A Reader Writes…
After 8 years my girlfriend ended our relationship on a Friday morning with the words “I can’t do it any more”. She had often been distant in recent months but every time I confronted her about it she said she wasn’t happy about her lack of a social life and the fact that I hardly did anything but work since I started my teaching post. For someone who was never fussed about fitness, she suddenly felt the urge to go to the gym, pondered about spending £200 on a leather jacket and once admired Harley Davidson pictures online (very bizarre). It didn’t go down well when I teasingly asked her whether she was having a midlife crisis (she will turn 40 in a few months and has always had issues about ageing). I’m 9 years younger.
I couldn’t believe how determined she was to leave everything we built and meant to each other behind. Just like that. We’ve never done any harm to each other, have always been very affectionate and loving and there was this ridiculous certainty right from the start that we would be forever. We hardly ever argued which, as you write, is not necessarily a good thing and she is quite a repressed person when it comes to confrontations. She said she was on “self-destruct mode” before she actually admitted that she loved me but wasn’t in love with me anymore.
We’ve overcome so many hurdles together; she has a history of self-harm and depression (her dad died when she was in her mid-20s and I don’t think she has ever processed it properly), we had a long distance relationship for a couple of years, moved back and forth between the UK and Germany and came out of it living where we always wanted to live, working in professions we want to work in and thinking about having children.
But there she was 2 months ago, leaving me because she “needed to”, apparently the hardest decision she ever “had to” make. The last two times I saw her she was crying her eyes out and I know she is suffering but her head is obviously telling her that her decision was right.
ILYB is an interesting phenomenon because I think the general opinion is that that’s the end for a relationship. Who with enough self-respect would turn around to their partner and say “but that’s okay with me”. When she told me she was not in love with me anymore there was nothing I felt I could say. I was devastated but at the same time I don’t want to be with someone who is not in love with me.
Can you make sense of the situation? How can you convince a fatalist that one can actually work on things? Thank you for opening this forum. It was very interesting and helpful to read other people’s accounts.
It sounds like you’ve got your head screwed on the right way. What a good attitude, you miss her, there’s a hole in your life, you’re puzzled but if she doesn’t love you – you don’t to be with her!
It’s amazing how many people are miserable, don’t want to leave but won’t even take the most rudimentary steps to sort out the problems. So what’s going on?
When someone is on a self-destruct course, they know inside that something is wrong. It might be that they’re getting older and time is running out (especially if your father died young) or that there are problems that have been unaddressed in the relationship or a hundred and one other causes. Often these problems have been brewing for a while but the person has ignored them or hoped they would go away – and they just build and build. The pain becomes so big that they’ve just got to do something, anything and quick. Unfortunately, quick fix solutions hardly ever work. Buying a Harley will not keep make you younger. Often they make the original problem worse.
Before too long, the person in pain will run out of options and just have to run away. Especially if their partner is perceived as part of the problem or is putting pressure on them (‘what’s happening’, ‘can you offer me any hope’, ‘I don’t understand’ etc). However, I don’t think space ever sorts problems – because they’ll still be the same age or if it is a relationship problem, they can’t solve it alone. (Many men rush into a new relationship thinking it was their partner not them who caused the problem – perhaps their partner was not “the one” – but just take their old problems into a new relationship).
So can I offer you hope? I would keep the door open – without pressure to ‘work on the relationship’ – and to live with the uncertainty. If she’s got a problem, listen without trying to fix or getting defensive (because it sounds like she’s blaming you). Hopefully, she will begin to realise that ‘space’ solves nothing and that you’ll have a chance to put everything you’ve learnt about relationships into practise. In the meantime, look after yourself and focus on your self improvement over this difficult period rather than worrying what’s going on with her.
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