Tag Archives: break up

“Should I stay with my husband who is rude, selfish, and impossible to live with?”

“Celestial Magic” Mimi Stuart©

“Should I stay with my husband who is impossible to live with?

My husband barks orders at me, is rude and condescending, and when things heat up he uses profanity and calls me names. He does things that can be very selfish, and if I complain he says I’m being “toxic”. He rarely says he’s sorry and is uninterested in counseling.

Here are the reasons I have stayed with him to date:

1) I don’t want another failed marriage,

2) We have a kid together and for her sake I don’t want to break our family apart,

3) He is very smart, can be fun, and we share values,

4) He is the primary breadwinner so I’d have to go back to full time work, and

5) We are both in our early 50’s and that feels like a pretty advanced age to give up and try to start over.”

1. Another failed relationship

Is staying in a failed relationship better than leaving it? We all make mistakes and face different challenges in our lives. Life is about learning from our experiences and transforming ourselves and our relationships for the better. Ask yourself whether staying in a failed relationship is better than leaving it when there is very little hope for joy, mutual growth, and deepening love.

2. Staying together for the children

Staying in an abusive relationship is not good for you or your daughter. In contrast, having the courage to seek a better life can be of great benefit to your child. It is a gift to show your daughter that you can set clear boundaries, that you have the self-respect to expect better treatment, and that you will take action to improve your life.

It may be helpful to explain the situation to your child, without unnecessarily disparaging your husband. There is no need to go into great detail, especially if the child is young. For example, you might say:

“You probably have noticed that we have great difficultly talking to each other without arguing. There will be disagreements in any relationship. But in our case, we are hurting each other constantly and unnecessarily. Since your dad is unwilling to go to counseling, I have decided to leave the relationship. But we both love you and life will go on and eventually improve.”

You may be surprised by her reaction, if not immediately, then down the road. If your husband is as abusive as you say then she may thank you for the separation.

3. My partner has good qualities. What is the magic ratio?

Something attracted you to each other in the first place, and it is good to still be able to see his positive qualities. The question to ask yourself is whether your relationship reaches the magic ratio—that is, a minimum of five positive interactions to every one negative interaction (found through John Gottman’s research.) When that magic ratio is not reached, the relationship will spiral out of control toward misery.

4. Financial considerations and going back to work

For many people, financial security is a very serious consideration. Yet independence from an abusive relationship is well worth your going back to full-time work. As a capable and thoughtful person, I am sure you will find work and thereby become more independent and also attract more positive people into your orbit. In fact, working can be the most liberating and rewarding experience you can have outside your relationship. Whether you stay together or not, working can expand your life and social network, which can enhance your self-respect and courage.

5. Too old to start over

You say that you are hesitant to end your relationship because you are in your fifties. But consider that you could easily live for another 35 or 40 years. Even if you only had another five years, your best years are likely ahead of you given your current circumstances. People can have new relationships, learn, grow, and find joy and happiness in many ways later in life. I know many people who are physically and mentally active well into their 80’s and 90’s.

Now that your husband is spending more time at home, ask yourself whether things are improving and will continue to do so, or not. Ask yourself whether you will be able to enjoy your life more in the next 30-40 years with him at your side or without him? What you have described is an abusive relationship, so I suspect the answer would be the latter.

It is laudable that you are taking responsibility for your part in the conflicts between the two of you. You can continue to work on becoming a more effective communicator and focus more on controlling your own life.

If you do leave your husband, there is no need to blame him or to be hostile. Explain the situation in a “nonviolent” way (see Marshall Rosenberg.) Here is an example,

“We have many values in common, I enjoy your wit and intelligence, and most importantly, we have a wonderful daughter. However, I need to be able to communicate with my partner in a loving way, to share joy, and to find ways to grow together. I feel distressed and frustrated that we rarely can talk with one another without fighting. I want to be in a relationship where there is mutual respect, curiosity and love. I’m sure you have noticed it too that our relationship is no longer a happy one—for either of us. We may find a way to resolve our ongoing problems by counseling, but if you aren’t willing to try, it’s best that we separate. It makes me very sad. I certainly don’t want to hurt you, but I can’t foresee continuing in the way we have been.”

by Alison Poulsen, PhD

A Better Way to Break-Up: 20 Ways to Leave Your Lover
by GUEST AUTHOR Dr. Jennifer Freed with Molly Green

"Grazia" by Mimi Stuart ©

“Grazia” by Mimi Stuart ©

GUEST AUTHOR Dr. Jennifer Freed with Molly Green writes:

The dissolution of any romantic relationship is invariably painful: At its worst, it is devastating and harmful and leaves a lot of emotional collateral damage in its wake; at its best, it’s done with tenderness and care, and both parties put aside a desire to just be done with it in favor of taking the time to separate with patience and love. The latter is difficult to achieve, but ultimately a more expedient path to peace. Below, Dr. Jennifer Freed, a therapist, astrologer, and the founder of Santa Barbara’s AHA!, together with her colleague, Molly Green, explains what needs to be reckoned with.

Paul Simon suggested:

“You just slip out the back, Jack
Make a new plan, Stan
You don’t need to be coy, Roy
Just get yourself free
Hop on the bus, Gus
You don’t need to discuss much
Just drop off the key, Lee
And get yourself free”

This song hit a national nerve precisely because people tend to leave their lovers in the most hideous and harmful ways. There may be any number of causes or triggers—an affair (physical or emotional), growing disdain, physical rejection, addiction, and anger—but when the betrayal results in often-public drama and fireworks, rather than a calm, loving, and honest reckoning, it lays waste to all the joy the couple in question might have experienced together, coloring the entire relationship with pain. It begs the question: Why do so many people, who have often spent years loving one another, leave their relationships in such hurtful, harmful, and unconscionable ways? How can it be done differently?

People leave their love relationships in tatters because they:

1. Are too frightened to actually face their own unhappiness and take responsibility for it.

2. Are unwilling to face the pain in their partner’s face when they tell them the relationship is over. They don’t want to witness the loss band-aid being pulled off in slow motion and thus feel responsible for the hurt.

3. Selfishly tell themselves that what their partner doesn’t know will not hurt them.

4. Want to punish their partner emotionally for what they have experienced as coldness, distance, or waning desire.

5. Are addicted to novelty and idealization at any cost.

6. Are unable to face the material consequences or insecurities of their decision to leave.

7. Blame their partner for their lack of success or dissatisfaction with their own life.

Any of the choose-your-own-adventures above indicate that there is a lot of pain between lovers that has not been addressed in an appropriate way, and that a lot of collateral emotional damage could be spared if people felt good enough about themselves, and had the correct tools, to deal with immense fear, insecurity, and emptiness. It takes tremendous courage to actually face relationship despair head on. Instead people bolt, cheat, lie, withdraw, get addicted to things, or trash the whole thing with an abrupt cut-off and hostile attack listing every imagined resentment and flaw. Rarely do people face each other and discuss the dying elephant in the room. To do so would be to take an honest look at the demise of the dream, the failing of the promises, and the personal sense of inadequacy and hopelessness that intimate relationship endings bring.

If we are to truly absorb and assimilate the grief of a coming ending—in its raw and undistracted state—we actually need to confront our own shortcomings. Both parties need to look at their parts in the deterioration of the connection and the many personal patterns or flaws that contributed to the dying of attraction and affection. This is the psychological work of warriors, quite frankly, and many folks just do not have the inner muscles or resolve, or outside resources to flex that deeply.

However, if we could all agree that it is in the best interest of ourselves, and our communities, to get into some serious intimacy shape, we could begin to deal with the reality and the sorrow of relationships that are fizzling out, and do so with dignity, maturity, and kindness. We could support one another to take regular inventory of the health of our love relationships and not go into cruise control or denial about intimacy erosion. Once we start hearing the whisper of the death rattle through long periods of emotional disconnection, avoidance of sex, constant bickering or fighting, increasing times apart, and a vapid joylessness, we can roll up our sleeves and wrestle these emotional demons. If all efforts fail to revive the romance and quality of connection, then everyone can feel more empowered to move forward.

Below, 20 ways to leave your lover with love and respect.

1. Take full responsibility for your part in the ending, as in:

“I gave up a long time ago when we were drifting apart and I just didn’t fight for us.”
“I stopped appreciating you and took you for granted.”
“I need something different than what I am getting with you and I want to move on.”

2. Take time to dissolve the ending by giving your partner notice and discussing reasonable ways to end things.

3. Speak highly of your soon-to-be ex, because what you say about them actually reflects a great deal about you.

4. Spend a good deal of time reflecting on how you got into the intimacy bog and what you could have done differently.

5. Give your soon-to-be ex a lot of space to be upset and remove yourself immediately from any conversations that are hateful or abusive.

6. Pay off all debts and split things up fairly.

7. Seek professional help to mediate finality if you are too frightened and find yourself backing off from your firm decision.

8. Refrain from clingy sex and keep appropriate new boundaries to avoid confusion and undue stalling. Respect your partner’s boundaries and their need for distance.

9. Be kind to all of your mutual friends, as well as the friends of your partner. Avoid taking sides. There are no sides. There is just loss.

10. Use this time to take great care of yourself by getting in shape, not just physically but mentally. This is a very stressful time, no matter how adrenalized you may feel in leaving.

11. Keep your words in the affirmative about the situation and avoid all attempts to make you right and your partner wrong. Again, it is all just loss. There are no winners.

12. Be faithful to your soon-to-be ex and do not involve anyone else romantically in your complicated emotional maelstrom until you are truly separated.

13. Give your soon-to-be ex lots of physical space and let them attend to things without having to see your face.

14. Take up a new class or hobby to help you fill the new free time that is often fraught with compulsive over-thinking.

15. Take a short road trip alone or with friends to get some perspective after the big announcement.

16. Refrain from any social media postings about your status. RESPECT the transition.

17. Keep all your soon-to-be ex’s secret vulnerabilities SECRET. Do not ever reveal intimate facts. That would be tasteless and petty.

18. Let go of all letters and memorabilia as soon as possible, but in a discreet, honorable way.

19. Take time to feel all the emotions without involving your ex in a blow-by-blow battle. It is time for you to feel it all. Get a therapist or friend to be there for you.

20. When you make mistakes along the imperfect road of breaking up, admit to them and move on. Making a mistake is not code for failure.

If you are the friend of someone in the midst of this process, you can be truly helpful by encouraging the person to look in the mirror for the real lessons to be learned, and to keep an eye on the path ahead. There is only power in looking at his or her part of the relationship, no matter how screwed up their partner’s actions seem to be. After all, so much of falling in love is in the feeling we get about ourselves in the eyes of the beloved. It seems fitting that falling out of love is also about bravely enduring the feeling we get from looking in the eyes of one we have disappointed, whether they be our ex-lover’s or our own.

by GUEST AUTHOR Dr. Jennifer Freed with Molly Green. Dr. Jennifer Freed PhD, is a child behavioral expert and co-founder of AHA! (Attitude.Harmony.Achievement.)

“I was diagnosed with cancer and my relationship fell into the Pursuer/Distancer dynamic, after which it ended.”

"Tempest" by Mimi Stuart ©

“Tempest” by Mimi Stuart ©

“I was diagnosed with cancer and my relationship fell into the Pursuer/Distancer dynamic. I needed more and more support, care, and demonstration of love while he grew colder. My relationship ended shortly afterwards, as I was unable to deal with the fact he distanced me in my time of greatest need. The same pattern occurred again in the relationship that followed this one.”

The effect of increased anxiety on relationship

A relationship should be able to withstand imbalances of need and support. However, people vary in how they handle increased stress from serious problems such as illness or job loss. The fact that someone is ill does not necessarily lead to their desiring more care, support and demonstration of love from their partner. Some people would become more emotionally closed.

A person’s illness or other challenge will intensify a person’s already existing tendencies. So the increased anxiety from an illness will tend to magnify any existing imbalance in the relationship, and may cause the relationship to become destabilized.

Emotionally self-contained vs emotionally open

Generally, people are attracted to those who balance out their own propensities. People who tend to desire support and connection are often drawn to emotionally-independent types. An unconscious need to become more emotionally self-sufficient causes them to be attracted to those who instantiate that characteristic. The opposite may also be true — self-contained people may initially be drawn to someone who has the ability to be emotionally open and express his or her needs.

However, people do not become emotionally contained by accident. Such a tendency is often promoted by the family of origin, which may have fostered self-reliance, toughness, and action, rather than feeling, connection, and interdependence. It may also be a defense mechanism to protect oneself from being disappointed, hurt, or criticized.

Because such inclinations are generally deeply ingrained, it would be best to contain your need for support from those uncomfortable in giving it. Ironically, when there’s less need of support, Distancers don’t recoil from giving it because they sense a limit to the need. What Distancers dread most is what feels to them like a devouring need that has no end.

Avoid one-sided caretaking

Also beware of allowing a great imbalance in caretaking to develop in a relationship. This may be difficult when you’re serious ill. However, when the primary way of relating in a relationship becomes focusing on one person’s needs, you will see passion and mutuality diminish or disappear. So it would be best to try to find additional support for your extra needs from outside the relationship. I recommend that you look for emotional support from people eager to give it, whether they are supportive friends, nurses, counselors, or support groups.

I’m sorry about your diagnosis, and hope that you feel better and that you get better soon.

by Dr. Alison Poulsen

Read “I am overwhelmed by worry.”

Read “Pursuing Connection with a Distancer? ‘We never spend time together.’”

Read “Opposites attract: ‘Can’t you ever stop and just sit down with me!’”

Ten guidelines for how to proceed with a relationship after a separation: “What steps are required as we work towards repair?”

"Flow of Energy" by Mimi Stuart ©

“Flow of Energy” by Mimi Stuart ©

Your primary goal should be to go about your life with a sense dignity and self-respect. This means doing the following:

1. Do not be rude or disrespectful.

2. Do not tolerate any rudeness or disrespect. In other words, when approached rudely, remain composed and either withdraw or say something like, “Let’s treat each other with respect.”

3. Do not seek too much connection, that is, avoid being needy.

4. Do not give too much advice.

5. Do not complain, but rather ask for what you need in a dignified way.

6. Avoid a victim mentality.

7. Avoid gossiping negatively about your potential ex.

8. Pursue your interests and see friends and family (I don’t mean party wildly, but live an interesting life). Include mutual friends.

9. Find things to be grateful for daily and hourly.

10. Apologize for any mistakes or hurt you may have caused.

Building a basis of mutual respect gives you the best chance of being able to restore the relationship on some level without resentment or hostility. He is most likely to miss you and be attracted to you again if you are strong, kind, independent and amazing.

Whether or not you are able to restore the relationship fully, you will feel better about yourself if you can follow these guidelines. Moreover, the self-composure and dignity achieved by following these guidelines provide the most effective basis for interacting with another person whether you are married, living apart, or divorced.

by Dr. Alison Poulsen

Read “How to predict a divorce or the breakup of a relationship.”

Read “Is ‘playing hard to get” just a game?”

Read “My girlfriend said she needed time and space to re-evaluate our relationship.”

“My boyfriend broke up with me last week.”

"Prism" by Mimi Stuart © Live the Life you Desire

“Prism” by Mimi Stuart ©
Live the Life you Desire

“Hi Alison,

My boyfriend broke up with me last week. He was always a little suspicious because I started seeing him before I broke up with my previous boyfriend. He said he loves me but he’s unhappy and doesn’t desire me anymore. He also said that there might be an opportunity for us in the future. I don’t know what to think.

Maia”

Maia,

It sounds to me as though he has mixed feelings about you, as most people do when they are honest and are able to handle ambivalence in a new relationship. At least he’s not like many people who, in order to justify breaking up, vilify the other person and forget all the good experiences they shared.

My guess is that the reason he says he doesn’t rule out getting back together in the future is that he either wants to soften the blow of breaking up with you or he wants to keep his options open.

Possible Reasons For the Breakup

1. The fact that he doesn’t desire you any more may be because he thinks you are untrustworthy given that you started seeing him before you broke up with your previous boyfriend. He may love you and be attracted to you, but he doesn’t want to risk experiencing the pain of potential betrayal.

2. Or perhaps he’s just responding to the normal waning of fascination that inevitably occurs in any romantic relationship. He may be the type who is always seeking that initial excitement when two people initially fall in love. You can probably look at his past history to see if he has had a continuous stream of short-term relationships. If that’s the case, you wouldn’t want to try to have a long-term relationship with him anyway.

3. Another possibility is that he has met someone else and doesn’t want to admit it.

4. Or there may be something bothering him that he is not telling you in order to spare your feelings. If you are curious for the purpose of understanding and your personal growth, you might ask him to tell you what he thinks is missing in your relationship.

5. Finally, there may be something else going on in his life that he hasn’t talked to you about. He says he’s unhappy. You never know if he is facing some other challenges in his life.

Whatever the reason is, if I were you, I would view him as a friend if that is possible, and move on with your life. There is nothing more gratifying than being with someone who really wants to be with you. Also, try keeping your next own relationships clean in terms of trustworthiness. Break up before you date a new person, and everyone involved will respect you more.

Good luck,

Alison

Read “I think I am a pursuer. My girlfriend initiated a breakup. I want to salvage this relationship. What can I do?”

Read “He left me after six months of being together. I keep hoping he’ll come back. Should I call him?”

“I think I am a pursuer. My girlfriend initiated a breakup. I want to salvage this relationship. What can I do?”

"Skyward" — Otto Lilienthal B by Mimi Stuart Live the Life you Desire

“Skyward” — Otto Lilienthal B by Mimi Stuart©
Live the Life you Desire

Too much pursuit comes off as neediness. This doesn’t mean that you should pretend not to care, but that you must resist the impulse to pursue her. People lose their attraction to those who are needy or dwell in self-pity. They may feel secure and taken care of by pursuers, but they tend to lose their desire for them.

Your girlfriend cannot develop desire for you unless you become more desirable. Realizing that a one-sided relationship is not sustainable should help you to gain the strength to focus on other endeavors.

Enjoy autonomy

The most effective way to attract your girlfriend back and develop a mutually fulfilling relationship is to develop your ability to enjoy being alone and with people other than your girlfriend. If you dwell on how much you want your her back, you will continue to feel desperate and miserable, and you will continue to push her away. On the other hand, if you demonstrate self-respect and autonomy, your feelings of dejection will decrease, and she will find that more appealing.

As difficult as it may be when you feel heart-broken, it’s important for you to do the things that keep you healthy and involved in life. Your health and vitality are likely to blossom if you eat well, exercise, sleep, perform well at work, listen to music, see friends, and pursue your favorite activities as well as new ones.

You will be more attractive to your girlfriend if you stand on your own and live a full life than if you mope around hoping she’ll come back to you.

Break away from the norm

One of the best ways to get relief from yearning for someone who is not excited to be with you is to take a trip or try some new endeavors. If you can’t get away for a week or two, go to new places for an evening or a weekend. Doing things that are novel focuses your attention on the here and now, preventing you from brooding and obsessing over someone. Volunteering and helping others also stop you from falling into a state of self-pity.

When your girlfriend sees that you are living your life and not pursuing her, she may be drawn to you again and start pursuing you! If not, then it is advisable that you move on and continue to build your life.

If she does decide to come back to you, it’s important that you take your time to explore how to establish a good balance in your life and avoid excessive pursuit of her. One person should not have exclusive power to call all the shots. You do not want to continue to be at the mercy of her whims. You will find that a moderate amount of your personal independence will enhance all your relationship with others.

by Dr. Alison Poulsen

Read “My parent didn’t care about me.” How we develop Defense Mechanisms (Part II)

Read “Dysfunctional Parents: ‘My parents were so dysfunctional, I don’t even know what a good relationship looks like.’”

Read “Pursuit and Distancing: Intimacy vs. Needing Space”