Carolyn Hax: Did ‘world’s greatest aunt’ give up on love too soon?


Dear Carolyn: Long ago, I wanted a family — husband and children. My marriage ended in divorce 20 years ago, and fate said “no” about children. It hurt like crazy for a while, but then my niece was born and I “got over it.” I just made a choice that I didn’t want to be sad. So I took what life did give me and made it the best life I could have.

And it worked. I’m now the world’s greatest aunt to two nieces, a nephew, and one niece-in-law who all live close by. I have strong relationships with my brother and his family, and even with his wife’s family — I was part of the package when she married my brother (ha!). I have a great career, own a nice home, self-sufficient, etc. I have good friends, frequently host social gatherings, and have many hobbies. I can confidently say 99 percent of the time I feel completely satisfied and content with my life, and never lonely.

Before I got to this, however, I had other relationships that ended with me picking up the pieces of my broken heart. Once it was also a broken bank account, another I had to get a restraining order. After those situations, part of my “best life” plan was basically to take relationships off that table for a while — obviously I needed to work on something to make better choices.

That “break” turned into a lifestyle. I just didn’t want to risk my peace with it anymore.

Even though everyone I know thinks one day I’m “going to find the right guy,” I don’t know if I would ever take the chance. I have zero tolerance for anything that makes me the slightest bit uncomfortable. My life is my sanctuary now.

A few close friends think I have an unhealthy fear about love and need to be open to meeting someone. They are always trying to introduce me to people, and it’s always a very firm NO WAY! from me! I think I’m happy and don’t need anything else … but there’s that other 1 percent of the time, I wonder sometimes if I’m punishing myself for those bad choices. What do you think? Should I trust my feelings of contentment, or am I lying to myself out of fear?

Happy?: I have so many questions.

If fake happiness is that hard to distinguish from real happiness, then why bother?

Why do these friends want a relationship for you more than you do?

What is it about being single that becomes a mission for those who aren’t?

When someone says she’s happy, what kind of friend corrects her?

If your 99 percent is accurate, then make that unusually happy, in a society that recently was urged en masse to get some help.

I don’t think you’re lying to yourself or working so so hard to talk up your own happiness that you’re scaring your friends.

But even if you are, I won’t tell you that or advise you to fix it, because that’s not the answer. A blind-date vending machine isn’t the answer, either.

It’s for you to figure out for yourself that something isn’t working and make the changes you see fit.

We both know you can do this because you’ve already done this: When several relationships went awry, you saw the problem and dealt with it.

So trust yourself to judge not only your own happiness, but also unhappiness. You’ll know when it’s time to act. Meanwhile, seeing your life as a “sanctuary” gives you the patience and strength to add people only when they’re good for you (vs. good for your friends).

Tell yourself this, tell your friends this, then tell the squirrels in your yard this so your friends will have more interesting reasons to worry about you.

Hi CH: I canceled out on a get-together the night before. The hostess was deeply hurt, and another friend was furious at me for hurting Friend 1. She lambasted me in a text that day. I did NOT want to hurt my friend but saw no alternative.

I am still angry at Friend 2. She hurt me deeply and on purpose. But was she correct to stand up for Friend 1?

Anonymous: She’s certainly entitled to her opinion.

But I wonder why 2 felt she needed to speak for 1 — seems either infantilizing, if 2 felt 1 couldn’t speak adequately for herself, or presumptuous, if 2 felt the response wouldn’t be adequate without her input.

I also wonder why, when you “saw no alternative,” your friends didn’t either ask you why you bailed (if they didn’t know) or respect your reasons for bailing (if they did know). Etiquette does allow for a guest to cancel last minute, disappointing and inconveniencing the host; it just needs to be for something worse, not better. Contagion, calamity, incarceration — but never a sexier social offer.

So why didn’t they agree your canceling was unavoidable? Therein lies the answer to who isn’t behaving like a friend.

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