My boyfriend dumped me and I'm desolate

Though we had some problems, I didn't see this coming, and don't know how to get up off the floor.

Published August 7, 2006 10:56AM (EDT)

Dear Cary,

I am writing because I am so utterly heartbroken and lonely that I don't know if I can go on.

I am 29, and my boyfriend and true love of 3.5 years just dumped me on my ass. I always considered him my soul mate, my husband, my partner. I always thought he considered me in the same light. (He told me he did constantly throughout the years.) Our families were completely intertwined -- his siblings were like my siblings, and vice versa. We were beneficiaries on each other's life insurance policies. We owned a dog together, cosigned our lease together. Then, almost out of the blue, in bed one night while casually bringing up a topic we have talked about constantly over the years with mutual enthusiasm -- becoming domestic partners -- he mentioned that he didn't think it was a good idea. He then went on to say that he has been unhappy with our "lack of passion" for a while. (I am on libido-crushing Prozac and have a terrible body image problem, low self-esteem, etc.) After a desperate night of many tears, I said that I would work on it -- the very next day I called therapists, made appointments, bought books, talked to friends and started channeling my passion for him by having more sensual, playful sex with him.

Flash-forward: two weeks later. I bring up the topic of my progress with my self-improvement campaign. "How do you think I'm doing?" Basically, then, we start a talk that goes into the next morning, which concludes with the following: "It's too late. Problems that I've kept inside me for too long about our relationship have festered and overcome me, and now I realize that I have fallen out of love with you, and I will never love you again. I want to break up with you."

Everyone, everyone, was shocked. His closest family and friends (not to mention me) were all clueless as to any problems. Maybe twice in the past 3.5 years we had minor talks about our sex life -- he wanted more. I tried, but didn't deliver. I suppose that I should have taken that more seriously, even though I had no idea how serious an issue it would end up being. Otherwise, our relationship, I thought, was literally perfect. Every night we slept in each other's arms after laughing together all day long. Held hands, said "I love you," etc. So there wasn't enough sex, enough passion -- I was getting help.

I know I should probably feel like I deserve better than a man who didn't love me enough to put any work into our relationship, or to open up his mouth and communicate with me about our problems, which I deserved as his partner of so many years. But all I am is devastated, utterly hopeless, heartbroken, totally crushed. I have had no contact with him since. I moved in with my parents. Even though I desperately want him, want to see him, talk, get information ... what's the point? He looked me in the eyes and said, "I cannot love you." Good riddance, right?

After this tirade, my question: How the hell do I get over him? I know it's been done before: People get their hearts broken every day. At least there were no kids (neither of us wanted kids), but we had such a love (I thought), plans for a future together, a life to look forward to. He was "it" for me, absolutely and joyfully. Now I live in a tiny town where everyone knows everyone (I can't relocate because I own a store here), and cannot possibly conceive of ever getting over him, ever moving on, ever finding love again, ever being happy again.

I just need some advice -- what do I do with myself? I am now, ironically, in therapy with a great professional. But I need more. I need steps to take to help me get over my pain. I wish some days I had the guts to kill myself, but instead I soldier on, miserably. I feel like my entire life is shattered and destroyed. I love a man who just let me go, so easily, after so many years, with no warning and hardly an explanation.

Please write to me, say something wise, give me some hope. I am so desperately hopeless and abysmally sad.


Dear Joanna,

OK. I will take this on. But I will not offer you hope because hope is a fragile thing, easily dashed. You might better reach for other qualities of more enduring purpose -- skepticism, anger, determination, knowledge of your situation. You need strength and protection. Where will that strength and protection come from? It won't come from hope. It will come from fierce determination never to be blindsided like this again.

Something died. That is what happened. Something died and everyone who loved what died is sad. What died is this thing that you and he had been keeping alive, this wonderful thing that was not you or he but a luminous third being, whose breath was your breath, whose blood was your blood, whose being was like filtered starlight that came through your bones, a twinkling thing that would catch your eye, a twinkling thing that came with a tune, like a tune you hear in a dream that seems to mean everything.

It was this that died. It died and now everyone who loved it is sad.

This thing died and everyone is sad and asking why. Why indeed do things die? Children ask this question. Why? Why do things die? But who is supposed to answer that question?

It would be comforting to have an answer. We could say love is a gift from the gods that is occasionally snatched back.

The truth seems too cruel to say.

So we go on talking just to calm your nerves, to make some music you can listen to as you grieve.

We don't say that the reason for your misfortune is that the gods are bitchy and full of shit, that they are crazy, sick motherfuckers, that the gods spit on us when they're drunk and curse us when they're mad. We don't mention what is actually known to be true, that although sometimes in some places the gods intervene on our behalf, just as often they get lost and don't show up, that they fight among themselves instead of attending to our wishes, that they look at us with interest and sometimes with lust but only rarely with pity, that instead of offering us protection they scheme to have us for themselves no matter what havoc it causes down here! They couldn't care less! They are gods!

We tend to think only of the good gods, the ones that offer us bountiful harvests and invent intricate bees. It's a habit from childhood, when we were taught to think of one good god, when although we dreamed of monsters we were told that god was watching out for us, that there weren't really any monsters there in the closet, that they weren't really crawling around up there in the space between ceiling and roof. No responsible adult would have thought to teach us that among the gods are horrible nasty fucks that would just as soon sprinkle cancer seeds in a womb as devise a perfect delivery of a perfect little baby.

So we grew up with fairy tales, misunderstanding the nature of power, thinking power came with the good. Ha!

So these sick motherfuckers like to screw with us all, and they wait until we're pretty soft and trusting because it amuses them no end to see our horrified expressions when the things we love are crushed in impossibly strange ways, when our cells turn against us and buses lose their brakes, when sisters collapse in warm Hawaiian waters for apparently no reason, when strong minds go amok like frayed, sparking wires. They love it.

We live on the fragile edge of annihilation, imperfectly sheltered from the void, open to the sky and to the asshole motherfucker gods who fuck with us night and day for their own amusement. We pray to a kind and loving insurance god who sometimes provides coverage but who just as often excludes on technicalities the calamities that befall us, looking the other way when he should be watching out for us. And this too amuses the asshole motherfucker gods, who may be many things but are not stupid or naive.

It isn't even so much the dying that we can't handle, it's the surprise, the betrayal, the way you think you'll be OK until they yank the rug out and laugh.

So what do we do? We toughen up. We quit playing patty-cake patty-cake give a dog a bone, we season ourselves, we take the bit in our teeth, we flog ourselves with birch branches, we bitch and moan and howl at the moon and give up our illusions of a soft loving god who hears our prayers and answers them. We board the windows and doors. We wise up and face the fuckers, we quit lying down and taking it, we let go of our prettiness, we prepare for the battle ahead. We say never again will we be caught off guard, never again will we pretend, never again will we believe that this thing we have created cannot be poisoned in an instant by a shit-head god on a bender, fucking up our paradise for his shallow and grim amusement.

Never again will we believe in fairy tales.

We were taught a lot of silly things as kids. Only later would we learn what pleasure the gods take in disrupting our plans; only later would we learn how minuscule are our options, how puny our plans of defense; only later would we learn there's not a whole lot we can do except rub stone in our eyes, interrogate our lovers mercilessly, place fierce guards at entrances and exits.

That's no consolation, really, is it. It's just the truth. You're wiser now though black and blue, sobbing in the firelight, waiting for dawn.

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