaning friends may be invested in the two of you as role models, or believe that you should give it another shot, or try to process out why the two of you didn’t last forever with you as a sounding board, or, frankly, they may just not recall how to treat you as a single person, or perhaps they only ever knew you as a couple.


Not exactly, but there you have it.

There are a few things that you can do, however, to combat this unspoken insistence that you must always talk about your now-ended relationship:

  1. Set your limits.Consider cutting a conversation short with people whom you don’t know well, or say directly that you don’t really feel like getting to it all, but how are they doing?
    People do generally love to go on about themselves.
  2. Explain yourself.For those whom you do know well and with whom you already have a deeper familiarity, consider giving them more context and highlight some of your feelings – that you feel like you would like to start moving forward, and express that you would prefer to talk about the present with them, or elements of your shared histories that do not revolve around your former partner.You can also assure your trusted mates that you value their long-term friendships, but that you need to be the one to bring up the relationship when you want to visit the topic – at least for a little while.
  3. Go ahead, make a fresh start.Getting to know new women and new elements of the community will do wonders for you as a newly single person. By surrounding yourself with a few new social activities and friendships, you will begin to have the room to explore your life without the ever-present shadow of your former relationship.

All the best of luck to you.

Stretch out and enjoy the new territory and we’ll stay tuned for your next adventures.

Love always,

Auntie GG

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