Our dear friend K has never felt more conflicted, and is having trouble moving on after a breakup.
I first stumbled across your blog a couple of months ago after I decided that I needed to have a heart to heart with my boyfriend. At the time, I was really struck by your gentle but steady way of giving advice - it's obvious that you've been where so many of us have been before, and where I am now.
I spoke to my boyfriend then about what I wanted in our relationship - feeling like I was being prioritized in his life at least some of the time, feeling appreciated and loved, needing to know that he cared about me enough to consider what I had to say about us.
All of these things had felt lacking at some point in the last few months of the relationship, and I told him then that if he couldn't do those things for me, we shouldn't be together, that maybe we just wanted different things in our relationships.
Initially, I thought that he really listened to what I had to say. He was more attentive, more loving, more present with me when we spent time together. Sometimes, it felt like the lovely beginning of our relationship all over again.
Fast forward two months, and he's decided to end it with me. He said he's never been so in love, and that he's not even sure that this is the right decision, but that he doesn't know if he is capable of being the kind of boyfriend I deserve.
Jane, I've read many of your articles, and on the one hand, I know that I should recognize that this is him telling me what he can and can't do and that I should be grateful for his honesty. I know I should use this information to move on.
But it's just so hard to let go!
I've never felt more conflicted about a breakup - I really thought that we could be in it for the long haul. The beginning of our relationship was wonderful, truly.
Although I know that I am using the beginning of the relationship as a kind of benchmark for how wonderful things could be with us - if only he would change, if only he would show up for me the way I want him to, if only he could see the potential that I see - I know that this optimism is only in my mind, not his.
I guess I don't know how to let go.
I love this man completely, even though he's sometimes treated me in a way I don't deserve. We weren't perfect together, but many of the memories I'll take with me are beautiful and full of love.
I want to believe he'll miss me in his life now that I've cut off contact but... part of me knows I'll probably never hear from him again, and that if I do, it may be like we're strangers again.
I just don't know what to do with myself.
Thank you for your kind words. I’m so glad you’re finding a voice that resonates with you here.
And you're exactly right - I have been exactly where you are before and it’s why I understand so well not just the words, but the emotions of what we go through along the way.
It’s why I know there is nothing that keeps us holding on tighter to what if and if only than the strength of the fantasy of our hopes and dreams becoming a reality. Your words echo what so many of us have thought in our own similar situations: “if only he would change, if only he would show up for me the way I want him to, if only he could see the potential that I see - I know that this optimism is only in my mind, not his.”
What you've captured here is exactly that – this is about you.
It's not about him.
You did the talking. He did the listening. He heard what you wanted him to hear.
He did listen to what you say, he did try to be what you wanted him to be – what you wanted the two of you to be. But he found out what he was and wasn't capable of.
He did what he needed to do, based on what he knew he was capable of.
And you found out what you couldn't live with: more of the same.
And so the story of your relationship ended in the only way that it’s meant to: with two people realizing they aren't on the same page and cannot give the other what they really need. They say goodbye, they thank each other for the experience of loving and living and learning together, and they let go and move on to live their own lives and find someone who is on their respective pages. This is how it happens in the logical, practical reality of our minds.
And yet it’s never how it feels when you’re going through it.
Instead it’s about the feelings of a lack of worth and the loss of a dream. It’s about the fairy tale that somehow forgot the happy ending. It’s about the love story in our minds that came crashing down around us in the world of reality. It’s about how close we were to finally having someone to save us from ourselves and give us a reason to live.
Even when it doesn't go that deep, it goes deeper than the reality of true compatibility.
What to do with yourself, K, is to start by wrapping your arms around yourself and holding you through your tears.
You feel what you feel and experience the emotions you experience and no matter how logical an explanation anyone can give you, your feelings deserve to be acknowledged and validated. They need to be acknowledged and validated.
But there’s so much more to do.
You let go by holding on to you. Your life, the people in it that love and adore you, the places that feel like home. The activities that bring you joy. The things you’re passionate about that remind you of who you are and what you have to offer regardless of what someone else can or can’t give you.
Write him a letter, K.
This is for you, so you’re not going to send it, but what you're going to do is write out everything you want to say to him about what you feel in your heart and soul.
And then write one to yourself. Put down the words you want to say to yourself about what happened, about what you wanted to have happen, about why this hurts so much.
Give him back what is his. And take only what is yours. Those parts of you that wanted so much more that you left with him. They’re yours. They're not his.
Letting go is never easy. Moving on after a breakup is never easy.
It’s never easy to let go of what might have been but it’s the only way we get to catch a glimpse of all that is waiting for you today and tomorrow.
It's the only way, K. And you can do it. You can do this. Not for me or anyone else, but for you.
And remember, I’m with you all the way.