Here's a letter sent in by one of our tender readers who is desperately trying to find the strength to walk away from an all too common situation that she knows is unhealthy (the letter has been edited and name changed for anonymity):
I have been dating a man for the past few years. We started off as friends, and I knew he was still involved with a woman in another state. He pursued me relentlessly, calling, texting, and being in contact with me every day, consistently over the years. I started developing strong feelings for him, and started wanting more. I never questioned his feelings for me, since he showed it by his actions. I decided to ask him one day this was about two years into the relationship, how he felt about me, and he said he hadn't thought about it. That was hard for me, and it not only bothered me that he never thought about it, but I felt crushed.
I was in so deep already that I continued to see him, and decided to just go with the flow, but in the back of my mind and in my heart I wanted more from him. A couple months ago, he told me the woman he calls his girlfriend was coming to see him, and he would continue to call me, but it might not be as often. He asked me not to be mad, but at this point I felt devastated. It was then I decided that I could not live my life like this anymore. I felt so ashamed and like I was so insignificant.
I started to distance myself, but he kept calling and texting acting like everything was ok. I cut off contact totally for about a week, not answering his calls and texts and that made him mad. The woman left last month, and since then he has become cold and distant towards me. The texts and phone calls were limited to once a day, and a few days there were none. We continued to keep in touch, but the conversations changed to just surface chatter like how our days were, or just checking in.
I know this man is not available for me. After all this time, if he loved me he would want to define what I mean to him, but he says he can't. I am so hurt, and depressed, because things were so good between us, and now he is showing a side of him that I never saw before. The last straw was yesterday, when he said that I knew he had another woman in his life, and that our relationship was never defined. I took that very hard, because by his actions I thought at the least I was someone special.
I no longer want to be involved with him, and do not call or text him. He continues to initiate the calls telling me he is thinking of me, he misses me. I sometimes don't respond, which makes me feel bad, even though those feelings of guilt are lesser for me now. I know I deserve better and need to cut all ties with this man, but it is so hard for me to just walk away. I know this is not a good situation for me, but I can't confide to my friends what is going on, since I put him on a pedestal, and told them how wonderful he was and how he treated me like a princess, he showered me with attention, bought me roses, the whole works, but still can't open up about how he feels about me. I am embarrassed that I went along with him knowing he had a girlfriend and that is why I can't discuss this with my friends. I need the inner strength to walk away. Help!!
If you haven't already read my post on letting go of this shame and beating yourself up like this, please read it. You are being so hard on yourself, Susan, and you don't deserve any of this judgment from either yourself or anyone else. None of it.
This isn't about what anyone else thinks, or how you could have settled for being with someone who had someone else in his life besides you. This is about you, my beautiful friend. You can do this. You are that strong. You have the strength to walk away and say to yourself "I deserve so much better than this!" and mean it. Because you do. The irony is always that it's when we settle for someone treating us like this, that we miss out on someone who would never treat us this way because we waste so much of our time and energy and ourselves on this person who simply isn't capable of giving us anything more. But it's never too late to change this, Susan. And you can make that change right now. By refusing to settle for this man and anyone else who could be with anyone else while he's with you. By standing up for yourself and setting a boundary on what you will and won't do in the name of love. Words are so easy to say; so many men have no problem letting loving words bounce off their lips while their behavior is anything but loving.
Know that you can do this, Susan; that there's no shame in what we learn not to do in the name of love when we're in it. It's how we grow, how we learn, even if we're afraid to admit it. You're not alone, there's so many of us who have been there and done things we're not proud of because it was where we were at the time. You're still everything you are, with so much to offer someone who proves himself worthy of you, my beautiful friend. And one day, you, too, will look back on all of this as a learning experience that taught you to believe in yourself in spite of what any he says or does.
You deserve everything love and life have to offer you, Susan; it's up to you to accept it!
What do you think? Any other words of advice or encouragement for our sister reader? Tell us in the comments!