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Susan Deitz


Friendship With Benefits DEAR SUSAN: There's something between casual sex and sex between committed partners. I don't know what to call it, but I do know it exists. I read that the French have a term for it: "less than lovers, more than friends." It's certainly possible for …Read more. Never-Married Quiz DEAR READERS: For your reading pleasure, a quiz. As always, this is not to judge yourself with a "right" or "wrong" response. The purpose is to hold up a mirror to yourself and search within for the current truth. Yes, our feelings can change. Our …Read more. Clutter DEAR SUSAN: You write about clutter in our lives, but you include people in that. Isn't that a bit cruel? — From the "Single File" blog DEAR BLOGGER: (Sigh.) There are times in life (especially single life) when you must be "cruel" to be kind …Read more. Prey? DEAR SUSAN: A man recently wrote to you and said he doesn't want to feel like "prey." Of course he doesn't. And clearly, he has no idea what it's like to grow up female. — From the "Single File" blog DEAR BLOGGER: Whew. You blew the braid …Read more.
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DEAR SUSAN: You write a lot about "undependence." Personally, I have trouble grasping this notion. I'd like to meet the person who has achieved this perfect equilibrium between self-awareness and understanding others around them. Granted, it's very appealing, but it isn't a concept that can be achieved in our time here on earth.

That's my two cents' worth. — Gavin H., Long island, N.Y.

DEAR GAVIN: Well, here's mine. Undependence is a state of wholeness that comes from actively using one's inner resources. It is poise, balance and a middle ground between isolation and dependence. You can spot undependent people because they are quite content to be with themselves. They've learned that when you know yourself and like yourself, one is company enough. (Many people rush out of their homes to be with company, almost any sort of company, because they cannot stand to be alone.) Because an undependent person has nurtured an adult relationship with him or herself and is comfortable with who they are, they are not desperate for a bodyguard. They don't equate aloneness with loneliness — but they're not loners; they cultivate a circle of good friends. And they certainly want a love partnership, although they don't live their lives on 24-hour alert. And when they fall in love, it's not from need. They're doing very well on their own, but there is always the possibility of meeting one's true love. Because they have made their singleness full and interesting, a healthy, wholesome love partnership is possible. Theirs is the mating of eagles, two whole people standing close to one another but not in each other's shadows. Gavin, I wish it to you.

COMMITMENT PHOBIA. Without a mate, often without on-premises children or family to keep them accountable, many single people become quite adept at "slip-sliding away."

I remember when the man in my life asked me to enroll in a meditation course that required me to show up at the school on four consecutive nights.

The stab of fear in my gut made me realize I'd grown a bit lazy about committing, and I had better shape up fast if I wanted to like the person in my skin. I did wind up enrolling and going four nights as required, and I'm glad that I did. Aside from learning valuable breathing techniques, that course was my first step in toning my commitment muscle, which had become lax.

Every year of living solo compounds the fear of commitment. And toning the muscles involved in committing takes time, patience and much gentleness with yourself. I suggest starting a commitment campaign, centering the first few forays on non-emotional issues:

Arrange with a friend to exercise together on a schedule (every other day, if at all possible) and to pay a "fine" ($10 or dinner out) every time you show up late — or not at all. That should keep you diligent.

Listen to your words when you make your next promise. Whatever it deals with — a phone call or a meeting — write down the specifics and make no other plans for that time. It's reserved. No backing out for any reason except a dire emergency, of course. This is a big project. It goes to the very core of your character.

Subscribe to a series of concerts, films or lectures. (The nature of the series is secondary to the fact that it's ongoing and the money is advanced.) And unless major illness strikes, be there. Every time.

ALTERNATIVE: If a one-ticket outlay is more convenient and a one-time commitment easier to swallow, that's better than no commitment at all. So buy the one ticket and show up. You'll build up financial and emotional reserves in small steps like these. That's a promise.

Write to Susan Deitz c/o this newspaper. She will answer all letters that come with a self-addressed, stamped envelope. Or, you may e-mail her at



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