Murphy’s Love: Advice on Intimacy and Relationships
Dear Stacy, Well, here we are again – another unceremonious breakup. This time I really thought things were going well, and even that I had overlooked quite a few issues (like his overbearing mother, his reluctance to actually plan a date) so as to make our relationship work for the last six months. But no, he now says he’s taken stock and realized that I’m just not “the one.” I have lots of friends to take me out and listen to me complain about his insensitivity. They remind me what a great girlfriend I am, and tell me there are other fish in the sea. What I want from you is a cliché-free explanation for why this failed again, even as I tried my hardest to withhold my criticism and just make it work. What is going on with me that after 22 years of dating (I’m 37), I’m still getting dumped. –Not the One
Dear Not the One, I’m so sorry you are struggling with this, but I do know one thing about your question: You aren’t the one, and neither is he. Hear me on this one, he is not “the one” for you. Take heart in that. He wasn’t your match, and here’s why: When we meet our match, we don’t “overlook issues,” we have the security and patience to work them through.
It is unfortunate that he realized you weren’t the Tami for his Eric Taylor before you did. But it sounds to me like you actually knew something wasn’t right, but you had already been convinced that your own judgment was not to be trusted. Perhaps you have bought into the suggestions of well-meaning friends or relatives who, when faced with the end of one of your relationships, asked whether you were being too critical about this or that. Over time – and through 22 years of dating – a message is sent that “I must be doing something wrong here. So I will stop doing anything, and see what happens.”
But what happens when we don’t do anything (when try our hardest to “withhold criticism and just make it work”), is that we aren’t being real in the relationship. This results in a pervasive fakeness, built on false expectations and interactions. Usually, the other party realizes he’s dating an automaton, and exits with one excuse or another.
So here’s my cliché-free advice: take solace in your girlfriends’ positive cheerleading, and then stop taking anyone else’s advice. Set aside some time to think about who you are in a relationship – maybe you don’t know? That’s a great jumping off point with a therapist or relationship coach. When you get clear about your needs and wants, realizing they are valid needs and wants, you will be in a better position to find a partner capable of meeting those needs and wants.
Stacy Notaras Murphy is a licensed professional counselor and certified Imago Relationship therapist practicing in Georgetown. Her website is www.stacymurphyLPC.com, and you can follow her on twitter @StacyMurphyLPC. This column is meant for entertainment only and should not be considered a substitute for professional counseling. Send your confidential question to firstname.lastname@example.org.