EVER THE FRIEND AND NOT THE PARTNER

Hi Ella and Susan

I read the "Alone, on a Wide, Wide Sea" entry in your surgery and it really hit a chord. Like Ms/Mr Clingy Hugs, I have been single for a very long time and, repeatedly, have had his/her experience of unreciprocated feelings. The objects of my affections reciprocate my adoration and an intense bond is formed; but it never moves on to anything romantic. Inevitably we become very close friends, and I am forced to live with my feelings under wraps for fear of losing the now dear friend. I have repeated this pattern at least 4 times in my adult life (I am repeating it now, as we speak). Matters are complicated by the fact that I am a gay woman (or possibly a result of?).

This repeated experience has obviously been absolutely devastating for my self-esteem (am I just a troll?), but also every time it happens years of my life are sucked into a relational black hole that can only end in heartache, and the loss of a good friend.

I guess what I'm trying to fathom is, why does everyone want to be my bestest, most closest friend, but no one wants to be my partner? I am absolutely going to read Animals, but if you have any other suggestions, I
 would be enormously grateful.

N.

Ps I have no hang ups about being alone, per say; in fact sometimes I think I've become too independent.
Dear N,

We sympathise with your situation – repeated blows to one’s self-esteem are never easy to bear! And yet at the same time: how wonderful that you have such an ability to attract and form intense and, initially at least, rewarding relationships with others! Your ability to do this is not to be sniffed at, and we would like to give you a gentle dig in the ribs in case you have failed to notice what a talent for this you have.

The thing that’s missing, it seems, is an instinct – and knowledge of how – to protect your loving, vulnerable self from the hurt that comes when your feelings are not reciprocated in the way you'd like them to be. We don't want to encourage you not to love – because loving is always a wonderful skill. But perhaps it is time to learn when to draw back a little until you are sure it is safe.

To learn that art, we suggest you read a novel in which it’s completely obvious to everyone but the main character that she should step away from the love object to which she has attached herself – namely, The Marriage Plot by the ever-enjoyable Jeffrey Eugenides. When Madeleine falls for Leonard at university – big, rugged, literary, dry – only to discover that he suffers from serious depression, the reader intuits that she should probably put on the breaks. But she is no mood for that; and the pain of watching her find out the hard way that Leonard's depression will ultimately only ever cause her suffering may prod your own dormant survival instinct into being. Feel for yourself the protectiveness and need to look after Number One that you feel for Madeleine. You never know, it may provide you with a new aura of mystery and elusiveness which your current best friend may find impossible to resist.

Yours, 
Ella & Suse
We prescribe - The Marriage Plot by Jeffrey Eugenides

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A SLUG WITH VISIONS OF HUMANITYABUSIVE RELATIONSHIP ENDED, LEAVING SCARSADULT ACNEAFRAID OF FAILUREALCOHOLIC DAUGHTERALONE ON A WIDE, WIDE SEAAlways wanted to be a writerANOREXICANXIOUS ABOUT SINGLE FRIENDAT A FORK IN THE ROADAVID READER, LACKING BOOKBEREFT OF A CATBORED IN ALABAMABOTHERED AND BEWILDEREDBRAIN SHRINKING MOMMABROKENBROKEN HEARTBROKEN HEARTED - TORN BETWEEN MALE AND FEMALE BEST FRIENDSBROKEN UP WITH GIRLFRIEND; FEELING BURNT OUTCAN’T MOVE ONCANDIDA REVOLTAIRECan’t afford to go on holidayCAST ASIDECHEATEDCHRONIC PAINCOLD HANDS AND FEETCONCERNED ABOUT DAUGHTERCONFLICTED PARTNERSCRAVING FOOD CULTURECYNICAL STEPSONDAILY ABUSEDARK NIGHT OF THE SOULDEPRESSED AND UNABLE TO READDEPRESSED DURING CHRISTMAS, AND LONELY NOWDESPERATELY WANTON GIRLDIRECTIONLESSEASILY BORED WITH NOVELSEMOTIONALLY SABOTAGED BY MY MOTHEREMOTIONS IN EXTREMEEVER THE FRIEND AND NOT THE PARTNEREXTREME ANGER AND FRUSTRATIONFADING AWAYFALLEN OUT WITH MY FRIENDSFALLING IN LOVE WAY TOO FASTFAZED AND CONFLICTEDFEAR OF CONFRONTATIONFEAR OF GETTING OLDFERTILITY PROBLEMSFOMO (FEAR OF MISSING OUT)FORGING A BRIGHT NEW FUTUREFRIEND WHO HAS LOST A CHILD LATE IN PREGNANCYFRIENDS DAUGHTER LOST TO SUICIDEFrightened of lifeGAPING HOLEGetting over a break-upGIRL OF UNCERTAINTY, BOUND BY RULESGIRL WHO DOESN’T FIT INGRIPPED BY LOSSGUILTY FRIENDHOPELESSNESSHOUSE AND LIBRARY DESTROYED BY FIREI love music more than booksI no longer commute – and therefore I no longer readI PEEK AT THE END OF NOVELS BECAUSE I WORRY THE CHARACTER MIGHT NOT MAKE ITI wish I were famousIN MOURNING OVER LITERARY DEATHSINABILITY TO SIT STILL AND ANXIETYINCONSISTENT AND NON-STUDIOUS- BUT AMBITIOUS NONETHELESSINDECISIVEINSECUREINTERESTED IN EVERYTHING BUT ACHIEVING NOTHINGINVISIBLE WOMANITALIAN NOVEL CURESJILTED AND UNSUREJOB IN LIBRARY UNDER THREATKICKED IN THE HEADLEADENLIVING ON THE MARGINSLONE RANGERLONELY AND DEJECTEDLONELY IN LOVELONELY IN MONOTONOUS JOB, LOSING SANITYLOOKING FOR A SENSE OF PURPOSELOOKING FORWARDSLOSS OF A SISTERLOSTLOW WATTAGELOW-ENERGY PESSIMISMMAD SCIENTISTMARRIED TO A MAN, ATTRACTED TO WOMENMISSED THE BOATMISSING MY MOTHER-IN-LAWMUM GOING BACK TO WORKNEED TO LET GONEW CITY, NEW LIFE -BOOKS FOR 12 YEAR OLD BOY?NEW FRIENDSHIP WITH HOLOCAUST SURVIVORNIGHTMARISH COLLEAGUENOMADIC FLANEURPOST NATAL DEPRESSIONPREGNANT AND ALONE