Your TEDx talk inspired me to let go, something I’ve been struggling to do for the past two months after a sudden breakup. This guy was my ex-colleague who quit his job to train in Perth to become a pilot in October 2017. We texted for a year before I went to visit him in April 2017, and we confessed our feelings for each other. And even though he acted as if we were a couple, he said we couldn’t be officially until he finished his training.
Once home, we texted every day and talked on the phone once a week. Even though there were little problems here and there, which were normal, they started to bother me.
As his training got tougher, he stopped answering my calls and texts. I’d initiate all contact and would fuss when he ignored me, asking if he still liked me. He’d reassure me, but became distant. I figured he was busy with school and shouldn’t disturb him. And every time we’d quarrel, I’d apologize, but he rarely did the same.
Fast forward to April this year, I went to visit him again but due to his tight schedule, I only saw him for a few hours. He seemed happy to see me and told me that he couldn’t wait to be home with me. But when he finally did come home, he stopped texting as much and said he needed to get settled before meeting with me. I knew something wasn’t right, so I kept texting and asking him whether he still liked me.
He only replied once every few days until I asked him, again, whether he still liked me. After that, he stopped texting altogether. I kept apologizing and calling him but nothing.
Now, I barely sleep and cry every day. I’ve started taking medication to sleep so I can get through the day and not lose my job, but the pills are making me worse. I’m afraid to be alone so my mum is with me all the time for comfort. I have panic attacks in waves and burst into tears for no reason. Since it’s been two months, my parents now scold me if they see me crying. I just can’t let go. And my body is deteriorating. After listening to your talk, I want to let go so that I can meet my Mr. Right soon too, but don’t know where to start. Help?
Two Months Later and Still Suffering
Dear Still Suffering:
I see a lot of my younger self in your story, particularly when it comes to one relationship I had when I was very young – it spanned my late teens and early 20s – and I talk about it in the Welcome Message on my website. Go read it. More than once.
Back then, I was very young and insecure and struggling with loving myself. I had a lot of body-image issues and a belief system that told me that I wasn’t pretty or thin enough to be loved. So I took what I could get, figuring if this person loved me, I’d better hold onto him. Even if that meant apologizing for what I didn’t do wrong or asking him several times a week if he still “liked me” or just generally acquiescing to whatever he wanted.
Our relationship was a lot like an experience we had together, when we spent the day tubing down the Delaware River, a fun summer pastime in this area. He was in one tire float and I was in another. We’d tied our floats together so we could move down the river together. While he lied on his back and did absolutely nothing, I flailed my arms like someone shipwrecked on desert island signaling for help, while working to move us in the right direction towards first a hot dog stand (yes, on a small island in the middle of the river, from out of nowhere, it’s weird) and then the shore. This was a perfect metaphor for how we spent most of that relationship: Him doing nothing and me doing everything, exhausting myself trying to keep us afloat.
I look back at that experience now and can see how telling it was of both our relationship and what I thought of myself. Not much. I wince when I think of the desperation. The willingness to kill myself for the mere crumb of having him floating beside me.
I tell you this story because if I could go back to my younger self—who was a lot like you—I might first slap her on the side of the head (gently, of course). And then I would ask her: What’s wrong with this picture? Why are you killing yourself here? Why are still with this person? Why do you care so much about him? What do you need from this person that you can’t do or create for yourself?
The answer was love, of course. Acceptance. Validation. All of the things I couldn’t do for or give to myself.
Because the truth of the matter is, if you have to ask someone if they still like you—over and over again (as if having to ask just once isn’t bad enough)—the answer is it doesn’t matter. It’s no longer about that other person. It’s about you. And what you want for yourself, what you’re willing to accept, and what you believe you deserve from a relationship and love.
This is just one of the red flags I see in your note, but there are so many others. Yes, some problems in relationship are normal, as you state, but that depends on what they are. Does he chew with his mouth open? Does it drive you crazy when you puts the toilet paper roll on backwards, or forgets to pick up his socks? Do you like romantic comedies and he likes alien movies? Do you communicate differently in the sense that you need to focus on expressing your feelings and he needs to focus on fixing the problem? These are “normal” problems I see in healthy relationship. And the way to get through them is to communicate well and make sure that you’re both getting equal time, attention, love, and empathy.
Normal problems are not, he’s making promises he never keeps, you’re always flying to him doing all the work and making all the concessions, and him not making time when you do. Or, not texting or calling you first or even back, making you feel so desperately insecure in the relationship that you’re consistently asking whether he likes you.
So keep that in mind when you’re talking about normal problems. Define normal.
Another red flag: You’re apologizing but he’s not. What are you apologizing for? I’m all for being the hero in a situation and making concessions, even if you think you’re not entirely at fault, but because you want to get to the heart of the problem, not get waylaid by right fighting, and keep a healthy relationship on track.
But you shouldn’t be the only one doing it. If you’re apologizing when you haven’t done anything wrong, time and time again, check yourself. This is not you being a hero for the relationship, but rather, begging for someone to stay when, in reality, you’d be better off letting them go. Again, see my Welcome Message where I talk about apologizing so much, it became implicit permission for my boyfriend to treat me badly with no consequences or recrimination. It was the ultimate power play … for him. I might as well have just said to him, “It’s okay to treat me like shit. All I need you to do is just never leave me and I’ll never expect any more than that. I’ll take whatever you want to give, even if it sucks, and I’ll own and apologize for EVERYTHING. So go ahead, carry on with your bad behavior…”
My advice to you is to honor yourself enough to stop begging. For anything, from anyone (unless you’re at the airport, trying to get home, find your lost luggage, or get through security to make your flight … or getting on the scale at a Weight Watchers meeting, begging for mercy…). Ever. If your guy needs that to stay, he’s not for you.
Wake up to these red flags. They’re epiphanies that are desperately trying to not only serve, but save you. They’re your gifts, Still Suffering. The truth inside of you screaming for attention. And they won’t stop coming—not with him or anyone after him—until you look at them. Even if you try to smooth them over or bury them. So look right into their light and take the lesson.
Take the lesson and do better for yourself.
What I see is you chasing that which doesn’t want to be chased. And in doing so, you’re creating a self-fulfilling prophecy—that which you fear most, being left—simply by coming off as needy. Most healthy people will reject this. And those who aren’t healthy, will take advantage of it. They’ll stomp all over it and you for bloodsport — like a barrel of old grapes.
It’s also no surprise to me that, as a result of this, you’re experiencing health issues, because unaddressed truths often manifest negatively in our body. After all, our physical bodies, mind, spirit and emotions are deeply intertwined. When something goes awry with one, it almost always impacts the other. And while I’m very sorry that your parents don’t seem to be supportive, their need to scold probably comes from a place of pain and frustration in not being able to help you move forward.
The good news, Still Suffering, is you don’t need them or anybody to move forward. Everything you need resides within. You just need to find the path towards loving yourself and everything else will follow. Start by asking yourself the most important questions: Instead of asking what’s wrong with him or how can you get him to do what you want or whether he still “likes you”, ask why you’re holding on so tightly? What are you getting from it? What will happen if you let go? What are you afraid of? Why do you need to find that validation outside of yourself? What do you believe about yourself and what you deserve from love? And how can you change that belief so you can find the strength to extricate yourself from this undesirable situation? Because it’s only when you’re able to answer these questions, that you’ll find healthy love with another.
When I was in that relationship—where I begged and apologized and asked if he liked me over and over again—it came from a place of being wounded. It was the limiting beliefs I was given as a child that told me, if I let him go, I would never find love again. That I should settle for whatever I could get. That I was lucky to have whatever he chose to give me – even if it made me feel bad, ashamed, or less than. At least, it was something. I had someone.
Like you, I had to work through it. It took me decades to figure out that all of the bad decisions I’d made while dating came from the contaminated well deep in my subconscious. Thoughts and beliefs I couldn’t access at the surface, but after much self-exploration, I identified in keeping me stuck and in my own way. I had to change them to get out of my own way. And I encourage you to do the same. Begin by doing that work for yourself.
I strongly encourage you to do so with both kindness towards yourself and the help of a trained counselor or therapist. It will be well worth your effort, I promise you. Because on the other side of this struggle, is healthy love just waiting for you.
But don’t do it so you can “meet Mr. Right” more quickly. Forget about that for now. Do it so you can learn how to have a healthy love relationship with yourself—because it’s only when you do, that you’ll be able to have the same relationship with another person. If you stay focused on cultivating Radical Self Love, the rest will follow. It will give you the safety you need to make the bold moves in love – which include letting go of that which doesn’t serve (like this guy) and bringing into your life that which does.
I’m rooting for you!
Fans & Followers
Watch Jill’s TEDxWilmington Talk: The Unstoppable Power of Letting Go
Learn more about Jill Sherer Murray: www.letgoforit.com
Jill Sherer Murray is an award-winning writer and speaker who studies relationships and self-growth. She is also the founder of Let Go For It®, a lifestyle brand dedicated to helping individuals let go for a better life. Jill’s TEDx talk as well as her advice column, Big Wild Love: Let Go For It® were created in service to her loyal and growing fan base, who seek support in the act and the art of letting go for the love they desire and deserve. Follow Jill @letgoforit on Twitter, Facebook, Instagram and LinkedIn.