What would you do when facing this painful dilemma?

Postby AVguy » Sun Jun 17, 2018 9:58 pm

Hello,

Today I bring to you the greatest dilemma of my life so far.

It’s a long story and bumpy, so I kindly ask you to buckle up and keep reading.

I have known my ex-gf since we were 10 years old. We always had that special thing for each other even as little kids, she was my crush and I was hers. Life went on, we got separate ways and one day, we were already in college, i decided to contact her and we clicked. We have started dating and we were obviously very happy. 8 years went by with ups and downs that I have always considered quite normal on long-term relationships, but we have always kept strong in face of adversities, because we were so special for each other, right?

2 years ago, we have decided to move in together and it was a very happy time, such responsibility and companionship, a bed a and a table to share, we know that we would always find each other at the end of the day to be together. However, she was never happy with her job and professional choices and me, on the other side, I loved my job and I was very focused on it. Too focused. Among other issues, we have started to grow apart emotionally and I have found out that she was meeting some other guy, more or less 4 months ago.

At first she said it was no big deal, that he was starting to like her, but that for her, he was only a friend and she guaranteed thar she had already told him to step back a bit. I believed, but the weird behaviours did not stop and I have found out again that they were dating behind my back. By that time, I have decided that I would not endure more of it and I left home. We have decided that we need time apart to think about our feeling and she told me that she wanted to be with me, but she was too into the other guy and she would be making all efforts to get over him for the next month, so me and her could be together again.

I was living somewhere else, and very painful month of almost no contact between us went by and one day I was missing her quite bad and I have texted her. She did not reply and I was feeling miserable for making such stupid move. I then drove to our house just to see her a bit and I found the other guy’s car parked in front of the door. I got away from there and then texted her stating that we should take care of our common belongings so we could move on properly. She replied telling me that she could not sleep and that we should talk. I drove back to our house and we told how much we were missing each other, that being apart did not make sense at all. We both decided that we should be working together for our relationship and she told me that she was going to break it off with other guy. She did, but her heart was still with him.

2 very confused months have passed in which she was dating me and dating the other guy, she had no idea whom to chose as a partner. We were breaking up and making up almost every week, because i always kept my hopes that she was going to decide to be with me, even though I was feeling very manipulated, but I was so emotionally dependent on her that had to keep waiting for it. My dignity was in the mud already, so why shouldnt i sacrifice myself a bit more, right? I was sure it would pay off. It was however exausting for both of us and I understood that I could not keep living a lie, as she clearly did not want to let go of the other guy.

A bit more thatn a week ago, we have then both decided at the same time that it was time. We were not meant to be together. We were no longer special to each other. We were both accepting the idea that we would go separate ways in life, the the end of our long love story has come to an end.

But in that very same day, she called, she was having a panick attack (it was fairly common, and I always helped her through it when we were together) and she asked me to come as quickly as possible. When I arrived at what was once our home, she told me that the other guy has just had accident and had die… I did not know what to react, i was petrified, a guy so young (our age) did not exist anymore… but she was devastated…

I very quickly grew a pair, tried to forget all our history, and told her I was very sorry for her loss and that I was available as a friend. Took her to the hospital and endured qll my ambiguous feelings just to be there with her.

She has been suffering a lot, she is having a very hard time dealing with him being gone. I now have information about their relationship that I had no idea about. She was living a life that I had ignored completely. She was very much in love.

She tells me that she feels very sad and very lonely and that she has no one in her life that she can call a friend. She tells me that she doesn’t want to lose me either and she needs us to be friends, that I am the best person she has ever met.

But even though I feel such need to take care of her and to shield her from the pain, I can’t help but to feel:

resentment for being cheated on and stepped on by her
a very low-self esteem for being replaced and feeling that I was not good enough, when I was under the impression that we were meant for each other
depression-like feeling because the love of my life is no longer mine to love
genuine concern about her mental health
a great sadness for a lost life, even though he was someone who brought so much pain to mine
a stupid little persistent hope that makes me believe that one day she will truly see me again as the love of her life…
I can’t even begin to describe you the greatness of my love for her and under normal circumstances I would accept an opinion like ‘there is plenty of fish in the sea’. But someone has died and she is in such pain…

Sorry for the long comment, but this is eating me alive from the inside. What would you do in my position?
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#1

Postby Richard@DecisionSkills » Mon Jun 18, 2018 2:04 am

If I’m in your position I make a set of hard rules.

-1- The romantic relationship is over.

-2- I’m willing to talk with her over the phone or via email anytime as friends.

-3- The conversation can be reference anything non-intimate or romantic. She needs to grieve about this other guy she was in love with great, but I will not entertain our intimate relationship ever resuming. That is over.

I would be very direct and without ambiguity. Any attempt by her to suggest any returning of the relationship to being intimate and I shut down that particular conversation. I say goodbye or respond with “I am willing to be your friend, nothing more.”

In her mind, you will NEVER be the guy she lost. It is not your fault, but you can’t compete with the fantasy. She will always compare any future relationship to this guy and because of various forms of cognitive bias, this guy will remain her true love in her head. No guy will ever be good enough for her, so she will keep searching. She already knows you are not him and that is why she kept going back and forth.

IF you weaken and restart an intimate relationship with her, it will only be a matter of time before she begins once again looking for a guy like the one she lost.
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#2

Postby AVguy » Mon Jun 18, 2018 1:10 pm

Thank you very much for your awesome reply, Richard@DecisionSkils. It was very direct. Its actually liberating to get advice for someone whom is in no way emotionally linked to the situation.

Your answer was, however, very focused on me (and i apreciate it, dont get me wrong) and not so much on her. I want to ask you: do you believe that that is the optimum procedure to minimize both our pains simultaneously? It will obviously minimize mine, but about hers? Do you think text and email from me represent enough support torwards her? What would be your advice if it was her who was asking for it?

Thank you very much for your support kind sir.
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#3

Postby Richard@DecisionSkills » Mon Jun 18, 2018 3:57 pm

AVguy wrote:...do you believe that that is the optimum procedure to minimize both our pains simultaneously?


Yes.

There is a false assumption we all make that is very natural. As you have pointed out it is easy to look at the situation emotionally. The false assumption is that we need to be involved in the healing process. Our own ego makes us think that we must play a key and significantly different role in helping this other individual than the rest of society. We want to believe that but for our involvement, that this person will suffer significantly more.

But, once we step back away from emotion it is easily demonstrated false.

The reality is that if we remove you totally from her life, the pain and healing process will be roughly the same. Consider a hypothetical, where for some reason you are completely unavailable to her as a resource. How would she survive without you?

A rhetorical question, she would survive the same as any other person that suffers a difficult loss or trauma in life. You are not the key difference maker. Like any other person that suffers a trauma there would be a path available to her to recover, including but not limited to other friends, family, therapists, spiritual leaders, community networks, and even finding a new intimate partner.

Absent you, she will recover more or less the exact same as with you in the picture. The opposite would hold true. If you were going through a trauma, while it might be nice to have her support, if she was unavailable you would seek comfort elsewhere and be just fine.
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#4

Postby AVguy » Mon Jun 18, 2018 4:35 pm

Thank you very much again.

So, bottom line, my support is irrelevant for her healing process, since there should be plenty of support options out there that dont include me. From my point of view, however, i will for sure benefit from the action of steping away. I understand the sum of pain will obviously decrease.

But we are looking only at the difference between today and the day we will no longer feel pain. Two static moments (and that actualy what i asked for, i know). But what about the process between these two moments? Could you state (or not) that the process is easier by following your procedure? I mean, do you think that there is a compromise between the difficulty of the healing process and the process lenght in time? If i give more support, the healing process will be longer?

Sorry for keeping the questions, but this is a complex situation for me. And i dont really feel like leaving her alone with her pain, even though it makes perfect sense for me that our romantic relationship is over and keeping hope is irrelevant. At this point, i just really want the best for her recovery.

Thank you very much.
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#5

Postby Richard@DecisionSkills » Mon Jun 18, 2018 5:15 pm

AVguy wrote:But we are looking only at the difference between today and the day we will no longer feel pain. Two static moments (and that actualy what i asked for, i know). But what about the process between these two moments?


The day she will no longer feel pain doesn't exist. And you are now associated with that pain. It is not right or wrong, it just is.

The quickest way to reduce pain is to disengage, removing all reminders of the trauma, and replace or reengage by putting in place new goals of perceived equivalent value.

The reason the remove/replace strategy works is because we cannot think about two things at the same time. If she became fully immersed in some new purpose in life in a new location with new people, her cognitive resources would by default be required to focus on this new life. Old memories would fade more rapidly, along with the pain.

But even remove/replace does not remove all pain. When she looks at the calendar and recognizes that day as the day she lost her lover, the pain comes flooding back in that static moment, even if that static moment is 10 years from now. It is like the significant days of lost loved ones, e.g. when we lose our parents. I don't care how many years, I don't care how much you have removed/replaced those relationships with other purpose, the calendar triggers those memories.

Given you have stated that you know the romantic relationship with her is over, the best you can offer is friendship. And as you move on in life, your contact with her will lessen and your contact with some new woman will increase. The same will hold true for her. But, then one day you will reach out to her and say "happy birthday" and that will trigger all sorts of memories not only about you, but also about her lost lover.
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