What Can You Do if Someone Says They Want to Break Up?

Dear Neil:   I have been in the most wonderful, loving relationship for the past two years. We connected shortly after her marriage dissolved.  I have never been so much in love or so happy.  I respect her, I adore her and I cherish her beyond belief.  The bond and connection we made was amazing.  But recently my lady, out of the blue, informed me that she wants to end the relationship.  The loss I am experiencing now is by far more devastating than the end of my 20 year marriage.  Can you offer any advice?

Bewildered in Wellington, New Zealand 

Dear Bewildered:  Unfortunately, you cannot make someone choose to be in a relationship with you no matter how much in love you are with her, and no matter how devastating her loss is to you.

She may have been keeping a secret, such as you don’t fit her image of the man she envisions her future with.  Or perhaps something has been really bothering her about you that she doesn’t have the skills or the nerve to address with you.  It could be that she has never gotten over the loss of her ex-husband, and therefore can’t fully offer her heart to you.  It may be that she has her sights on someone else.  Or perhaps she just doesn’t feel worthy of someone feeling wild about her and offering her love.  Either way, there is something she hasn’t told you.

What you can do is inquire what happened.  What turned her away from the relationship with you?  When did her feelings for you begin to change or shift?  What made her hesitant or reluctant to address her concerns with you? 

You can then ask her what it would take for her to reconsider her decision.  What would you need to do—or stop doing—that would allow her to give a relationship with you another chance?  What needs to be different in order for her to come back to you?

If she still says “no,” honor it.  There is no value in remaining attached to a woman who doesn’t want you.

Dear Neil:  I am at wits end with my husband’s criticism of me.  It’s like he lays in wait for me to do something wrong so he can berate me or make me feel stupid. I don’t feel like I can tell him everyday things that happen because he will blame me and say I should have been prepared for that.  Why does someone who loves you want to hurt you and make you feel so badly?

Feeling Hammered in Longmont, Colorado 

Dear Feeling Hammered:  If I have poor self-esteem, one way of me feeling better about myself is to make you look bad.  If I can make you look incompetent or inadequate, by comparison, I’ll begin to look pretty good.  Unfortunately, I achieve this spike in my own self-esteem by attempting to make you feel worse about yours.  If I succeed, you’ll feel lucky to have me.  Consequently, you’ll be far less likely to disapprove of, abandon, betray or reject me.

I am assuming that you have moderately good self-esteem, and can handle your husband occasionally expressing his irritation, frustration and annoyances with you, and that you can take behavioral change requests in stride without getting defensive or reactive.  If not, you’ll view every critical statement or request from your husband as a direct assault on your sense of self-worth and personal value—and you’ll think of him as hypercritical.

Tell your husband that you find his lack of support, compassion and insensitivity to be intolerable to be around.  You must confront this behavior now, or you’ll risk completely running out of good will and tolerance for him later.  He needs to be guided to talk with you differently, with a different level of friendliness and empathy.  A marriage counselor would be extremely helpful.

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