Familiar words from a reader: "I know breaking up is the right thing to do … but I can't seem to follow through."
"Dump him!" my nieces used to say in a detached tone that matched their words.
Often I was eager to take their advice … it seems I was born dreaming of greener pastures, broader shoulders and whiter teeth. But I have also been the emotionally involved dumpee, curled up, catching my breath between sobs, and trying, at the same time, to bind up my self-image.
Breaking up can trigger our deepest pain. It is, as the song taught us, hard to do. We can find ourselves crawling back to grovel against all odds and reason.
One of the most stunning women I've met spent almost two days of consultation crying on my sofa, as she tried desperately to let go of a relationship, an unhealthy and unfulfilling one. What she clung to was really her self-worth -- it was wrapped up in his wanting her.
His lack of desire called her attractiveness into question, and she had worked way too hard on it to accept that it didn't do what it was supposed to do. Society had all but guaranteed that looks would deliver the man, and she didn't realize you could pay too much for them.
Now, her self-worth was hanging, dangling precariously, on the thread of his desire. And until she had something else to hold on to, she couldn't let go.
She ran through the "if-only-I-hads" over and over in her mind. She had tortured herself with them for months -- as though she could have done (SET ITAL) something (END ITAL) to keep the relationship and her ego intact. But to pull off the "if-only-I-hads," she would have had to be a different person.
That's generally the case. Yes, maybe you could have held on to him if only you had gone to the gym and lost 20 pounds and quit worrying so much about your kids. Those "ifs" may be much bigger than you make them out to be, though! They require shifts in lifestyle and discipline and personality and priorities.
Quit beating yourself up. Quit thinking that something incidental to your relationship messed it up. And please don't kid yourself about what you had together.
When a relationship ends in a breakup, it's because one of the partners was dissatisfied. And when one partner is dissatisfied, the other partner is likely dissatisfied as well … even if they are too busy or too scared to face it.
Our desperate attempts to save a relationship are often attempts to save our self-worth. We're willing to do almost anything to salvage our wounded egos.
We tend to read being dumped as, "You're not good enough for me" or "I never really loved you" or "You're (SET ITAL) never (END ITAL) going to get what you want in a relationship." Getting dumped, in and of itself, is not so bad. It's what we read into it that knocks the wind out of us.
Breaking up is only devastating when our self-esteem is contingent on the relationship! It doesn't have to be that hard.
Think about your worst breakup pain (or your worst pain in general, for that matter). Now ask yourself how much it would have hurt if you had no guilt about how you could have done better, no anxiety about what your "friends" were thinking, no doubt about your ability to learn from your mistakes and move on, and no fear of being flawed.
How much would it have hurt if you had known how very wonderful you -- and your options and your future -- are?

Author's Bio: 

Jan Denise is a columnist, author of the book "Naked Relationships," speaker and coach based in Ormond by the Sea, Fla. Please e-mail her at jandenise@nakedrelationships.com, or visit her Web site at www.nakedrelationships.com.