Ask Amy: Break-up encounters should be negotiations
Dear Amy: I just got out of a nine-year relationship with a man I’m just now realizing was manipulative and mean. Unfortunately, he developed a drinking problem during our time together.
He broke things off twice (against my wishes), and I was the one who had to move out and lose my home and my dog, etc.
After being apart this time, I started to see some things I had ignored before because I loved him so much. He is emotionally abusive at times, as we try to separate our items and as I try to purchase the house from him. He has said things like, “If you don’t drop this, I will take everything, and you’ll get nothing.” Or throwing it in my face that he’s glad we never got married.
I started therapy and have been going now for two years.
During that time, my therapist has tried to guide me toward what’s healthy, but I think she knew I wasn’t ready to hear it. I was so in love.
I know now that breaking up is a blessing in disguise, but I’m struggling with his behavior because I loved this man for nine years, unconditionally.
How do I navigate this? How do I handle his behavior toward me while we figure things out? And how could I have loved a man who treated me this way? — Struggling and Hurt
Dear Struggling: Like the old song says, “breaking up is hard to do,” even when you know in your bones that it is the right thing to do.
Immediately post-breakup, your thoughts are still anchored to your ex, because being with him for nine years has conditioned you to automatically consider his thoughts and feelings before your own. That’s why your relationship was so imbalanced, and why he has disrespected you. Your unspoken pact was that he mattered more than you do.
That impulse on your part is why it is important for you to learn to differentiate between his needs, and your own.
You should now work hard to stop “handling” him at all.
If you are splitting up your household, think of these encounters as negotiations, not emotional relationship encounters.
When your encounters and negotiations veer into name-calling or emotional manipulation, you should steer it back to the bloodless practicality of who gets the bookshelf.
In terms of the future: when you know better, you do better. And now you know better.
Dear Amy: I participate in a number of Zoom-based discussion groups. They have been a great way to remain in contact people and to gather in people from near and far. Zoom did not take off until COVID hit. But what happens when things return to “normal?”
I posed this question to one of my Zoom groups. The group had met for years in the back room of a local restaurant. With COVID’s arrival we switched to Zoom meetings. Most, but not all the former attendees joined. However, over time a number of out-of-towners joined the Zoom group, some from outside the U.S.
My question to the group was, “What do we do as a group after COVID is gone, do we cease using Zoom and abandon the group members who can’t meet with us?”
Do we have parallel meetings, one in person and another on Zoom? Do we resort to in-person meetings with some Zoom connection that brings everyone back together in a hybrid manner?
What’s the next normal? — Zooming By
Dear Zooming: This is a great question. In my own community, where in-person worship service numbers have been greatly reduced by state mandates, we have developed a “hybrid” model of in-person meetings which are also accessible via Zoom.
I believe that this will become the “new normal,” which is ultimately a good thing! Bringing disparate groups together via teleconferencing is one welcome consequence of navigating our “new normal.”
Dear Amy: I was disappointed by your response to “Distressed,” when you described 12-step groups as “God focused.”
Twelve-step groups suggest finding and relying on a power greater than yourself, of your own understanding, it doesn’t have to have anything to do with “god.”
A higher power can be anything from nature to a doorknob to the more traditional religious deities. Whatever works! — Agnostic 12-Stepper
Dear Agnostic: I believe that 12-step programs work, which is why I recommend them. However, Debtors Anonymous, the 12-step program I recommended to “Distressed,” mentions “God” specifically multiple times in their 12-steps, which is why I mentioned it.