Boyfriend or Friend?
My girlfriend of almost a year broke up with me about six months ago. We’ve seen each other occasionally, and we talk every once in a while. She has a new bf and lately she has been telling me that she wants us to be friends. I’m not sure about this. I still have feelings for her, and I’m still attracted to her, although neither my feelings nor my attraction are as strong as they once were. I do want to keep in touch with her and want her to be part of my life, but I’m kind of afraid that I won’t get over her if we are spending time together as friends.
You know what Bridget Jones says about the idea of being friends—it’s a “fraudulent, poisoned concept.” Maybe it’s not quite as bad as all that, but you do need to be cautious. What would the friendship look like? Sometimes, when I go out with my friends, one of them brings along the person she’s/he’s dating. Would you want to spend time with your ex and her new bf? Sometimes I go out to dinner with a friend one-on-one. Would you be able to do that with your ex without feeling like it’s a date/wishing it were a date/feeling sad because it’s not a date/trying to turn it into a date?
I also think you’re right to consider how seeing her will impact your ability to move on. If you want to guarantee that you’ll be distracted and blinded to potential new relationships, keep one foot in this one.
I suggest telling her you care about her and wish her the best, but you’re not ready to be friends right now. Then, live your life. I advise a clean, complete break. No texts, calls, coffees or dinners to catch up. You need some time to let your feelings change a little without her in close proximity. When you arrive at the point where you aren’t thinking about her like a girlfriend, when you truly want to see her, but aren’t kind of hoping she’ll try to kiss you, then proceed with the friendship. In my experience, that can take some time, so don’t rush it.
Work and Play
I feel like there are so many things I want to do, and there is never enough time. I've even considered moving closer to work to reduce my hour commute, but I'd have to pay three or four times what I do now for rent, and I think I know what you'd say about that. Plenty of sleep and exercise are important to me, and my job frequently requires long hours. Any tips?
That is the dilemma so many people face, and I applaud you for identifying it. Our culture applauds busy-ness and sometimes people humble-brag about their long hours, as if those long hours are a) inevitable and b) a badge of honor. The problem is that long hours in and of themselves don’t confer any real joy, and, as you’ve pointed out, they sap your time and energy for other pursuits.
Earning money is important, and giving your employer his money’s worth from you is fair. But life is for enjoying; the aim is to work to live, not the other way around. I’m in agreement with you: Your job is not worth sacrificing your sleep, health, happiness, and quality of life over.
If you have an hour-long commute, I think you’re going to have to make one or two big changes to get the results you want. Moving might be one of those changes. You’re right that I don’t want you to quadruple your expenses, but make sure you’re looking at the whole picture. If you moved, would you save some money on transportation that might offset your increased rent? It’s also fair to include your time in this calculation: Determine your hourly wage and recognize that you would be saving the cost of two hours commuting. Don’t take on a rent that’s greater than you can afford, but be ruthless, tenacious and creative in figuring out how to reduce your expenses.
Finding a new job that is higher-paying or closer to home is another possibility. Or, you might find out if you can work from home once or twice a week. Or five times a week. That would free up a lot of your time and energy.
In the realm of smaller changes, you can try to change part of your commute into leisure (or at least leisurely) time. Can you walk or bike part of the way?
You’re asking a bigger question though: Am I spending my hours (and consequently, my life) doing things I want to do? Do you want to commute two hours each day? Gretchen Rubin says, “The years are short, but the days are long,” and she’s right. Similarly, how you spend your days is how you spend your years and how you spend your life. Your Money or Your Life talks a lot about evaluating what aspects of your life really bring you value and enjoyment. It’s worth a read when you’re thinking about the life you want to build. Don’t give up on the idea of having the life you want. It can be difficult to figure out at first, but it’s well worth it.
Going to the Chapel
I have what feels like a ridiculous problem, even to me as I type this. I’m being invited to too many weddings. Right now, there are invitations for four weddings sitting on my counter. They all take place over the next two months. They’re all for people I like and want to celebrate with, but it’s too much! Some of them will be so expensive between travel, gifts and sometimes shower gifts, and the sum of all of them will definitely be a lot of money. They also fill up a lot of weekends, and I’m starting to dread going to so many. But a wedding is such a big important event! How can I get through these?
First, clear off your counters. Clear off the invitations and whatever else is piled there. You’re never going to get any peace of mind about this if you have to look at those invitations every time you walk by.
Now that you’ve removed the physical clutter, clear out the mental clutter. Line up those four wedding invitations and decide which ones you want to go to, which ones you’re truly looking forward to, not the ones you think you have to go to, not the ones that you can’t imagine saying no to—the ones you are sincerely excited about.
I’m expecting that there’s at least one among those four that you don’t really want to attend. Maybe it’s all four. Whichever and however many those are, mark the “declines with regret” option on those RSVPs. Right now. In pen. Now write a short note on the back of the card that says, “I’m so happy for you both, and I’m so disappointed that I won’t be able to be at your wedding.” Then put them in the mail and be done with them. If anyone ever asks you about your non-attendance, tell them you had a conflict that weekend. Which you did—with your finances, your need for relaxation and maybe just with your desire to do something else. Those are all conflicts.
Weddings and marriages can be exciting, happy, celebratory times. But weddings, in their current incarnation, can also be burdensome—burdensome in some ways for the people putting them on and in other ways for the people attending them. This doesn’t mean weddings are bad; this doesn’t mean you shouldn’t attend them; this doesn’t mean no one has fun at weddings. It just means that they’re more complicated than the cultural script surrounding weddings will acknowledge (and you know who writes that script: the wedding-industrial complex). I’m saying this to alleviate any guilt you feel about not being 100 percent overjoyed to be invited to these events.