Dear Dr. Love,I am a 22 year old law student, and I’ve gotten myself into a terrible situation. I’ve been dating the same guy for seven years, but things have gotten worse between us in the last two. We quit sleeping together, and I found myself getting angry at him for many thingsIn an attempt to get his attention, I left for the summer to ‘find myself’. Initially, I wanted him to come chasing after me with a ring in his hand. But the more time went by, the more disheartened I became.While I was gone, I met another guy whom I fell in love with. The problem is that once I came back home to start my first year of law school, I didn’t have the courage to break up with my old boyfriend, and I kept the new one too. I don’t want the old one anymore, but every time I go to break up with him, I can’t seem to get the courage to do it.At my age 7 years seems like a lot of history to throw away. I know what’s going on isn’t fair to anybody involved and I want to resolve the situation.How can I do it without losing my nerve?
You are focusing on action (how can I make myself break up) instead of focusing on understanding your stuckness. When you understand and resolve what has you immobilized, action (to break up) will come naturally. So let’s understand why you are stuck.When a person can’t let go of an unfulfilling relationship, it’s usually because an unconscious hope, wish or fantasy keeps him/her hanging on. For example, the woman who was abandoned by her father will choose a cold, distant boyfriend who doesn’t meet her needs. But, she can’t let go of him because she keeps hoping that some way, somehow, she is going to manage to change her boyfriend and get him to be loving to her, and in so doing heal the wound she suffered from her father.So what hope keeps you hanging on? You gave me some clues. You said that you had become increasingly angry with him toward the end, and that you dreamed that he would come chasing after you with a ring for your finger.Clearly your boyfriend wasn’t meeting your needs, wasn’t responsive to you, and you became angry and left, dreaming that he would chase after you, with love in his heart and a ring in his pocket.In actuality, your situation with your boyfriend doesn’t sound so different from the hypothetical woman that I described above. The fact that you stayed with him for seven years just shows how much hope was ruling your life. You really didn’t want to stop hoping that one day he would finally get it and be responsive to you.The only way for you to free yourself from him, and feel ready to break up is for you to become crystal clear on who he represents from your past (mom? dad?), and what unfinished childhood business you were trying to heal in your relationship with him.When you figure this out, then take a hard look at reality and ask yourself if there is any real hope that you will ever get what you need from him (will he ever give you more or better than the parent who let you down did?).If your answer is no, then you should feel more able to move on. Read my advice archives under unfinished business and repetition compulsion to understand more about how holding on to your boyfriend is related to the unconscious wish to heal unfinished childhood business.Once you identify the issues and take a hard look at reality, you should be able to move on.