Getting un-stuck on June 15, 1998…
Dear Breakup Girl,
You may remember me as the one whose boyfriend dumped me by cassette tape last year [that's another story for another column -- BG]. Since then we have broken up and gotten back together probably five or six times. After the last breakup we decided to be “friends” but started having four-hour-long online conversations that revolved mostly around cybersex. Perhaps I can be forgiven for thinking that this was going to be the beginning of the NEXT phase of our relationship … until last week when I forced the issue and flat-out asked him if he’d already found someone else that he was seeing…and he said yes. When I said, “You’ve been having those conversations with ME and seeing someone else?” he told me to stop giving him my “self-righteous bullsh*t.” (Keep in mind we’ve been seeing each other on and off for four years.) Anyway, my question — yes, what IS my question, you are asking — is, even though the guy is a louse, and seems incapable of being honest with me, and clearly doesn’t care much about me…WHY CAN I NOT SEEM TO GET HIM OUT OF MY SYSTEM? Thanks for any insight you might have: your website, Jonathan Kellerman books, and Haagen-Dazs “Dulce de Leche” ice cream are the only things keeping me going right now.
I know you’re not fibbing about the Haagen-Dazs, because that’s how come you could spell it.
Anyway, first of all, you’re not crazy. People stick with / get stuck on people who treat them far worse. Go figure.
For my money, here’s what you’re stuck on: the fact that, after this final fallout, he didn’t say those three little words. As in: “You are right.” I know you’ve got four years of history stored up, too, but this last “self-righteous” incident is sticking out on top of the pile. You can’t get him out of your system because “the guy is a louse, seems incapable of being honest, and clearly doesn’t care much.” That’s not BG’s position on him, but it is how you feel. You are fuming. You want to fix it and you can’t, you want to fix him and you can’t. That, my dear, you’re just going to have to ball your fists and accept.
But a lot of this is also about defining your terms. What does “out of your system” really mean? Look, our whole beings and minds are made up of patchworks of memories and networks of triggers. Everything, every moment, reminds you of something else — that’s how we tick — it’s just that some of those ticks sting. And this guy is/was part of your life; at some level, he’s hard wired in. So it’s not about purging him fully, forever and ever. It’s about, little by little, being able to ignore, override — and one day, not even notice the bleeps.
And how do you do that? To some degree, you just decide to. Or at least to start. It’s an act of will. It’s also a matter of defining your terms. “Out of your system” doesn’t meant you don’t think about him, or that it doesn’t still smart. It means that while there still may be this little remnant of that relationship stuck to your back in that funny place you just can’t reach, well, that remnant is stuck to your back, not standing in your way. You can move on while it’s still sitting there. To quote myself, we do ourselves a disservice by lying around in traction waiting to feel 110% better. It’s also called protecting yourself from getting hurt again. But at some point you have to acknowledge that we are all walking wounded. And that at some point you just have to get back out there, sling, eyepatch, crutches, and all. AND allow yourself the occasional Kellerman/butterfat fest when you just don’t feel like it.
P.S. “You are right.”