How Do You Let Go of Heartache and Move Forward in Your Relationship
On my Hub: When Your Girl Wants to Get Married and You Don’t, in comments, B-Girl asked me an excellent question. How do you let go of the pain and move on. When you’ve been through heartache with someone, how do you forgive, or forget? Or do you ever really let it go?
In B-Girl’s case, her boyfriend said some things prior to their moving in together. He said, “I'm not ready, and I don't know when I will be,” “Maybe if I was away from you for a bit I would realize I wanted to live together,” and “I'm a free spirit, I don't want to have to tell you when I'll be home all the time.”She writes me that they have been living together now for some time, and things are going great. But she still has these words echoing around in her head. She fears that this will happen again. How does she move past that feeling?There are many kinds of hurts in relationships: Words said in fear or rage, hidden money or squandered funds, infidelity, choosing the mother-in-law over the wife, snooping, a bad reaction when you bumped into his ex, finding his hidden porn stash… The list goes on and on.
Whatever transpired, it’s something that happened in the past. You’ve worked it through and moved on. But have you really? What do you do when the issue seems to be over, time has passed, but you still can’t let go of that dark feeling?
I’m going to start with two examples, each at the extreme. These will be our range of reference points.
Pretend you’ve known your partner all your life. When someone is 8 months old they eat and spit up. They don’t have the sense or ability to turn away from the person near them. If you’re in the line of fire of an 8 month old, you’re getting spit-up upon. As time goes on and they grow, their digestive track changes and hopefully by the time they are 30 years old, they do not spit up anymore. And, on the occasion that they do have a gastric movement, they will excuse themselves and tend to it privately.
Imagine looking at your partner and thinking to yourself, I can’t get passed that time 30 years ago when you spit up on me. Yes, you’ve grown and changed, but I just can’t let it go. What if it happens again?
Now, for the other extreme, imagine a partner that has hit you.
He claims he has changed and it will never happen again. But you think to yourself, what if it happens again? What kind of a chance am I really taking here?
Do people really change?
The core of a person doesn‘t change. People mature, they grow up. They understand and learn things that they had not previously been able to. Even conceptually, like with matters of money or privacy, people can learn a bigger picture and a better way to deal with things.
But the heart of a person, I believe, doesn’t change that dramatically. You can teach someone almost any outward thing. But you can’t teach a “bad person” to be good.
One thing you can look at is repeat offenses. If the thing you can’t let go of happened more than once, or still happens occasionally even though he’s making an effort, that’s a definite flag for you. If the problem was that he drinks too much, has he continued to drink too much, or has he made the effort to attend AA meetings?
Another thing you can look at is restitution. How has your partner made the effort to fix the damage? Is he acknowledging your hurt by correcting the situation? If the problem was that whenever you fight with your mother in law, he takes her side, then the obvious fix would be to see him take yours. Or to hear him tell his mother that this has to stop, she needs to respect you more, or she is going to see him less.
Another thing you want to consider is why the error came to light in the first place. Was this a secret you happened to bust him on? This may indicate that he wasn’t actually ready to change this, or even share this. This might be something that is going to take more work.
To heal, let go and really move forward, you have to consider where on the line the offense falls. Is it really something you just need to learn to move past, like baby spit-up. Or, is it something you’re hanging on to because somewhere in your soul you know this isn’t over, and this is going to be even worse in the future.
Is it something you believe he can learn, or you can understand, in a different way. Is it something that reflects a major difference in your values, and a place where your partnership has a definite problem.
Even if it’s something you agree is a mistake that you’ve both learned from and are moving past, the best thing to do is not do it alone. Tell your partner you are having problems letting go of it, and you need to talk. Sometimes just being heard and acknowledged is all we need to sigh and really release something.
Back to B-Girl
The biggest problem in B-Girl’s case is her partner’s refusal to discuss something that is so painful and important to her. She writes me that he gets upset if she brings up the past.
Right there, that dynamic – is a big bad flag in their relationship. She doesn’t want to bring up a topic that is very upsetting to her, that needs addressing, because it will upset him. What kind of a relationship is that? What foreshadow is that to the many years ahead? How can she be with a partner that she doesn’t want to “upset”, that she has to keep her darkest fears and problems from? What kind of a relationship are they building?
My advice to B-Girl is my advice to almost anyone for almost any relationship question. You don’t have shit if you can’t communicate. Whether it’s because you’re overly trepidatious for no real reason, or because he has been firm about refusing to discuss things regardless of your feelings, or whether it is some odd combination of the two, you have to get passed it, and talk.
And if you really can’t discuss this, then think twice about this relationship. If you can’t discuss your feelings, how can you even think about being with this partner? What happens down the road when something else upsets you? Life is full of conflict and complexities. Human error will occur. He will fuck up. You will fuck up. It’s part of life.
If you can’t have a conversation about something he did wrong, or something you can’t let go of, then you can’t really think you can move forward.
My advice to B-Girl is that she needs to figure out where on the scale – from baby spit-up to being physically beaten – this falls. It’s not nothing, like a baby’s puek. And it’s not a deal breaker, like infidelity or being hit. My gut feeling is, it’s closer to the nothing side of the scale. If things are going as well as B-Girl tells us they are now, then those things he said are akin to any immature person fighting tooth and nail not to mature. And guys are better at that than girls are. My gut feeling is, he’s embarrassed by his drama and reluctance and over reaction. I also have a hunch that’s why he doesn’t want to talk about it now.
But he made his bed and now he has to lie on it. He said those things, now he has to deal with the fall out. And the very real very serious fall out is that he hurt someone that loves him very much. He doesn’t get to decide that she has to deal with that pain in silence. Quite the opposite actually. It is his obligation to hear her out and deal with this.
If you were having any doubts as to how you were going to work past this, your partner’s ability and willingness to help you do so can be the deciding factor.If it’s a past event that you really do need to let go of and move past, talk about it. Talk about the thing itself, the changes you’ve both incurred because of it. Talk about how different things are now. Talk about your relationship, reaffirm your life-process of being a teammate and having these talks openly. The thing you hold onto in the dark, is probably what it is because it lives in darkness. Give it some light with communication, and the chance to disappear.