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Goals, not wishes-- I'm a doctor, not a genie.

Thursday, January 18, 2018

Words with Amends

Posted by fxckfeelings on April 20, 2017

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If someone breaks up with you for what you perceive to be unfair or unfounded reasons, one of the ironic effects of of the unjust uncoupling is that you can become so filled with confusion, pain and resentment that you can become the very kind of negative person your ex accused you of being in the first place. While there’s no reason to like the negative person you’ve become, there’s every reason to fear the results of sharing your feelings with your ex, even if you’re desperate to share something with her to win her back. Finding something sweet, giving and positive to think about and say may then seem like a good, positive solution that could restore your self-esteem and do some good. If being with her makes you become such a bad version of yourself, however, there are reasons to think twice about offering to help your ex feel better and instead use a different approach that will make you the better person you used to be.

-Dr. Lastname

I have an ex-girlfriend that suffers from depression and also has Aspergers. When she broke up with me, she accused me of being a liar and becoming a different, uncaring person over the course of the relationship. I don’t think any of those accusations are true, or that she even believes them, and I haven’t been able to get over her. Even though she said harsh words to me, I do not think she meant them and it was just the depression and Aspergers talking, especially since she told me she’s been depressed her entire life. I know that this might sound selfish and dumb, but I want to write something that could express that to her and maybe help her in the future. I will admit that I still like her and that’s why I’m writing, but I also really want her to be happier overall. My goal is to be able to get her out of her misery and be able to have a better life.

F*ck Love: One Shrink’s Sensible Advice for Finding a Lasting Relationship

After having your heartbroken, your brain is often sent into overdrive, trying to find ways to put it back together again. The most obvious way to do that is to put the lost relationship back together again, but, if you’re smart enough to know that begging and kidnapping are not viable options, your brain will try to come up with more sophisticated approaches to reach out to your ex again.

Just-reasonable-enough excuses range from the need to retrieve those prized gym socks you left at his house to, you guessed it, the desire to stay in her life as a close/concerned friend since you still care about her (and have conned yourself into believing that you’re totally cool with your new peripheral role and it won’t be absolute torture).

So, while preparing a helpful, empathic response to your ex’s recriminations may seem like a good way to defend yourself and make the breakup more meaningful (or, to fulfill a wish, known or subconscious, to undo your breakup entirely), it may not be a good way to achieve the more altruistic goal you’ve described above.

What you need to consider then isn’t whether this gesture will redeem you in her eyes or rekindle your romance, but what the likely impact of your efforts will be for her and what you believe is best for you, given what you now know about her. In other words, you’re not interested in what’s best for the two of you as a couple, but for the two of you as individuals, coupled or no.

So, regardless of whether you still like her, miss her, and care about her happiness, your first obligation is to ask yourself whether, knowing what you know now, she can ever be good for you. Assuming that, as you’ve described, her total loss of trust in you doesn’t have a grounding in reality, ask yourself whether this aspect of her character has ruined her prior relationships and could happen again or is likely to change. You need to know whether she tends to get over her mistrust, whether she can get over it but fall back into it just as easily, strongly and/or frequently, or whether it’s likely to remain permanent, no matter how strong your reasoning or concern.

Of course, you can be helpful to someone who has periods of moderate irrational mistrust, is aware that such periods have more to do with her internal state than actual betrayal, and wants to prevent those feelings from destroying relationships. Such a person can benefit from patience, reassurance, and, for that matter, therapy. On the other hand, people who suffer intense mistrust and truly believe it’s the other person’s fault are unlikely to benefit from kindness or therapy, and the only benefit they can offer you is a worthwhile lesson in Assholes™ 101.

In addition, because they need to see you as a villain, your acting kindly will seem to them like a deceitful way of gaslighting them, i.e., undermining their sense of what’s real and true, both affirming their negative opinion of you and motivating them to attack you in order to restore their (false) sense of reality. They don’t mean to be Assholes™, but they are, and it’s your job to beware and protect yourself.

So before acting on fond feelings and a strong desire to undo heartbreak, ask yourself whether reaching out to her will actually help her. And if it makes her feel better about herself and about you, consider whether reuniting will actually make you feel worse, either immediately or not too long after the glow of making up fades.

The sad fact is that, even if she could admit that her reasoning was false, her depression may make her a bad partner for anyone until she actively seeks treatment or methods for controlling her negative, paranoid thoughts and impulses. More likely, reaching out to her and trying to set the record straight and make things right will just frustrate you, prolong your heartbreak, and create enough hostility between you two to make any future friendship/ability to help her in the way your goal states will be impossible. It may sting to know she has the wrong idea about you, but if you’re certain that her perception is false and that you did the right thing, then that’s what’s most important.

So congratulations for being able to see past your ex-girlfriend’s depression and problems with reading other people’s emotions, for your kind instincts, and for your determined brain and its inventive ideas for repairing your heart. However, don’t let your (or your brain’s) desire to be helpful prevent you from being objective about what you need from this relationship, what you’re likely to get, and what is best for everyone involved in the long run.


“I will always feel sad for my girlfriend’s pain, but I will not get involved with someone who loses all trust in me when she’s angry, regardless of how strongly I wish I could help her with her pain.”

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