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June 8, 1998   CONTINUED e-mail e-mail to a friend in need


Dear Breakup Girl,

I have been dating this guy for a year. Throughout our relationship, I learned a lot of family baggage that he was dealing with day to day. He would often talk and confide in me his hurt and anger (he also has been seeking professional help). Anyway, although it's selfish to say, his neediness gave me security in our relationship. He was making real progress with his emotions. Then, family problems took a turn for the worse, financially and emotionally. He now has put so much of his energy into his mother and younger brothers that he barely has time for me. I have been having a rough time in my personal life and he's just not there for me the way I was there for him. I'm taking it all so personally and am a little bitter. Am I being way too selfish? I love him so much and I know he loves me. I don't know what to do. Help --?

-- Amy

Dear Amy,

Bless your heart. Because your letter is so insightful and forthright, Breakup Girl did not have to come up with a clever way to let you in on the fact that "HIS NEEDINESS GIVES YOU SECURITY IN YOUR RELATIONSHIP." It's nice to be the need-ee once in a while, huh? It's touching, flattering, validating ... why, I might even go so far as to say it helps you feel like you exist. Problem is -- as you know -- what happens when someone doesn't need you? Or, at least, doesn't act like they do? I'm not sure, actually, that his not being there for you is the main thing that's bothering you. The main thing, I'm guessing, is that you're thinking, "Hmmm, he's dealing with his family and not coming to me like I'm used to. Where am I? Who am I if I'm not the nurse?" That kind of thing. It's like you've lost your ID card in the relationship.

So you're not being selfish; but you are being human. And humans are selfish. Meaning that yeah, for the moment, you may just have to suck up the fact that he's not able to be there for you right now. And that he may never be able to be there for you the way you have been for him. You've raised the bar pretty high, Amy, and it's your bar. People have lots of different ways of "being there" for each other; they don't always calibrate evenly against one another. So you may have to tough out his -- and your -- tough time right now. And at some point, you'll need to consider what the relationship would look like without your need-o-meter.

Breakup Girl



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