Dear Charlene: “Should I End the Relationship Now?”
Every month, writer and actor Charlene deGuzman answers your questions about love, loss, and loneliness.
Hi everyone! I’m Charlene deGuzman!
I’ve teamed up with FLOOD to offer you all advice, support, and hope! Every month I’ll be answering any of your heart’s questions on life, love, happiness, and any of the deepest places in between.
Let me introduce myself. I was depressed at age eleven. I never thought I could ever feel happy or lovable. I spent my whole life trying to escape the pain. My life was a mess until I got fed up and did something about it. And now, as a recovered sex and love addict, I am the happiest and healthiest I’ve ever been.
I’m here to listen and help. Ask me anything at firstname.lastname@example.org. Your identity will remain anonymous.
And if you need one-on-one guidance, check out the work I do on charlenejoy.com. I would love to help!
I was in a long-term relationship and living with my partner for years. This ended really horribly last summer. On top of that, I’ve been dealing with an illness for a few years now, which also had put a lot of strain on the relationship and led to it ending. The breakup was completely devastating and I’m still mending from it, but doing much better. I’ve actually been seeing someone new for a few months now. The problem is, it’s been up and down and really confusing and difficult since the beginning of this new relationship, but has gotten even more so lately.
He was single for years, and is used to being alone and doing things his own way, and not needing to communicate often—or very well, for that matter. He also seems to be kind of hot and cold, and when I try to talk about these issues and others, he either makes promises to change or gets really angry and defensive. But there’s a lot of good too, and the physical aspect of it is great. I’m scared of ending it and being heartbroken again so soon after the last one, and also of making a mistake and throwing away all the potential that we have together.
How do I know if the two of us just need more time to get over our individual issues and grow into this relationship more or if I should end it now? And more importantly, how do I handle either outcome in the most emotionally healthy way possible? I still feel kind of fragile after the recent breakup and dealing with being sick. Thank you so much for any thoughts you have on the matter!
First I’d like to say that it makes sense that you’d be feeling scared. It sounds like you’ve been going through a lot—a lot—and it makes sense that you wouldn’t want to feel any more pain and suffering. And of course you want to do the right thing! It’s OK to feel scared. I just want to remind you that you are exactly where you should be right now, and everything is unfolding exactly as it should. Nothing needs to be figured out or decided right now in this moment. You will know when you know. Take a deep breath!
While you can’t control the people, relationships, and situations outside of you, you can take responsibility and really show up for yourself.
What I’d really like to focus on is making sure that you are taking care of yourself and that your well-being is a priority. Sometimes when I feel lost and am unsure of what to do, I ask myself, what is the most loving and nurturing thing I could do for myself right now? While you can’t control the people, relationships, and situations outside of you, you can take responsibility and really show up for yourself. What would everything look like if you focused on doing what’s absolutely best for you?
If it still feels hard, put your situation on your best friend or someone you really care about. What would you hope for them?
There are a few things from your e-mail that I would like to repeat back to you. Sometimes it’s easier to see things when they’re reflected back:
“The breakup was completely devastating and I’m still mending from it…”
According to you, you are still—currently, in the present moment—mending from your breakup. This is completely valid; breakups are challenging and painful, it takes what it takes to heal from them. But also:
“I’ve actually been seeing someone new…”
You are currently in a new relationship. This is also valid. You’ve moved on, you’re moving forward with your life, you’re opening yourself up to the new. But something to get curious about—do you feel like you’ve fully taken care of yourself? Have you tended to your wounds? Have you felt your feelings? Have you fully let go of all that no longer serves you? Have you created the space for someone new?
What if your partner was still getting over his last breakup? Would that affect you or the relationship at all? What would you wish for him?
“On top of that, I’ve been dealing with an illness for a few years now…”
I want to really acknowledge, validate, and be with the challenges and suffering you have experienced from dealing with an illness. That is incredibly difficult! And it affected your last relationship. I could only imagine the pain you must have felt. So it makes sense that you’d be scared of this happening all over again.
“The problem is, it’s been up and down and really confusing and difficult since the beginning… He also seems to be kind of hot and cold, and when I try to talk about these issues and others, he either makes promises to change or gets really angry and defensive.”
Expressing difficult feelings, listening with compassion, communicating honestly, and taking responsibility are all hard things that partners can experience in their relationship. Ups and downs happen, fears happen, difficulties happen. But at some point we need to take responsibilities for ourselves, acknowledge and validate our needs, and ask ourselves if our partner is capable of fulfilling those needs. Sometimes we need to check in with the commitment to the partnership: Is your partner available? You may want to check out what I’ve written about unavailable people before.
“I’m scared of ending it and being heartbroken again so soon after the last one, and also of making a mistake and throwing away all the potential that we have together.”
It could be a good idea to check in with yourself and ask, am I staying because of love? Or am I staying because of fear?
Fear keeps us stuck. Fear keeps us from growing. Fear keeps us from something better. Fear keeps us from our full potential. And fear is just a story in your head. Never forget that on the other side of fear is a huge gift. A better life. You deserve the opportunity to at least see what’s on the other side. And only you can do this for yourself. Whenever you’re ready. How long do you want to wait?
Fear keeps us from our full potential. And fear is just a story in your head.
I’m not going to tell you what to do, and I know there is nothing I can say to improve the situation or make it easier. Whatever you decide to do, though, the only thing I would like to encourage is to really do the most loving thing for yourself. That could look like many things—speaking up, speaking your truth, being honest with yourself and your partner, validating your needs, setting boundaries, letting go of what no longer serves you, giving yourself the space you need to connect and listen to yourself, asking for help, receiving support from others, and, most importantly, practicing compassion for yourself through it all—being incredibly gentle, patient, and kind with yourself.
You are worthy of the most loving, happy, healthy, fulfilling relationship. And it will always begin with your relationship to yourself. FL