- Dr. Love in the Media
Want to Walk Away But Can't
May 17, 1999 Ask Dr. Love Advice Column
Dear Dr. Love,
My boyfriend of 2 and a half years broke up with me last week. The thing is, he told me he loves me yet he is also in love with another girl. Is it possible to be in love with two people at the same time?
I am deeply hurt because I love him too much. Two weeks ago, everything was smooth and just like what we were when we were starting out so you can imagine how devastated I am. I asked him why is he telling me this and what does he want by doing so.
He told me he wanted space, to think things out. He wants to make sure that it is I that he is really in love with before he comes back to me (if he does come back ) and I'm scared that he won't. He has kept me hanging over like this although he said not to give hope on that yet he follows that sentence with words that tell me that he still has love for me.
He told me he won't replace me with any other woman. How could this be when he has already broken up with me? I have asked him back several times, told him that if marriages with affairs could still make it through, we can do this. but he won't. he told me he needed the space. But I kept thinking what about me?
I'm left hanging and i don't know whether to hope or to let go anymore. My friends tell me to let go. I know I should and it's killing me. I don't know how to let go and don't know if I should when he makes me feel there's still hope. How can I walk away want to walk away but can't?
You are in a terrible bind. I hear how much you love this man and I also hear that you are afraid to give up him up. You are reluctant to end it with him since you are holding out hope that he will take you back.
Here's the problem as I see it. He is calling all the shots, meanwhile, you are on hold. Allowing him to place you on hold puts him in the driver's seat and you in the back seat. I have to wonder why you are willing to take such a passive position.
You are permitting him to control you, your life and your future.
At this point, I think you need to understand why you want to hold on to someone who is treating you like dirt. He has cheated on you and then lied to you by not revealing that he had another involvement with someone that he has fallen in love with. And, all the while that he was involved with her he pretended that nothing was wrong with your relationship. Why would you want to stick with someone who has treated you so badly?
I think that your inability to let him go is a clue that you are dealing with unfinished business from childhood. People who were emotionally or physically abused children tend to stick with partners who mistreat them. Every abused child harbors the fantasy that if only he or she were more patient, or more kind, or more forgiving (or whatever) that this goodness will be rewarded with love.
In adulthood, this fantasy is played out when a person puts up with all kinds of garbage hoping to win the love and approval of his or her lover. The hope being that if the lover (or spouse's) love can be won, the original trauma with mom or dad will be healed. It sounds like this is exactly what you are up to.
You have already offered to forgive him, take him back, you are even willing to wait around for him to choose--talk about patience and forgiveness. In the end, all that this tolerance will earn you is more abuse. The man can't possibly respect you for the way you are allowing him to treat you. And, since love is made up of respect, you are shooting yourself in the foot by putting yourself at his mercy.
Read through my Advice Archives under unfinished business and repetition compulsion to understand why you can't let him go (because you are hoping to heal a childhood wound through this relationship).
Next, I think you need to get a plan. Whatever plan you choose, you need to put yourself back in the driver's seat. I know you are afraid to take a stand and lose him. But, what makes you think that acting like a doormat will help you keep him?
As I see it, you have basically three choices. Dump him now (which you can't do). Play it safe and ask him how long he needs to decide and then give him that amount of time, no more. Or, put yourself back in the driver's seat.
Instead of being patient and forgiving, and waiting around for him to decide whether you are going to be taken back, you tell him that you haven't decided whether you want him in your life. Make him convince you why you should keep him!
He lied and deceived you and how can he convince you that he would be faithful in the future?
He should be convincing you that you should take him back, not the other way around. I have given you a new way of looking at the issue. I hope it helps.
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