The question: I've known a woman for seven years now. For the first three years we were romantically involved in an on-again/off-again relationship. She was the one who determined the on/off. I was deeply in love with her, but she was not with me. She married another man, but after six months contacted me, said he was abusive and that she should have given us a chance. She filed for divorce, asked me if I would have a family and a home with her. I immediately accepted, but shortly after she dumped me again. Months later she announced she'd met her life partner and hoped I'd be happy for her. It was devastating to me. She has contacted me again after four years, telling me exactly the same thing as before. I'm her true love, she made a mistake, she had a child with the wrong man, etc. I still have feelings for her, but how do I deal with this? What is making her tick?
The answer: Well, I think we should start by talking about what isn't making her tick – love, respect or empathy for you and your feelings.
This woman seems to be completely oblivious to the depth of feelings that you have proclaimed for her. A fundamental aspect of true love for another person is wanting the best for them, and putting their needs ahead of or, at minimum, equal to those of your own. Her declarations of love to you seem to be guided solely by the fact that she is now single and desperately wanting a relationship.
This woman has a sweetheart deal when it comes to you: she establishes the parameters for the relationship; she calls you when it's on her terms; she decides when you will be in a romantic relationship versus simply friends; and, for all intents and purposes, she has effectively contributed to you being in a place where you haven't been able to move on with someone else.
Any time any of us are in a situation of unrequited love, or when we have been hurt by another, we tend to do one of a few things: blame the other person and project our anger toward them; blame ourselves for not being "good enough"; or excuse their behaviour by becoming overly empathetic to their plight at the expense of putting our own needs far below theirs.
But relationships are bidirectional, and the blame rarely lies exclusively with another person. To effectively move forward emotionally, you need to look at the reasons you have allowed yourself to remain so engaged in this hurtful dynamic.
Why did you allow her to establish the on/off nature of the relationship when clearly this wasn't what you wanted? Why did you remain with her – and in fact go back to her – even though you knew she wasn't in love with you the way that you were with her? And why are you even allowing her to engage with you now, despite the years of hurt you have endured?
To move forward, you need to assert your position and gain control back. Likely, this is going to mean ending all communication with this woman. Given the depth of your feelings, maintaining a friendship most likely won't work. Express why you are ending communication with her– writing a letter or an e-mail may allow you to explain the impact her flightiness has had on you. Then, stick to moving on and allowing yourself to be open to meeting someone who can provide you the kind of love you deserve.
Dr. Joti Samra, R.Psych., is a clinical psychologist and organizational & media consultant. She is the host of OWN: Oprah Winfrey Network's Million Dollar Neighbourhood and is the psychological consultant to CITY-TV's The Bachelor Canada. Dr. Samra maintains a clinical practice in Vancouver. Her website is www.drjotisamra.com and she can be followed @drjotisamra
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