Susan Deitz

The last scene of a once-wondrous romance isn't pretty. The pain is something I wouldn't wish on my worst enemy. (I was dumped by the man who helped jump-start my career but did me dirty in the realm of love.) Looking back, I can realize the major role he played in reopening my heart after the dramatic loss of my young husband. But that insight came only after years of self-inquiry. He left our relationship to live with a woman who reminded him of his wife -- the mother of his children, yes, but also the mate he had cheated on massively. Naive me, I learned about his new living arrangement from his business partner, but however the news came, I was a victim of divorce. Premarital it was, not needing legal advice, not officially divorce as it is known. But oh, the pain. The deep quiet ache that doesn't leave, its traces still available years later.

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And if you're hurting even as you read this, you probably don't believe there's a way out of the emotional meltdown we women are particularly susceptible to -- and it's certainly not to stop risking your heart. The solution (the only one I feel good about passing along) is to keep your own spheres of interest, your own friends, your own voice. Put simply, I'm declaring that even when (especially when!) there's a very good person vowing true love forever, holding on to your selfhood is a wise way to make sure your universe doesn't eddy down a giant black hole if/when love ends. (Take a moment to assimilate that gem.) This balance is crucial to the decision not to wrap your entire life around your one and only and to resist the tendency to surrender your very soul in the heat of togetherness. Behind that bit of self-sabotage is the mistaken belief that total surrender of one's identity is the real thing and that anything less isn't.

Wrong. Wrong! A zillion times wrong. Keeping a reserve for yourself is in truth the only way to wholly love another person. Yes, this may take a few more readings, but the wisdom of holding on to your own life when you enter his, ladies, is actually an act of supreme generosity because it eases the pressure on him to be all things to you. Not only that but also it makes you so much more interesting, alluring, mysterious. Oh, and one more thing: You're sexier. If you can't always get up and go with him when he whistles, there's no way he won't desire you more -- not to mention appreciate your company when you are by his side. The biggest plus of this kind of partnering is, of course, the strength it gives when someone you love makes a choice you don't like.