Q. I’m a woman at an age (27) where everyone in my life is pushing 30, and the news of babies, houses, and marriages is everywhere I look. I’m not looking for the same things, although I do want to have a healthy and loving relationship. I’ve been single for four years. I just haven’t found many I connect with. I stopped dating about a year ago.
This lack of connection and overall loneliness led me to accept an ex back into my life from a few years ago. He left me for someone else and tried to hide it. He came around in the past six months to make amends, at the direction of his therapist. He said he would “do anything to have me in his life.” He mentioned thinking about me every day for the past few years and “believes” I’m the love of his life. In spite of the way I was treated by him, the intimacy and connection was something I’ve been missing. I’m self-aware enough to know this wasn’t healthy for me. I found myself ignoring my better judgment. I took the validation I felt from his groveling too far.
I still loved him, but I knew ultimately that this would never amount to what I want and deserve. He continued a relationship with his partner. Maybe they never broke up and he lied. He tried to make excuses and continue contact with me. I finally had enough, cut-off all contact, blocked him, etc. I let his partner know that we’d been speaking every day and saw each other intimately over the last six months. That was two months ago, and today a mutual friend of ours told me they are engaged. I feel guilt for being jealous that this person is loved by someone, while I’m still struggling in my life. Any advice on setting better boundaries when I know I deserve more? When I’m lonely and surrounded by couples? What can I do to start welcoming in the things I’m really looking for?
A. You mention that you haven’t connected with many people. That is difficult and can make things lonely. (I just want to validate those feelings.)
Here’s the thing — this choice you made with your ex ... it was one bad move that taught you a great lesson. You wanted company from someone who made you feel good long ago, and now you know it leads to what you expected — feeling worse. The experience doesn’t mean you always do the wrong thing or have a pattern of accepting less than you deserve. Even now you’re telling me you don’t want to do that again. A bad experience can be a one-off. Let’s call it that.
And the jealousy? Normal. But you know better. That is not the kind of relationship you want.
I would recommend finding some 27-year-olds (or anyone, really) whose lives don’t orbit weddings and babies right now. There’s nothing wrong with your friends celebrating their own milestones — and I know you can be happy for them — but it would be nice to be around some people who are looking to fill time on a random Friday. Your set of friends might grow during this time because, trust me, there are plenty of 30-year-olds who are right where you are and looking for good company. It helps to have more people in your life, not only for social stuff but to remind yourself that everyone is doing their own thing. There are so many paths to consider. Also, new friends might know some people with whom you could connect romantically.
Young professionals groups, MeetUp events ... if you’re in Boston or other cities, there’s Skip the Small Talk. Grow you life.
Trust me, at 27 I was still calling an ex or two, still focused on friendships and work, still years away from applying self-awareness to every decision. I had good company, which was nice. That made it easier to figure out what I wanted (or wanted to avoid) in my romantic life. It made everything more fun, for sure.
“I let his partner know that we’d ... [seen] each other intimately over the last six months ... and today a mutual friend of ours told me they are engaged.” She forgave him. Now she has him. Don’t you feel like you dodged a bullet? Or are you going to romanticize this guy ad nauseum?
Honestly, there’s nothing to be jealous of. He’s no catch.
I’m in my (very) late 40s, and I have a daughter your age. Both she and many of her friends are not “coupled up,” married, or have children, and don’t appear to be stressing about it because they live full and satisfying lives surrounding their work, social lives, etc. She/they also have friends that DO have kids, are married, etc. I’m not sure what anyone else’s life has to do with YOU. If you’re lonely for companionship, start dating again. But ... it seems you are missing fulfillment in other areas of your life, and spending way too much time comparing against some social media ideal vs. just being happy. Throwing down the therapy card. If you think you deserve better, go find it, and start by getting off social media and out into the actual world.
“I let his partner know that we’d been speaking every day and saw each other intimately over the last six months.” Never do this again. As you can see, it didn’t result in what you thought it might and now that they are engaged, it’s bothering you more than it should. If anything, this should help you to see that you are right to wait for what you want. You say you aren’t looking for the same things as your married friends, but you still compare yourself to them and that only serves to magnify your sense of loneliness. You need to focus on your happiness as a single person and not tie it completely to being in a relationship.
In a couple of years all of your married friends with kids will be jealous of your freedom. I recommend travel.
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