Wednesday, April 30, 2008

Letting Go Without Guilt

I have a friend who is teetering on the edge of a breakup. He and his girlfriend have been having issues for several months, and he’s finally had too much. It’s not that they don’t love each other or that one of them is a bad person—it just isn’t working. Or rather, it’s requiring way too much work.

So he’s ready to move on. But he’s struggling with the fact that he may hurt her. He may disappoint his family. Let down their mutual friends. And on and on.

I’ve been there. I sat on that cliff for months, dangling my feet over the edge, digging one hand into a puddle of pride and wrapping the other around a sprig of fear of failure. I didn’t want to move because it would mean I’d made a mistake. It would prove that I’d jumped into something too fast. Blindly. Without knowing the full story.

If I admitted that he was the wrong fit, I’d have to acknowledge my lack of good judgment. I’d have to risk hurting his feelings. And I’d have to tell my family, again, that I had moved 10 steps backwards from engagement and marriage and kids. That was probably the hardest part to deal with.

My friend has been divorced already, so his baggage is even heavier than mine was. He’s afraid his parents will be crestfallen that he is choosing to end yet another relationship. But I think, better that he end it now than lead his girlfriend on—or worse—marry her and then decide it’s definitely not going to work.

The bottom line is that we have to take care of ourselves. We cannot worry who we disappoint. (Note: I believe the rules change after you are married, but dating is a whole different game.) You cannot feel guilty for being true to yourself. For backburnering marriage because the person you are with is not a perfect match. It’s far better to cut things off than live in continuous strife and misery.

I stayed in my ill-fitting relationship far too long and when it ended, it hurt everyone much more than if I would’ve put the kabash on it in those early days.

I guess the old analogy is right: the faster you rip off the band aid, the less it stings.


Anonymous said...

It's definitely a sucky (for lack of a better word) situation your friend is in. I definitely think he will save himself and his GF a lot of pain, if he just ends it now & cuts his losses. And as far as disappointing his parents, he has to do what makes him happy - you can't make other people happy until you are happy yourself.

Michael C said...

It is a bad place to be. You are right about the band-aid analogy.

I'd like to offer up another analogy: it's like just yanking the chest drainage tube out after you wake up from surgery rather than letting the nurses slowly coax it out while uselessly patting you on the leg. Not that I'd know personally about that or anything...

Alysha said...

It's true... I kinda prefer to just drive them crazy until they break up with me though. I really dread having to be the one to say it. But it is always better in the end! There are way to many miserable relationships out there, because of these fears we all have.

Jane Moneypenny said...

Love is a lot like wet cement. The longer you stay in, the harder it's to get out.

I agree, better now than later! If anything, she'll be MUCH better off having been dumped as a gf than a wife!

Anonymous said...

I think we've all been in that relationship where we overstayed the welcome. I know I should have gotten out of my last sooner than I did, by about two years, but due to circumstances at the time (death in the family), my reasons for staying in were sound (since I figured the problems were due to the stress of the above). Sometimes it's hard to know.

But what do you do when you reach a point where you're not sure exactly what you want anymore? I wish I knew...

brookem said...

I have stayed in a bad relationship longer than I should have too. As much work as it was to ... make things work, it almost seemed easier for a while, to stay in, than to end it. I didn't want to face the heartbreak, but really, I was putting myself through a tougher time by staying longer.

It hurts no matter what. But if one can recognize it's not working, I agree that it's best to end it sooner rather than later.

Mel Heth said...

Semichrmd - You're so right with the "can't make others happy until you're happy."

Michael C - I want to give you a hug right now. My cat had a feeding tube in his neck once and he yanked it out in one fell swoop. I'm sure he was thinking about the band aid analogy when he did it...

Alysha - Sometimes it is much easier to let them do the breaking up. Especially if it's what YOU really want.

Jane - That wet cement bit is spot on!!

Geekhiker - I think it's a percentage game. If you feel genuinely happy 50+% of the time, it's okay. Actually maybe that should be 70%. Anyway, I think the key is just being honest with yourself - is it really, really the relationship you want? The one that makes you be your very best self?

Brookem - It is easy to stay. It's comfy and familiar. But if you can get through the hurt, it's so much better to find something...better.