Dear Thelma,

I met J at a conference last year. We didn’t talk then but we contacted each other through Facebook and became close friends within a week. I started having feelings for J but she said it was strictly a platonic relationship for her.

Then I got into a relationship with another girl and J seemed disturbed by that, so I left that girl for J. After some months, J confessed that she had feelings for me but wanted to complete a major exam first.

One day, we had an argument. After that, J was tweeting about a guy. When I asked her about the guy, she said there was nothing between them.

Soon I got to know that the two of them were getting close. J confessed that she really liked this guy and I was stunned.

I didn’t talk to her for a month. Then J came back to me and said we could remain as friends.

I tried, but I find it hard to see J as just a friend. I bought her a present for her birthday, and after that she slowly avoided me.

J lives in another state. Both that guy and I are younger than her. J just left me as though there was nothing between us. I had thought J was a mature young lady who is loyal, loving, caring and honest. Obviously I was wrong. I was shattered when J left me.

Now I am scared to get into another relationship. I know I should get over J but if I did so soon, that wouldn’t be love, right? So what should I do? – Heartbroken

Dear Heartbroken,

Love is not measured by the time it takes for you to move on to another relationship. As a matter of fact, one wonders if it is possible to measure love at all. How do you put a value on love? Doing so, ironically, only serves to cheapen it.

Poets, writers and philosophers have all tried to define love. Each one has their own definition, it seems. What becomes clear from this is that love is something each of us experience differently. Every experience of love is also different. Not all of love is sunshine and singing birds. Yet, not all love is heartache, drama and pain.

This should, perhaps, help answer your question. Only you know what you felt and experienced. If you say it is love, then that is what it is. You don’t need any other qualifier to know that it is love.

It is understandable that you are scared to get into another relationship. When people say this, what they mean is that they are afraid of facing heartbreak and pain. That, too, seems ironic because these are inevitable when in a relationship. This does not mean that love is or has to be painful. It just means that like life, love is hard. Oftentimes, we have to adjust our expectations.

Whether one realises it or not, popular fiction – be it movies, novels, fairy tales, folklore, cultural and religious stories – have influenced what we have come to expect of love, relationships, and life partners. And then, we get into a relationship and find that fact is very far from fiction. Unless steps are taken to challenge our fantasies, disappointment is inevitable.

You have to really think about what you want in a relationship. This will probably be an ongoing process. You will have to take off those rose-tinted glasses that you view life and love with, and start looking at relationships from a realistic point of view. Define love from your perspective and not from a cliched romantic comedy.

Know what it is that you want. Look at the relationships around you – your parents, your friends – and see what it is that keeps people together. What drives people apart? Learn from these. Use these to know what it is that you don’t want. Oftentimes, this is easier to do than try to know what you want.

Understand that the cornerstone of a successful relationship is trust and respect. If you do not have this in a relationship, then it is not worth pursuing.

Accept that people are humans who are flawed beings. There is nothing wrong with flaws. There is no such thing as a perfect person. There may not even be a person who is perfect for you. There is just the person whom you love and you want to be with, as well as build a future with.

What is clear is that J is probably not the person for you. Perhaps she was not ready for a relationship with you. She may even be a little confused. Put the relationship with J behind you. Learn from the experience, though. Don’t let this one bad experience make you shun love. Don’t form some nasty stereotypes of women from this experience.

Just know that everyone is different. One has to be open to love in order to truly experience and enjoy it. Love is powerful. That power can be intimidating and frightening to some. Perhaps J is one of these people.

You will need time to mourn what happened to you and to let the pain go away. And, for each person, the time it takes differs. It has more to do with how resilient people are, rather than how strong their love was. – Thelma

Is something bothering you? Do you need a listening ear or a shoulder to lean on? Thelma is here to help.

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