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September 19, 2014 - Welcome Guest!

Advice » Love

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He left me and I'm falling apart

Question:

My partner of four years told me last week that he wanted to break up with me, and I'm not coping well at all. I knew that our relationship had been changing, and we were seeing less of each other, but I was thinking of it in terms of what we could do to fix it - trying to find a way to ask him if he could give me a higher priority in his life than he had been lately, and thinking of taking up his hobbies to spend more time with him that way.

I never thought of ending it, and when he said it I felt like I'd been hit. I'd not talked to him about it because I was trying to think of how to do it without making him feel like he had to choose, but he chose anyway. He says he still loves me, and is grateful for the time and love I've given him, but that he feels that I'm staying in one place in my life and he doesn't want to be there with me forever.

I've been crying ever since, or that's how it feels - I'm alright at work, but I think that might be because I'm not expecting him to be there - I start crying as soon as I get home, and cry myself to sleep at night. And when I wake up in the morning by myself. He hasn't moved out yet, but is sleeping in the spare room and plans to move once someone else is found to share the rent (we live in a shared household). I feel like I'm falling apart. I've chewed all my nails off, I can't eat, I can't talk to our friends, and I can't stop crying.

He's trying to help, but can't really - it's so hard when we're together not to beg and plead even though I KNOW we'd both be miserable if he took me back out of pity.

Should I try and get medical help - antidepressants or something, or is that just treating the symptoms, would it be better to try and work through the grief? I can't tell if this will stop given time or if I need to suppress it, but I can't keep crying all the time.

Holly

Answer:

Dear Holly,

You are going through grief, but unfortunately that natural process continually being started and stopped and started again. Let me explain.

Grief is a natural process of saying goodbye. It starts the first moment that we realize we have lost a loved one. From that moment on, there are many "waves" of sadness, with each wave being somewhat less sad than the wave before, and with the time between the waves getting gradually longer and longer. This sadness is only the first stage of grief. During this time we say goodbye to all the things we liked about the person we lost.

The second stage of grief is when we say goodbye to the things we didn't like about the person. It consists of waves of anger and it works the same way that the sad waves worked. When the angry waves are finally over, there is a wonderful day of total relief. At this point the grief is complete and you can move on in your life with a great sense of balance and directedness.

Since you and this man still live together, however, these early waves of sadness keep repeating themselves! Whenever either one of you says anything that can possibly be interpreted as kindness or love there is a bit of hope - and a psychological denial that the end has actually come. And then when someone says something about the ending, this grief process starts all over again.

Since you say that this relationship is definitely going to end, my best advice to you is to stop living together as soon as you can possibly arrange it, and that you not talk to each other after that at all (or talk to each other ONLY about absolutely necessary and practical matters in 30 second phone calls...). When the natural process of grief keeps getting interrupted, the amount of pain is greater and the length of time you feel the pain is also greater. If the end has come, the natural process of grief must not keep getting interrupted.

Regarding the medication question. If you find that your fears of all this emotion still are too strong after you have stopped seeing him, medications might help. You are right to realize that this may slow the process, however, so there is sometimes a trade off. You should discuss this with a psychiatrist, not just any medical doctor. The psychiatrist should be able to explain if there is a trade off or not, how it would work, etc.

Grief is the worst natural feeling we have in our lives, but it IS very natural and healthy and is no cause for concern about having an "emotional problem." It just hurts.

I hope this helps you to understand what's going on and to accept the pain as a temporary necessity in your life. I am sorry that you need to go through it.

Tony Schirtzinger

This question was answered by Tony Schirtzinger.

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