by Neil Rosenthal
Note: This is the second of a two-part series.
The following is a continuation of the reasons (or excuses) people often give when breaking up, and explanation of what those reasons mean-and what, if anything, you can do about it.
What Is Said: “You’re not the person I married.” What It Really Means: It’s probably true. None of us stay the same over time: we change, evolve, grow, soften, harden, change our priorities, our careers, our goals, our interests. What You Can Do About It: Explore what this means to your partner. Likely s/he is strongly disappointed in certain changes, behaviors or attitudes you’ve adopted. Can you be flexible about reconsidering some of those issues or behaviors?
What Is Said: “I’m not good enough for you.” What It Really Means: You’re not good enough for me. What You Can Do About It: You could attempt to explore your partner’s discontent, and you could ask what s/he would want or need in order to reconsider this stance. Other than that, there is nothing you can do.
What Is Said: “I can’t be who you want me to be.” What It Really Means: Either I will have to give up too much of myself in order to stay with you-or you are asking for what I can’t (or won’t) give. What You Can Do About It: Get curious and ask what pressures you have been putting on the relationship that would cause someone to feel this way. Perhaps there is a way for you to compromise some of your expectations in order for you to keep the relationship intact?
What Is Said: “I don’t trust you.” What It Really Means: Either you violated trust in the past and your partner cannot regain that trust, or your partner simply doesn’t trust people-or both. What You Can Do About It: Ask about what trust issues specifically trouble your partner, and what your partner would like you to do about those issues today if you were trying to right the wrongdoing. Then do what s/he asks of you, and reassure him/her everyday or so that you will everything you can to win back his or her trust and you won’t violate it ever again. Then make sure you don’t violate that trust ever again.
What Is Said: “This isn’t how I pictured my life.” What It Really Means: I’m disappointed in you. What You Can Do About It: Get very curious about what your partner is so disappointed about-and explore if there is anything you can do to address and/or repair those disappointments.
What Is Said: “We have too many differences.” What It Really Means: We’re not compatible in some important ways. What You Can Do About It: Ask your partner about the most important differences, and about what s/he would need in order to be happy together. Is that something you could realistically offer over time?
What Is Said: “I don’t love you anymore.” What It Really Means: I don’t love you. What You Can Do About It: Cry. You can’t make someone else love you no matter what you do.
Neil Rosenthal is a licensed marriage and family therapist in Denver and Boulder, CO, specializing in how people strengthen their intimate relationships. He can be reached at 303. 758.8777, or e-mail him from his website, heartrelationships.com.