Monday 18 November 2019

Orla Barry: My ex is getting married - why am I still so upset?

Not everyone has the partner they imagined, the perfect family or dream job
Not everyone has the partner they imagined, the perfect family or dream job

Orla Barry

FIVE years ago I was dumped by a man that I thought I was going to marry. We had been together for five years and I had left a job abroad so that we could live together.

I was shocked and devastated when he told me he didn't want to continue the relationship. Looking back, I think he was starting to come under pressure from friends and family to propose and this made him realise that he didn't want to spend his life with me.

I have found it difficult to move on from this. I am now 37. My 29-year-old sister recently announced her engagement and asked me to be her bridesmaid. I love my sister and want her to be happy but I'm not sure if I can do this.

I couldn't help this sinking feeling I got when she announced she was getting married and now the thought of being a bridesmaid again fills with me dread.

I have always wanted to get married and have children and I feel this is slipping past me. My sister is the youngest of four and I never dreamed that she would reach these milestones before I did. I don't resent her but I can't help wondering why I can't have the same.

Part of me thinks she has asked me to be her bridesmaid almost out of pity to distract me from my single life. Just a couple of weeks later I found out that my ex-boyfriend had also gotten engaged.

To say I was devastated sounds dramatic but that's what it feels like. I hadn't honestly been thinking about him, but when I heard he was engaged, it all came flooding back.

It was like he had dumped me all over again. I could barely go into work for the week. I don't know why I feel like this. I have told a couple of friends, one of whom thinks I am still in love with him.

The second believes it's just a phase and I need to find someone to distract me. It's not as if I haven't tried to date over the last few years. I have, but nothing has ever worked out. I just don't know what to do.

Orla replies:

Coming to terms with the fact that life doesn't always work out as you had wished is one of the lessons of getting older. Not everyone has the partner they imagined, the perfect family or dream job.

Very few people do. We all have a far more muddled version of the ideal. Most of us are constantly striving for things to be a little bit better, calmer, happier or less overwhelming.

The more you fret about it, the greater the issue becomes. At this point you are so desperate to move on, that you have likely become obsessed by the notion.

The effect is two-fold – it makes you miserable and it frightens or bores those around you. You need to stop thinking and get pro-active. Who knows what might be around the corner?

Unless your sister is a bit of a sadist, I find it hard to believe she would ask you to be her bridesmaid out of pity. Why ruin your wedding day by asking a person you think is miserable to be at the centre of everything?

Much more likely she wanted you to be the one to share all the intimate details with. In my experience, brides generally ask a woman they feel close to.

If you really don't want the job, say it now and be honest about it. Don't let it drag out. Some people are not bridesmaid material.

Who knows why your ex-boyfriend broke up with you and in reality it doesn't matter. Whether he experienced pressure from family or not, he was convinced that you were no longer right together.

Devastating as this might have been, there must be a part of you that can see that the relationship was no longer right.

You say you weren't thinking about him. It makes me think that your reaction is all about you and not your feelings for him.

If he really was the one you wanted to be with, did you never consider contacting him before this?

A good few people I know have been terribly upset with the news of an ex getting married. Most of the time though, they are thinking about their own circumstances and feeling rejected.

If you still think it could be love, why not arrange to meet for a coffee and chat. You can do so on the pretext of wanting to wish him all the best. Even if it hurts, it might help clarify feelings for both of you.

There is little doubt that one of the best cures for a broken heart is meeting someone new, but finding them can be hard.

At 37 it is harder because your biological clock is also telling you that you should be thinking of starting a family. If by the way you do really want to have children come what may, have you considered looking into options as a single mother?

In the meantime, keep your mind open about meeting people, but try not to let it become the central point of every activity.

If you haven't tried internet dating, there is no harm in giving it a go. After all, it gives you something to chat about later.

Look at other areas of your life you could develop. Consider if there are career or travel options again that you closed off after you returned home.

Meeting the right person for you is wonderful but it is up to you to create your own happiness.

Irish Independent

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