I am a bit surprised by the large number of letters I receive from people who are not able to let go of a "love" even though they know in their hearts that the "love" is no good. I will publish two of them below, and then answer them both. When you read my reply, I think you will understand why I use quotation marks around the word "love." It is my hope that this reply will serve to answer all questions in this vein.
LETTER NUMBER ONE:
My boyfriend broke up with me about a month ago, and I'm having a really hard time letting him go. I've lost all of my appetite, I feel tired all the time but I can't sleep, and the only thing that comforts me is the thought that we might get back together. I've never felt this way about anyone after breaking up with them. He was my third boyfriend. I'm 23 and he was 18, and we were together for three months. I just want to know what I can do to feel better about myself, how I can let him go. Or, even better, how I should approach him about getting another chance.
I feel that we were never really close in our relationship, and its eating away at me. I feel like I was dumped before he even really got to know me, or me him. What I want is another chance, in order to try to tear down the walls and build a better relationship.
After we broke up, I didn't speak to him for a couple of weeks, and then I asked him to meet me for coffee so we could talk about what went wrong with the relationship, He agreed, and met me, and we talked for a while. He never really managed to say what was wrong with the relaitonship, just that he thought that I was looking for something different than he is. After a bit more talk I asked him on a date to see a movie and he said yes. Then, the next day he said he just couldn't convince himself that it was a good idea. I asked him to please come and give me a chance, and he said that he just didn't have those feelings anymore. I know that I should take him at his word and let him go but I just can't seem to.
Another week passed, and today I started talking to him again, just a simple hey how are you. He said he was ok and asked how I'm doing. And that's where we are at.
Do you think I should see a psychologist to help me get over this?
LETTER NUMBER TWO:
Good Day doctor.
My name is Monique and I am turning 26 in August on the 8th. I live in South Africa (Pretoria).
I have known Jade since I was in Primary school. We then started dating on High School. We then had a little girl. She will be turning 9 years old on September the 3rd. We are both going through enormous changes in our lives at this stage, and I feel as if I can't handle it anymore. It is too much for me.
Jade and I were living together for almost 3 years and we have known each other for more than 12 years. He takes other girls and leaves me for a month, then he comes back to me. And I always took him back for the sake of my love and our child.
Now things are a bit different. I moved out and I am living with my mom, and he still visited and things were going quite fine. He than decided to leave me again after he asked me to marry him (and we had past arrangements of weddings as well). He never keeps a promise .He told me he would not leave us ever. Now he took a girl and it has been lasting for 5 whole months and I don't know what to do. I still love him but I am hurt so much now. Is he still in love with me or not? The girl also has a daughter of 6 years old. He has moved in with them. My child and I are very heartbroken.
What is wrong with him?
Or is there something wrong with me. Has he forgotten me already, because I can't. He is in my thoughts, in my dreams. This is also affecting my child a lot. She doesn't want to see him anymore. But what do I do?
Hello Nicolas, Hello Monique--
First of all, let me say that I am sorry for your pain and suffering. I understand that desiring to be with someone when that desire is not returned can seem like the worst possible luck. And although your situations are quite different in one way (Nicolas' "relationship" never really even began, while Monique has a child with her boyfriend), in another way they are exactly the same. They are the same because neither of you is willing to see things as they are. In other words, and to be blunt, you are lying to yourselves. This kind of self-deception or delusion crops up in so many of the letters I have been receiving that I am hoping to write about this once and for all instead of having to answer each letter separately. In future, I will refer the writers of any letters I receive on this subject to this page. That way I will be able to use my limited time to reply to some of the many questions I am asked about other equally important matters.
Nicolas, your boyfriend is 18 years old. He is practically a child, and certainly not ready to make the kind of commitment which you are demanding of him. At his age a young man needs to experience many things, meet many people, get to know different women, and not be tied down. Perhaps at 23 you are ready for something more stable, more long-term, but if that is what you really want, you should be looking for someone older than you, not five years younger. Further, your boyfriend has told you--and in a kind and honest way, it seems to me--that he does not feel the way you do. How could he feel that way? He is, as I said, much too young for those kinds of emotions, or at least for those kinds of emotions to last for more than a short time. To be totally clear, a boy of 18, except in very rare cases, is not capable of adult love. Sex, yes. Love--which really means wanting to take care of another person, to devote oneself to her, to live for her happiness, and to always be thinking of your happiness together as partners in this life--no.
Now you say you want another chance, but another chance at what? Your boyfriend has already told you that he is looking for something different from what you are seeking. Clearly, from your letter, you want a "relationship," and he does not. How much more straightforward could he be? You said, "I know that I should take him at his word and let him go. . ." Right! Exactly! Just do that. It is your only viable possibility, and you will be losing nothing by giving up your dream of him and moving on. After all, as you wrote, you never were really close anyway.
If you want to spend time and money consulting a psychologist to help you arrive at the obvious (he doesn't want you, and most certainly does not love you), go ahead, but to me that seems like a waste of both time and money, because sooner or later you are going to have to stop lying to yourself--stop telling yourself that there is some reason for you and this boy to be together--and just move on. My advice to you, Nicolas, sounds like the old advertisement for Nike sports shoes: "Just Do It."
Monique, you are in the same boat, only much worse off, because you made the mistake of having a child with this man who does not love you and probably never really did. I say that he probably never really did because when your "love" was hot and heavy--in high school--Jade was just a boy like Nicolas' boyfriend, probably even younger. He may have been capable of sexual passion, but love? No. This he has proved over and over by "taking other girls," as you put it. What kind of love is that? Now the time to stop lying to yourself has arrived, and I hope you can manage it.
I say you are lying to yourself because after all his infidelity, after all the hurt he has put you through, even now that he is living with another woman and her child when he already has a child of his own with you--after all that--you still ask me, "Is he still in love with me or not?" Do you not see the absurdity of that question, the emptiness of it? Of course he is not in love with you! He does not even know how to love his own child! He has proved that over and over by his behavior, and it is time to stop lying to yourself, and just accept that sad fact as your daughter already has done.
Since you do have a child with this guy, you probably will continue to see him and know him for years, so you probably cannot just put him out of your life as Nicolas should do with her boyfriend. But the sooner you admit to yourself that your idea of "love" with Jade was just a dream, just a kind of self deception, the sooner you will be able to begin to put this relationship on a realistic footing which will serve both you and your daughter much better than this fantasy relationship now is serving you.
Jade, it seems to me, is not capable of love. Perhaps one day he will be, but not now. All Jade cares about is his own sexual pleasure, not you and not his daughter. Why would you want a man like Jade anyway?
If you cannot understand this, please get some professional counseling to help you.
To others in the same situation: if you get the feeling that your "love" is not being returned, it isn't, and my advice is this: don't wait, don't wonder, don't hope for changes. Just move on. Just do it!
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