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Ending an Engagement: Break Slowly or Snap Suddenly?

Promenade by Auguste Macke

Tea:  PG Tips with a splash of milk

Music:  Handel:  Alla Hornpipe, Suite in D Water Music

Dear Erica,

I’ve gotten engaged to my boyfriend of nearly five years, but after just a few short weeks, I’ve decided I can’t go through with it.  How can I end it as nicely as possibly?  Do I tell him I’m having doubts now and then later on break the news gently?  Or do I tell him right away?  I know I will hurt him, and I do care for him, but I also know I’d be miserable if I married him.  What should I do?

Distressed in Denver

Dear Distressed in Denver,

If you are certain you want to end your engagement, I advise you to do it right away.  Unfortunately, breaking off an engagement is never easy, as Helen tells her sister Margaret in Howard’s End.

“Can you break an engagement off slowly?”  Her eyes lit up.  ”What’s an engagement made of, do you suppose?  I think it’s made of some hard stuff, that may snap.  It is different to the other ties of life.  They stretch or bend.  They admit of degree.  They’re different.” Howard’s End by E.M Forster

In Howard’s End, Paul Wilcox and Helen Schlegel enter into a whirlwind engagement that they soon regret.  Once they had broken off their engagment, Paul and Helen never felt the same about each other, the spark of attraction disappeared, and an antipathy developed between their two families.  As I’m sure you are aware, your old relationship will never be the same.  However, as difficult as a broken engagement can be, it is more important to be true to yourself than to remain engaged.  If Helen and Paul had remained engaged, she would have been miserable and would not have lived the life she was meant to live. And as messy and dramatic as that life turned out to be, she was far happier being true to herself.

My only advice is that if you are sure you want to end your engagement, you should do it quickly, decisively, and with as much discretion as possible, i.e., try to keep the gossiping to a minimum.  In Howard’s End, different family members get the wrong end of the stick as letters are exchanged and gossip spreads.  As a sign of respect and affection, you must tell your fiance the news first, and avoid discussing the matter with too many people.  As hurt as he will be by your ending the engagement, he will be mortally wounded if he finds out from someone else that you are having doubts.  I wish I could give you more comforting words of advice, but just remember, that many women have found themselves in the same unfortunate situation as you, and some very remarkable heroines, and they all survived.  And you will too.

Best,

Erica

February 22, 2012   No Comments

The Steamy One Night Affair – Do you or Don’t you?

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Tea: Earl Grey with a splash of Milk

Music: Ralph Vaughan Williams: Fantasia on a Theme

Quote: “The fine flower of their intimacy was to her rather like an orchid, a bulb stuck parasitic on her tree of life, and producing, to her eyes, a rather shabby flower. She was aware only of the physical aversion. It rose up in her from her depths: and she realized how it had been eating her life away.” Lady Chatterley’s Lover by D.H. Lawrence

Question:

If the opportunity for the perfect, steamy, one-time affair came along, and you knew your partner wouldn’t find out, should you (1) take it because life is too short, OR (2) pass?

Best,

Torn in Temecula

My Response:

Dear Torn in Temecula,

As a hypothetical question, it is tricky because you are assuming the impossible, the perfect, steamy, one-time affair. If you are writing to me with this question, it shows that you are not the type to enter into a steamy, one-time affair lightly. Even if your partner won’t find out, you will most likely be overwhelmed with guilt, or develop impractical feelings for this new lover. Your perfect affair will seem not so perfect pretty quickly.

In romance, the imagined is often much better than the realized. Whatever you imagine this steamy, one-time affair to be, it is doubtful that it will be as good in reality as you think. I would only recommend an affair if your marriage or relationship is so unbearable that you are willing to risk losing it. Lady Chatterley’s affair with her gamekeeper would not have occurred if her husband wasn’t such a weak, selfish, and impotent snob. Their marriage was nothing more than “a shabby flower” and she felt nothing but “aversion” for him. In this case, one can understand what would drive her to embark on an affair. Especially when you have the virile and earthy Oliver Mellors residing in the nearby woods! Who can resist a “reckless devil”?

Affairs should always be the last resort. Even if you manage to turn your one time-affair into a stable relationship with your new lover, the guilt and baggage that comes with the affair is likely to haunt you -remember Anna Karenina? My advice is that unless you want your marriage or relationship to end, you should devote your energies to reminding yourself why you fell in love with your husband or lover to begin with. Unless your husband or lover is a weak, selfish, impotent snob. And then maybe you are better off with your steamy, one-time affair!

Good luck with your Decision!

Erica

January 11, 2012   4 Comments

Old Fashioned Remedies for the Doldrums

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Tea: Peach Tea
Music: Trouble by Cat Stevens

Quote: “Things worry me sometimes, but I just catch up a broom and sweep, or wash hard, or walk, or go at something with all my might, and I usually find that by the time I get through the worry is gone, or I `ve got courage enough to bear it without grumbling,” answered Polly. An Old Fashioned Girl by Louisa May Alcott

While nearly every young woman has read the classic Little Women, another great work by Louisa May Alcott, An Old Fashioned Girl, is too often overlooked. Polly Milton is the story’s charming heroine, an old fashioned country girl, who wins over her rich relations and the adorable Tom Shaw with her sweetness, humour, and a healthy dose of common-sense (reflected in the quote above). By and large, a great deal of worry and unhappiness is caused by thinking too much of one’s own personal grievances. Polly’s way of dealing with her worries may be old-fashioned (even for her time-and we are talking about the 19th century!), but it is as effective today as it was in Alcott’s sweet story.
Keep in mind, when I say worries, I am not talking about the worry endured by a single mother who doesn’t know how to put food on the table, or the crippled soldier who doesn’t know when he will next see his family. I am talking about myself, and many like me, who are disappointed that they didn’t get into the graduate program of their choice, or that the dream job didn’t materialize, or (and this is the most common cause of the doldrums) that the guy they like isn’t calling. Bastard! For women and girls like myself, whose small petty problems can feel overwhelming, Polly’s old-fashioned advice to go “catch up a broom and sweep, or wash hard, or walk”, coupled with her tendency to help others is an excellent remedy for the doldrums. As my mother says, life is not fair. When I’m feeling sorry for myself, I try to remember how much worse things could be(have you seen how those children live in Slumdog Millionaire?), go for a walk, tidy up the house, anything to keep me from moping.

Before you think Polly is too much of a goody two-shoes to have any relevance for us modern day women, I should make you aware that she displays a healthy antagonism towards her arch-nemesis and rival, Trix, and recklessly splurges on a new pair of gloves and bonnet when she shouldn’t. Who could really like a girl who did not say something bitchy once in a while or spend too much on a new dress? And that brings me to my second remedy for the doldrums. If cleaning the house, exercise or charity work does not drag you out of your moping, put on your sexiest dress, curl your hair, and hit the town. Better yet, put on your sexiest dress and volunteer at the nearby convalescent home. Even in a wheelchair, men do notice! Just making a little bit of effort with your appearance will have an effect on not only those around you, but on your own self-esteem. Never underestimate the power of a little lipstick when you need to rescue yourself from the doldrums.

January 22, 2011   No Comments

Princes & Pomp

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Tea: Mint Medley
Music: Pachelbel-Leppard: Canon

Quote: “Perhaps, after all, romance did not come into one’s life with pomp and blare, like a gay knight riding down; perhaps it crept to one’s side like an old friend through quiet ways; perhaps it revealed itself in seeming prose, until some sudden shaft of illumination flung athwart it’s pages and betrayed the rhythm and the music; perhaps… perhaps… love unfolded naturally out of a beautiful friendship, as a golden-hearted rose slipping from its green sheath. -L.M. Montgomery

or put bluntly,
“True love comes quietly, without banners or flashing lights. If you hear bells, get your ears checked.” Erich Segal

You may not find Lucy Maud Montgomery’s Anne of Green Gables series next to Jane Eyre at the bookstore. In fact, it would most likely be relegated to the teen literature department. But, Anne’s prickly relationship with Gilbert has to be considered one of the best literary love stories, and provides a number of lessons for us modern day women. What true romantic was not intrigued by Anne’s feisty rivalry with Avonlea heartthrob Gilbert Blythe? Their initial bickering evolved into a warm and affectionate friendship that had you rooting for them from the the first time he called her “Carrots”. However, when he professed his love for her, she turned him away because he did not fit her romantic ideal. Dreaming of drama and adventure, she left home to find a romantic hero, only to find everything she wanted could be found in her small hometown and in the friend she had foolishly brushed aside.

As we look for love in the twenty first century, we should do our best to avoid looking for an unrealistic romantic hero outside of our everyday world (a prince on a white horse). Those princes do exist, but are few and far between. If you are not careful, you may miss out on the real love of your life because you are too busy chasing an illusion. Don’t overlook that childhood friend, that roommate, that colleague or old boyfriend who doesn’t fit into the romantic ideal you have foolishly created for yourself.

January 13, 2011   2 Comments