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Originally published Thursday, March 28, 2013 at 5:00 AM

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Being single around couples can be liberating

Carolyn Hax tells a newly single woman there’s a lot of potential for enjoyment joining a group of happy couples on a long-planned trip.

Syndicated columnist

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I see that m5po is back at posting his musings again. As usual, they don't make any... MORE
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Dear Carolyn

Adapted from a recent online discussion ...

Hi, Carolyn:

I was supposed to go on a trip with some friends that, not by design but by fate, just worked out to be a couples’ trip consisting of four pairs sharing a house. Then I broke up with my boyfriend, unexpectedly, this month.

A trip with friends is probably just what I need, but (perhaps I’m being a baby) I’m nervous about how I will feel being surrounded by all those happy couples, watching everyone go off to bed together at the end of the night while I sleep alone. What do you think — go, or bail? If I bail, I’ll still pay my share.

— Trip?

DEAR TRIP?: Part of this is about your friends, who have it in their power not to treat you as “other.” Presumably you know at least some of them well enough to project how (un)fazed they’ll be about this.

The bigger part is about you. Being the single around a bunch of couples can be liberating, if you let it. They go off together at the end of the night while you get to leave your reading light on, fall asleep watching stupid TV, eat loud snacks or do whatever else you enjoy but would be a sensory nuisance to the person on the other side of the bed.

Also, if these couples are generally happy together, their company can create a relatively tension-free environment, where you don’t have to worry about a whole lot of distracting social undercurrents.

If you’re still feeling too raw to enjoy yourself, sure, opt out — but that’s more about how you feel than who else is going.

DEAR CAROLYN: We are a group of women who have supported and celebrated each other for 10-plus years. One member is clearly suffering from increasingly frequent symptoms of mental illness, unable to hold a job and complaining a lot about insomnia and sometimes a desire to kill herself — though she insists she won’t do it. She has been in therapy but always has a problem with the therapist and changes frequently.

Lately, she’s been saying it isn’t worth the cost and she will just rely on our group. This expectation feels beyond what we can do for her.

I am avoiding the group lately because of her overwhelming issues — and really miss it. I want to talk to the others about the situation, but am afraid she will find out and feel ganged up on. The last thing I want to do is create any kind of a divide. Any ideas?

— Gang

DEAR GANG: You do need to speak up, specifically about not being available to this member as a replacement for therapy. That message needs to be clear and your resolve to stick to it solid.

You can do this without ganging up by responding publicly to what “she’s been saying” — and I mean to the whole group, including her: “I am not a mental-health professional, and I am not qualified to replace your therapist. Out of love for you, I will not be the place you bring things that are rightly brought to someone qualified to help you.”

If you’re not sure about this or want to feed your resolve with more specific guidance, call the NAMI help line, 1-800-950-6264. (www.nami.org)

Email Carolyn at tellme@washpost.com and follow her on Facebook at www.facebook.com/carolyn.hax. Find her columns daily at www.seattletimes.com/living

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