Dear Neil: I gave up a man I love, and still love deeply, for all the right reasons. He was desperate for marriage—but didn’t love me. I couldn’t see myself being happy in his family and with his kids. But the pain of his loss is still profound a year on. This is the first time my head has not been able to manage my heart. I need help to break the love connection. He has, of course, now married someone else.
Still Attached in Wellington, New Zealand
Dear Still Attached: Look at what you’re holding out for—or holding on to. You’re not letting go of him because you’re still hanging on to something you had in that relationship. What is it? Was he compassionate, kind, sensitive, nurturing, affectionate, extremely good looking? Whatever it was, figure out what the relationship offered you that felt so special—and that you want in your future.
Detaching is a conscious process. It doesn’t just always happen on its own. Sometimes you have to help it along by looking at what you fear will happen. For instance, do you secretly hope for a reconciliation? Or are you fearful that if you let him go, you’ll be giving up a profound passion that you really treasured and valued?
Commit to yourself that in your next relationship you will find the same or similar special qualities that you had in this relationship. Then—go out and find that relationship. As long as you can let go of your attachment, finding a new person to love can be a wonderful tonic for a wounded heart.
Dear Neil: I am dating someone who is clearly commitment phobic, and am recognizing that I may be wasting my time in a relationship that won’t meet my long-term needs. We are both educated professionals who ultimately would like to be married. I am ready to walk away if he is incapable to doing the work necessary to resolve what’s going on, but I fear I’ll always wonder if I gave it a little more time, and him a little more love, support, encouragement and understanding—if this could have been resolved. We’ve discussed the situation and he’s aware of his pattern of running from good relationships. But he seems unable to resolve how to do something different. Any suggestions?
What Do I Do in Farmington, New Mexico
Dear What Do I Do: The motivation to explore and resolve your boyfriend’s reluctance to commit has got to come from him. He has to want to resolve his ambivalence and fears about offering his heart to someone. Giving him more time, love, support, encouragement and understanding will only be effective if he commits to doing the actual work of resolving his commitment issues and fears. Is he willing to enter psychotherapy, read (and work the exercises in) books, and really go all out to resolve his fears once and for all?
I’m afraid there’s nothing else you can do—except to gently hold his feet to the fire—and not be so patient and understanding of him that you lose sight of your own goals and dreams.