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Dear Dr. Frankie,

It has been about 6 months since my partner of 18 years left me for another woman…twice. Right before she left she admitted to me that she had not been in love with me for the past four years because she was in love with this other woman.  Needless to say my self-esteem took a major hit and I am trying to rebuild my shattered life. Unfortunately, I only have one person I can sort of talk to. She is straight and very religious so obviously she doesn’t understand my feelings at all. My ex was jealous and never wanted me to have friends. I am currently living in SE Tennessee where the gay population is limited especially for a 40 year old. Since I don’t have friends or family here I find it very difficult to move on. Eventually I would like to move near my family, but for now I want to start meeting new friends and maybe date again. I am a shy person and not sure how to achieve this. How do I move on and meet good women? Any advice would be greatly appreciated. Thank you.

Dear Shattered,

Have compassion for yourself.  Healing from the emotional wounds of an 18-year relationship will take time.  Allow yourself to mourn the loss of your relationship and give yourself the space to grieve.  Pain often allows us to grow in ways that are difficult to see when you’re in the thick of the suffering. Think about what activities you enjoy.  Since it sounds like there is a very small or non-existent gay community where you live, don’t limit yourself by trying to find activities exclusively for gays and lesbians.  You will boost your self-esteem by connecting with people who share common interests, regardless of their sexual orientation.  Seek out activities that you can share with an activity partner or group.  People who suffer from social anxiety often perform better when there is a common task at hand.  For example, mingling and sharing small talk at a cocktail party might make your blood pressure skyrocket, but joining a book club or taking dance lessons or volunteering at an animal shelter is a great way to venture out of your shell.  Aside from the social aspect, participating in these types of activities can be healing in their own right. By focusing on yourself and practicing self-care you will increase your self esteem, which will assist you in setting healthy boundaries with the people in your life.  If you feel good about yourself you are much less likely to allow someone in your life who isolates you from your friends and gives you subtle (and perhaps not so subtle) messages that you are inadequate. Identify what you liked about your relationship and would like to experience again.  On the flip side, make sure to identify what you didn’t like and NEVER want to experience again. And keeping on a positive note, don’t let the demise of this relationship taint your outlook on love. Chances are there are many wonderful women out there who are also trying to meet someone like you. If 8 or 12 or 15 of the 18 years were really good than think of your relationship as a positive piece of your life.  Some folks have never experienced real happiness-so stay positive.  Positive thinking attracts positive outcomes.  Best of luck to you.

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