Thursday, September 3, 2009

Reckless Driving

She still has perfect skin--she's a woman young enough to be raised with the discipline of SPF 30, yet old enough to realize the leatherizing effects of tanning beds. Her figure's not burdened with a middle-aged middle, yet rounded in the places that catch a mature man's eyes. She's educated and engaging and everything, at least to an outside observer, that might be what it takes to attract men.

The question isn't why she might have this guy's attention, but should she be getting serious about him already?

"My divorce was just final six months ago," she confides, "and I've been dating this guy for the last three. Do you think I'm ready for a serious relationship?"

I gather my best Ann Landers wisdom and contemplate this. "Do you feel ready?" (Effective, yes? This therapist strategy of throwing the question back at the patient?)

She sighs. "I'm definitely over my ex, and this guy seems really great. I know it seems soon, but he's already mentioned marriage. And I think he's just what I need."

OW. I feel the blood trickling down my chin as I bite my tongue, fighting from shouting the words that so want to come to my lips: "NO, RUN! RUN NOW!"

But instead, I simply and calmly nod. "Of course that's appealing. And comforting, right now. But maybe," I tell my thirtyish friend who's dated little since her divorce and only had one other "serious" relationship before she married her college sweetheart, "maybe it is just a bit too soon."

The "need" word clinched it for me.

Being open to a New and Improved Relationship after a failed one is probably healthy. I'm not knocking companionship, and I have nothing--not a thing--against great sex. But my experience with many divorced friends and relatives is that too many confuse normal desire with need. And "need" demands urgency.

The result is that women who've never before had--or haven't given themselves the opportunity to redevelop--a sense of independence, are sucked into a new and ultimately unhealthy relationship.

I call it the Air Bag Relationship.

It's the relationship they think will save them when their life has crashed around them. The one they feel will cushion and rescue them from needless trauma and suffering.

Air bags are designed to save lives, but you can't fully count on them. If you put all your faith in an air bag, yet drive recklessly and at too fast a speed, it may do no good at all.

In come cases, with all its power, it suffocates you.

Needy women who haven't taken the time--or haven't worked to muster the strength--to be on their own after a painful split-up, are too often crushed by Air Bag Relationships. Dependent relationships, to which they are drawn due to need and insecurity, frequently do more damage than good.

Some women subconsciously embrace dependency. For others, simply putting all their hopes and confidence into being rescued, even while they drive recklessly and too fast, ultimately ends tragically anyway.

I hope, as I watch my young friend walk away, that she's intelligent and intuitive and independent enough to clearly see the road ahead of her.

And that she's one hell of a driver.

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