Nothing compares to her

We had a nice chat yesterday.

I have been hung up on someone for what is getting close to a decade. I am "tangled up in blue," as Bob Dylan would say. It isn't that I haven't attempted to move on or am wallowing in my own misfortune; I've had other relationships and have kept an open mind. But my more recent, failed relationships are not the same. I have not been smitten with someone for a long time. I have been attracted to other women physically, but each new relationship I put myself though feels like it's me settling or trying to be open minded to the point where I'm not listening to my needs. I am currently not dating anyone.

You see, the woman (I'll call her X) and I shared many interests, but she also came into my life when I was extremely fragile. My father had died suddenly and I had to move back home to help take care of my newly widowed mother. I was in no position to date anyone, but at the same time was extremely needy. I was smitten for X. I loved X. She cared about me but had her own life plans when I met her. You could say she could have read and handled it better, as opposed to getting intimate with someone as messed up as myself at the time. She did not reciprocate my feelings.

She now lives far away and is married. Since then, I've dated women for extensive amounts of time. I even lived with someone for two years, but I wasn't smitten. Rather, I was purposely dating someone I knew wouldn't hurt me because the pain from heartbreak was almost unbearable. Obviously I broke up with her when I realized how futile this philosophy was. I am now 32, which I understand is still relatively young for relationships. I feel it is possible that I have just built a mythology around X, glorifying her. But I know I found her beautiful, intelligent, and thoughtful. There just aren’t a lot of those types walking around these days. I don't think I'm ever going to find another like X or have those feelings again. You never know who you're going to meet, but I am not nearly the catch I was back then.

Could you please comment on how to cope with accepting lowered life expectations? I can't wait too much longer for Ms. Right to come along because the dating field is shrinking and I feel my options dwindling. Is love just not possible for me? Do I have too much baggage at this point? Lastly, all I want to do is reach out to this girl, but she's married and I have nothing to say to her other than complaints, venting ... there's no point. I have nothing to tell her and frankly she didn't treat me very well.

– Tangled Up in Blue

1. There is no need for lowered expectations. You're looking for someone who excites you, and that shouldn't change. Think about all of the women you haven't met. There are zillions of them.

2. You say you're "not nearly the catch" you were back then, but I hope you're wrong. At 32, you should be a much, much better version of yourself. Years ago, you were inexperienced, put up with bad behavior, and were in the throes of a family tragedy. The present-day version of you is much more equipped to be great at a relationship.

3. You glorify X, but you also know she didn't treat you well. You seem to be confusing drama with sparks, and misery with destiny. The short-term nature of your relationship doesn't help. If you'd lived with her for two years, you'd be a lot less smitten.

4. As you continue to date, please pursue therapy. You're dealing with issues of grief, self-esteem, and obsessive behavior. That's a lot to figure out on your own. A professional can help you see beyond your skewed narrative. It's worth getting help for some perspective.

– Meredith

Readers? Tangled up in X?