Dear Amy: Breaking Up Is Hard to Do
How do you start life over after nine years – and an abuser in your ear?
Dear Amy: I just got out of a nine-year relationship with a man I’m just now realizing was manipulative and mean. Unfortunately, he developed a drinking problem during our time together.
He broke things off twice (against my wishes), and I was the one who had to move out and lose my home and my dog, etc.
After being apart this time, I started to see some things I had ignored before because I loved him so much. He is emotionally abusive at times, as we try to separate our items and as I try to purchase the house from him. He has said things like, “If you don’t drop this, I will take everything, and you’ll get nothing.” Or throwing it in my face that he’s glad we never got married.
I started therapy and have been going now for two years.
During that time, my therapist has tried to guide me toward what’s healthy; but I think she knew I wasn’t ready to hear it. I was so in love.
I know now that breaking up is a blessing in disguise, but I’m still struggling with his behavior. After all, I loved this man for nine years, unconditionally.
How do I navigate this? How do I handle his behavior toward me while we figure things out? And how could I have loved a man who treated me this way?
— Struggling and Hurt
Dear Struggling: Like the old song says, “breaking up is hard to do;” even when you know in your bones that it is the right thing to do.
Immediately post-breakup, your thoughts are still anchored to your ex, because being with him for nine years has conditioned you to automatically consider his thoughts and feelings before your own. That’s why your relationship was so imbalanced, and why he has disrespected you. Your unspoken pact was that he mattered more than you do.
That impulse on your part is why it is important for you to learn to differentiate between his needs, and your own.
You should now work hard to stop “handling” him at all.
If you are splitting up your household, think of these encounters as negotiations, not emotional relationship encounters.
When your encounters and negotiations veer into name-calling or emotional manipulation, you should steer it back to the bloodless practicality of who gets the bookshelf.
In terms of the future: when you know better, you do better. And now you know better.
In the tradition of the great personal advice columnists, Chicago Tribune’s Amy Dickinson is a plainspoken straight shooter who relates to readers of all ages. She answers personal questions by addressing issues from both her head and her heart. A solid reporter, Dickinson researches her topics to provide readers with informed opinions and answers. Ask Amy, P.O. Box 194, Freeville, NY 13068
© 2021 by Amy Dickinson