There’s one thing holding you back from a fulfilling, fun, exciting new relationship.
Your old relationship.
I know, I know. You care(d) about this person a lot, and you haven’t found the right time or opportunity to do the breaking up. Or maybe you feel you can’t, for some reason. If you know the relationship isn’t headed anywhere and you’re treading water at this point, you owe it to yourself and the other person to end it and free him or her up to move on. And regardless of what the other person has said or done, this comes down to you and your ability to make a decision to end it.
So in honor of Independence Day, let me free you from the tyranny of these stultifying beliefs and all-around bad reasons you’re staying in a relationship that has passed its prime.
Worst Reason #1: He’s such a good guy.
I met a woman at a networking event who told me she was with her boyfriend for years, and wanted to know how to deal with people asking her why she’s not married. But that wasn’t the real issue, I soon discovered. When I asked why she was staying with him, she didn’t say because she loves him; she said because he’d “done nothing wrong.” But that’s not the reason to stay—and not the reason to build a life with someone.
This belief plays into the false idea that a breakup is a criminal indictment instead of the decision to part ways. If you aren’t actively choosing this person, you’re essentially rewarding someone with a long-term commitment just because he or she has committed no transgressions. Plenty of people, in fact, choose to stay with people who do engage in less-than-good behavior. Do what you want. But stay with someone because you love and want them, not as a prize for good behavior. It’s insulting—and not enough to sustain you in the long haul.
Worst Reason #2: I don’t want to hurt her.
This scenario sounds kind and considerate and sweet—but scratch the surface and it’s plain old-fashioned egotism. Why? Because it assumes that you are the center of this person’s universe and that they couldn’t possibly go on without you.
I learned this lesson myself when, many moons ago, I dated a guy who had relocated for me, and I knew it wasn’t going to work out. But I tortured myself before and after the breakup because I thought, OMG how is this poor fella going to move on? I’ll ruin his life! My uncle, a Catholic priest (who has since passed away), said to me the thing no one else did.
“Terri, my dear,” he said, “You’re not quite as important as you think.”
And he was 100% right. I knew my decision to end it was the right one, and if my ex wasn’t thrilled with it, he was a grown up and would have to find a way to deal. And he did. But it wasn’t until I got that much-needed slap in the face that I saw my ridiculous self-regard for what it was. Sure, it will be hard for the other person if you want out and he or she doesn’t. But once you make a decision and deliver it fairly and honestly, you’re not responsible for how that person recovers. She is. Again, if breaking up isn’t a crime, then you’re not a perpetrator. So stop with the mea culpa and treat the other person like an adult.
Worst Reason #3: I don’t want to be alone.
OK. Let’s have it out, shall we? Whether you admit it or not, ending something of your own volition and going your own way is sad and scary, for all of us—especially when you’ve been with someone a while. The sooner you can come to grips with the fear of leaving something comfortable and familiar that isn’t working, the sooner you can move on to something that will.
It’s definitely a shock to the system—like when step outside into below-freezing temps. You might panic initially, but you start to warm up as you move. You can adjust and you will. And the idea that “you’ll never love again” is total bullshit. Stop it with that drama. There are 75-year-olds with new lovers. You’ll be just fine.
Some people will stay far, far too long in a lousy relationship out of fear of that cold. And while being alone carries with it obvious fears, you’re not actually alone in the world. In fact, you may find that in the wake of a breakup you have time and interest in cultivating some relationships left fallow or neglected for too long. Being alone and being lonely are two wholly different things—and there’s nothing lonelier than staying in something that ain’t working. And you can’t be open to new love and connection until you can truly let go.
Terri Trespicio is a lifestyle & relationship expert, media personality, and the VP of Business & Talent Development for 2 Market Media. A regular contributor to national media, she’s appeared on Dr. Oz, Anderson Cooper, Today, and the Martha Stewart Show, to name a few, and hosted a live, daily call-in show on Sirius XM. Her work has been published in Jezebel, Marie Claire, Prevention, and Whole Living, where she previously served as a senior editor. Visit her at territrespicio.com and on Twitter @TerriT.