Adapted from a recent online discussion.
Dear Carolyn: My friends and I are at a loss for how to help our good friend chill the hell out about finding a partner.
It occupies an inordinate amount of her considerable brain space, and it shows.
She’s had two short but serious relationships in the 10 years I’ve known her and they’ve both been with mean man-babies. But she has had thousands of micro-relationships in her head with any guy who enters her orbit. There are new prospects every week, and she checks what little she knows about them against her spreadsheet of desired qualities in a guy.
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When she isn’t rejecting guys who might take longer to show themselves, she’s alienating others with her cloud of desperation.
Her roommate, along with my husband (who, as her primary co-worker, bears the brunt of her stress about this issue) and I, have each taken our turn at bat, gently or not-so-gently encouraging her to stop seeing men as matrices of data and projecting marriage and kids onto them before the first date’s even done. Sometimes she seems receptive to advice, but more often she just has an answer for everything and gets really defensive. This is a very serious endeavor for her, a code she needs to crack, and she doesn’t know how to let go.
Have I mentioned that she is beautiful, smart, driven, delightful, kind and a pure ray of sunshine to everyone she meets outside of a dating context?
No one has gone so far as to say, “You’re desperate, and it shows, and it’s hurting you.”
Vortex of Desperation
I hope the moment presents itself for one of you to go exactly that far and just say it, in a loving way. The moment I have in mind is when she is seeking and plainly receptive to a hard truth, and counting on a friend, one on one, to speak it.
Short of that, though, I urge you (all of you, if I have the others’ attention too) to stop giving advice and stop hoping she’ll calm down and stop just being part of her terrible self-destructive drama. Giving advice fuels it, validates it even, as does responding to details of the latest person in her sights. It’s all attention and therefore an emotional and social reward for her behavior.
Change the subject where you can, say something general when asked to respond — “I don’t know, I guess it has to run its course” — and stay faithful to the cause of not getting sucked in.
It might seem like you’re turning your back on her, but you’re not; you’re there for her as you’ve always been. What you aren’t doing anymore is treating her micro-relationships and matrices as legitimate topics of advice and conversation.
It’s “chill the hell out” via actions, not words.
Email Carolyn at email@example.com, follow her on Facebook at facebook.com/carolyn.hax or chat with her online at 10 a.m. each Friday at washingtonpost.com.