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Do I Stay or Do I Go?

by David Levinson
September 22, 2005
Do I Stay or Do I Go?
In the newly released film, "Junebug," Madelyn, an art gallery owner, meets George during an auction and falls in love. Later, while visiting his very southern, very middle-class family, she's asked if it was love at first sight. Smiling, she not only admits that it was, but that they were wed a week after knowing each other. Dreams and independent movies are made of this sort of overly sweet stuff, random and rare encounters that lead to grand and momentous love affairs. If you're like me and most everyone else on the planet, you put little stock in this kind of happenstance and, though you know it exists and have heard about it-your friends always seem to be meeting someone somewhere all the time-you often shrug it off as impossible or worse, impossible for you.

But then you do meet someone and you do fall in love. He meets your friends, and you meet his. Since both of you are willing, you stop dating casually and enter that exclusive deal known as a commitment. Moving in together doesn't seem as farfetched as it once did. And why not? Around him, you sprout wings and a halo. Around her, you can barely control your fingers and dick. You're in love. You've hit the jackpot, baby. Every cliche you've ever heard about being in love applies and at last you feel like the world's embraced you. You understand what everyone's been talking about and what you've been missing out on for years. You're safe and snug inside the cocoon of a healthy, strong relationship, as strong and healthy as the bed you buy together and christen repeatedly.

After a year, sometimes less, sometimes more, depending upon who you are and who you're dating, the way he clips his toenails begins to irritate you and the way she hums while brushing out her hair nauseates you. Though you still crave each other, your sex life becomes somewhat rote, tapering off from seven times a week to three, mirroring what you know to be true, though are too afraid to say aloud-you're drifting apart. Your conversations, once scintillating, turn stale and foreshortened, more functional than engaging. You worry suddenly you've made a huge mistake, that he isn't the one, that she's completely and utterly wrong in every way.

At this delicate juncture in your relationship, you might seek out couples' therapy, or try your own brand of it through plain, old-fashioned powwows. Either technique is commendable, especially in light of your connection and investment. But take caution: If your relationship has become physically and emotionally abusive, chances are it will stay that way until professional help is sought.

Because we live in such an accelerated, instantly gratifying age, where ad after ad commands us to act fast, sometimes, in our relationships, we overlook the fundamental reasons why we chose the person we did in the first place: Was it her hair? Her vocabulary? Was it his eyes? The way he said your name? We misplace and mishandle these memories, cordoning them off, usually forgetting about them until it's too late. There is always someone better out there, we think. There is always someone more suited to me.

Toward the end of the film, George says of Madelyn: "Yeah, I hope she stays around." It is a touching and surprising moment, not just because we hope this as well, but because George himself wants this more than anything and his wanting resonates long after the lights go up. This is what love is: it's about wanting someone else to stick around and the willingness to help them do just that. Yes, it's hard and it's ugly and it hurts, but whoever said that growth was easy? Whoever said that life was like a movie?

Brian wrote:
April 11, 2006
I met my fiance exactly 1 year to the day that we had the biggest fight of the relationship. Things turned really ugly and I left willingly, against both of our wills. I Love her completely, and I know she loves me too. I want her back very badly, but she is very cautious about restarting a relationship. Is there any advice you can give me that might make things go a little smoother?
April 12, 2006
Hi, Brian. Let me tell you a story. A good friend of mine, Ralph, is married to Sarah, the woman he met in college. He's very much in love with her, but before they got this far‹buying an apartment, having a baby‹they split up for a couple of years. Sarah ended things with him and Ralph tried to move on. But in his heart of hearts, he loved and missed her and the same went for her. He told me that it was strange, very strange, to hear from Sarah again and when they got together for coffee, it was even stranger. They had to start dating again, actually dating, because so much time had gone by.
Ralph was leery of Sarah's advances; he didn't want to get hurt again. Yet, this is what he had to get through‹the fear and risk of getting hurt again‹to be with her.

My advice to you: take things very very slowly with her. You need to build up a pattern of trust again, I imagine. If she misses you half as much as you miss her, if that connection between you is still there, then things will probably work out for the best. You also might want to examine the fight you had that led you to walk out on her. Was it something important or petty? Could you have said what you had to say differently? Just remember:
we are all incredibly fragile when it comes to matters of the heart. And love, it rarely knows about time or time limits. I hate to say that if it is meant to be, it will be, but in the end, sometimes we only have our faith to go on.

Don't push too hard. Be honest, really honest, with your feelings, about her and, more important, about yourself. There's nothing quite like a guy who's willing to change for the better to make his girlfriend happy (and vice versa).

Hope this helps.

Ashley wrote:
October 02, 2005
My fiance spends most late nights on porn sites, which wouldn't normally botherme but its already been 2 weeks since we've made love, he practically never touches me except for a kiss goodbye. Should I be worried?
October 03, 2005

Worry comes in all shapes and sizes, as do people's feelings, especially people who live together and are engaged. Because I don't know the history and the ins and outs of your relationship, I can only speculate here, but from what you've expressed, I'd have to say that your fiance is exhibiting some very strong pre-marital jitters. As is often the case, men have the incredible ability to compartmentalize their emotions, whereas women seem more able and willing to navigate and thus integrate the subtler nuances of romance and love. Many men shut down in the face of confrontation, which often clears the air and leads to greater intimacy. If your preoccupation (i.e. unhappiness) with your fiance's sudden interest in the call of the cyber-sirens, which might or not might be the cause of his sexual distancing, becomes unmanageable, my advice is this: confront him about it.
You need to take back what was yours to begin with: namely, the power you gave him to make you feel lousy. If you can separate (compartmentalize) just a bit, you might be able to win back both your self-esteem and your honey to boot.

Hope this helps.

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"David Levinson is a young writer who has mastered all the elements that make up a classically structured short story: drama, suspense, humor, empathy. There are no fancy pyrotechnics or meta-fictional devices here. He's a neo-traditionalist so the stories are direct, emotional and compulsively readable, plus there's enough mystery and action in them to propel at least a dozen novels."<br>Bret Easton Ellis