Friday, April 20, 2018
Parenting & Relationships

Don't try to assign blame as relationship comes to an end

As five-year relationship ends, don't try to assign blame

Q: My girlfriend of five years recently gave me the dreaded "I want to see other people" line. Talking to my friends, most agree that it means "I'm already seeing someone else, or have one in mind."

I never fooled around on her but was accused of it several times. My experience over the years is that the one accusing the innocent party is usually the one fooling around; you know, the best defense is a good offense. She was going to college and was struggling with classes and spent many weekends "studying." I was never anything but supportive of her and her endeavors, always encouraging her and never in any way held her back.

She has low self-esteem and says her ex-husband was abusive — mentally, not physically. She always compares herself to other women and sees herself coming up short, and I always had to boost her ego.

So what do your readers think about this whole thing? Is "seeing other people" code for "I already am"? And is the accuser always the one doing wrong?

Michigan

A: Even if it were some kind of code, it wouldn't guarantee that she was adhering to it.

I also don't see why it matters, except as a health issue and a where-to-file-this-experience issue. Even taking her words at face value, you're looking at a relationship that's pretty much over whether she's seeing others or not, whether she's been doing that all along or not, whether there's some other accuser-perpetrator subtext or not.

Formulating theories like yours, and inviting your friends to rally behind them with you, actually fits your "best defense is a good offense" diagnosis quite well. You're seeing the end of a five-year love, you're hurting, and you're lashing out.

Don't. Here's the narrative I suggest to replace it: You're just two people who tried to make your unique combination of strengths, weaknesses, insecurities, histories and hopes fit together — and in the end, they didn't.

Releasing blame doesn't seem at first to be as satisfying as pointing fingers, but ultimately it's more so. Anger gives the impression that something could have been/should be fixed, which is inherently open-ended and unsatisfying, where "It wasn't meant to be" is inherently accepting. And final.

There is one generalization here that I do think applies to you in a meaningful way: Once a couple gets into the loop where one half is continually self-flagellating and the other is continually cheerleading, there's very little chance they'll develop a healthy relationship. Not unless the one with low self-esteem recognizes that (1) outside validation isn't going to fill emotional holes; and (2) only hard work will, starting with the admission that she/he has these gaps to reckon with.

But that's for her to work out now. Chances are she'll opt instead to get into the same loop with one of those proverbial someone elses, since new romance feels a lot better than digging into old wounds — though it's always possible this is the breakup that motivates her to change.

Maybe it'll be the same for you. Your part, then and now, is to figure out how you got into the "No, really, Dear, you're beautiful/wonderful/perfect for me" habit despite the no-doubt-abundant evidence that these patches never stick.

Comments
Underoath’s Spencer Chamberlain talks breakup, reunion, getting sober and returning to St. Petersburg

Underoath’s Spencer Chamberlain talks breakup, reunion, getting sober and returning to St. Petersburg

ST. PETERSBURG — HGTV fanatic that he is, Spencer Chamberlain sees a metaphor for his band in the ever-evolving St. Petersburg skyline."When you go downtown and you look at the ONE, that used to be a dirt parking lot," said the singer, referring to a...
Updated: 5 hours ago
On its 20th anniversary, Disney's Animal Kingdom credits conservation with longevity

On its 20th anniversary, Disney's Animal Kingdom credits conservation with longevity

ORLANDO — When Disney’s Animal Kingdom opened 20 years ago, it was light on thrills and heavy on conservation. On April 22, 1998, Earth Day, the Orlando park had a single thrill ride, Countdown to Extinction, and a handful of shows like ...
Updated: 1 hour ago

Tell Me About It: How to deal with conversation dominators

Q: We have a few relatives, including a sibling, who we don’t see or hear from often, as we are busy or live far away. We meet over a meal or for an hour or so, or at family gatherings requiring a drive, and I am so frustrated that they dominate the ...
Published: 04/19/18
Plan your weekend: Kenny Chesney, ‘The Producers’ in the park, Mainsail Art Fest, Sugar Sand Fest, Earth Day

Plan your weekend: Kenny Chesney, ‘The Producers’ in the park, Mainsail Art Fest, Sugar Sand Fest, Earth Day

The top things to do April 20 to 22 in Tampa, St. Petersburg and the whole Tampa Bay area.
Published: 04/18/18
The newest trend for Tampa date nights? Indoor ax throwing

The newest trend for Tampa date nights? Indoor ax throwing

Axe Throwing Tampa and Raider Axe Lodge are bringing the axe-throwing trend to the Tampa Bay area.
Published: 04/18/18
Top things to do in Tampa Bay: Sugar Sand Festival, Record Store Day, ZooBrews, Beerfest

Top things to do in Tampa Bay: Sugar Sand Festival, Record Store Day, ZooBrews, Beerfest

BEER: ZooBrews and BeerfestAs if we needed any more proof of the craft beer craze, this weekend brings two events with a smorgasbord of samplings. • The newly renamed ZooTampa at Lowry Park is calling ZooBrews a new event that appears to be an awful ...
Published: 04/18/18
Huge concert week in Tampa: Foo Fighters, Kenny Chesney, 98 Rockfest, more

Huge concert week in Tampa: Foo Fighters, Kenny Chesney, 98 Rockfest, more

PURE NIRVANA: Foo FightersDave Grohl may be America’s last unquestioned rock god. He’s played with Kurt Cobain and Jimmy Page, Tom Petty and Trent Reznor and St. Vincent, and he also leads a pretty decent group — perhaps you’ve heard of them — called...
Published: 04/18/18
5 things to do under $5: Taste of Science talks, free ‘Field of Dreams’ screening

5 things to do under $5: Taste of Science talks, free ‘Field of Dreams’ screening

1 Field of Dreams: Kick off baseball season with Tampa Bay Rays mascots and a movie that makes every baseball fan cry. Raymond and DJ Kitty will be at Tampa Theatre for photos and you can join in a Take Me Out to the Ballpark sing-along on the Mighty...
Published: 04/18/18

Tell Me About It: Don’t feel awkward about checking friend

Q: My husband and I adopted a dog that does not like strangers; he is in intensive training and part of that is having strangers over to our house to practice meeting people. I usually invite a friend over after explaining the situation and promising...
Published: 04/18/18

Tell Me About It: Should parents help with daughter’s dog?

Q: About a year and a half ago my husband and I purchased a dog. She was way too busy for us, so my daughter took her. We helped pay to have the dog spayed, as she was ours to start with.Anyway, since then, whenever my daughter takes a trip for a wee...
Published: 04/17/18