On Sorting Out Your Emotional Confusion [Dear DBN]
“It’s not me, it’s you.” That, or it’s my own deeply complicated emotional confusion that we probably shouldn’t delve too deep into. This week, it’s hard to know when to go easy on the other person and when to go a little hard on yourself.
“Ok big sister, I need your advice on how to end a relationship when you’re no longer attracted to the person. What is the script for that? He’s a wonderful person and I don’t want to hurt him, but I don’t want to kiss him either… And that seems like a problem, doesn’t it? Please, please help!”
There is no script to end a relationship, and the more scripted it is, the more cruel it can feel. There are plenty of reasons to break up, but there’s a few of them that should never be mentioned in the breakup itself, and saying you don’t want to kiss that person is one of them. Be careful with your words before you ruin someone’s self-esteem for the rest of their life. You’re right – it is a problem if you cannot see yourself being intimate with your partner. And if your question had expressed years of investment or marriage, I might have recommended that you try to spice things up and bring back that connection, but this sounds more casual and less life-altering. So you tell him the kindest version of the truth, “I’d like to end our relationship. The romantic feelings aren’t there for me anymore, and I don’t see a future between us.”
You might get hit with a slew of “why”s and “I don’t understand”s but you’re in no obligation to answer. Just make sure to have an exit plan and don’t ask him to be friends. Asking the person you are dumping if you can still be friends is like firing someone and then saying they’re welcome to stick around as an intern. Rude.
If you don’t want to hurt someone, the best thing you can do is respect them. Rip that band-aid off and walk away. You’ll only mess up the wound if you keep dabbling in it.
“Just a thought: my motto has always been ‘why like someone who doesn’t like you back?’ I ooze self-respect…or maybe I don’t put myself out there. I’m never satisfied in my relationships, because I expect them to have to earn my appreciation with some checklist of attributes, but I don’t have to do much work myself, because they’re suppose to ‘like me for me’ or something. I just want to love someone more than I think they love me. That’s become my definition of a perfect relationship. Help.”
Hold on, you want them to earn your love, but you also want to love them more? You have a checklist for them, but they can’t have a checklist for you? Honey, you’re in an infinity loop of preventing yourself from finding love. “Why like someone who doesn’t like you back,” is a fine motto, but what you’re really communicating is, “I don’t want to invest in you emotionally unless I have the guarantee that you think I’m perfect, and since no one really is, you’ll never be able to think that, and I never have to open up.” There is no way to break into your system. Your motto is a wall, and you’re using what is supposed to sound clever as a way to prevent yourself from growing. In a literal sense, how would it even be possible to think higher of someone who thinks you are, essentially, flawless?
More than one woman several years my senior has told me to “marry someone who loves you more.” Eventually (and it feels nice to get older and be able to say this and mean it) you will actually get tired of wanting to feel desperately in love, of wanting someone who is constantly out on a limb singing your name.
You’re never going to think someone is literally perfect. And if they think that about you, then they’re setting you up for failure. You want them to prove it because you’re scared. You want them to go out on the limb so you don’t have to. You want them to be 110% in love with you so the day when you’re tired and fallible and flawed, they’ll only regress to being 100% yours. But honey, that’s not a relationship. That’s not love. All that is is a support system for your self-esteem. No checklist will ever guarantee that a person will be there for you, no list of attributes can ever guarantee that someone loves you. Love isn’t a bullet list you can cross off. Relationships can’t be broken down into empty boxes to color in. The definition of a perfect relationship doesn’t exist. Relationships aren’t perfect. They’re arduous and complicated and beautiful and time-consuming and life-altering and happy and sad and fun and weird and they’re every day, all day. There is no perfect relationship, but there is the time when they do your laundry without asking, or when they’re waiting at the end of the race with water and snacks, or when they download the horror flick they wanted to see and also download the action movie you wanted to see, or when they’re kind and receptive and apologize for snapping, or when you come home to see they’ve already done the dishes and put your plate in the microwave and they kiss you when you walk in and you think, “this is the person man on the planet.” But that’s not perfection, that’s appreciation, that’s thoughtfulness, that’s love. Stop checking off a list and start feeling what is happening, because love is between the lines you’re taking so much time to write.
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