Ask Stef: I Am Full of Doubt about My Breakup. How Do I Deal?


Stefanie Marshall

Dear Stef,

What is your way of dealing with doubt?

A little background...I broke up with my partner of 4.5 years because they couldn't give me forward movement, primarily into the marriage arena. It's not that they refused to; it's just that for the last year they couldn't decide whether or not they were ready to. Marriage, kids and a mortgage were always on the table. We had a dog together. We signed many leases together. We traveled around Australia for a year together.

But when I asked my partner to make a bigger commitment, they got trigger shy and froze up. They couldn't tell me one way or the other. We went to therapy, read all the right books, tried all the right things, but in the end my partner just wanted things to stay the same. So despite the fact that I love them with all my heart, I broke it off. It was the hardest thing I've ever done.

As you can imagine, I am full of doubt. Did I call it too soon? Will they come back to me? Will they propose to the next person they meet?It's been over a month since the split. We have to stay in touch because of the dog (and the fear of letting go), and I am struggling. How do I deal? How would YOU deal?

Drowning in Doubt


Dear Drowning in Doubt,

I want to preface this by saying that you are stronger than I am.  One of the hardest things to do is break things off with someone you still love and care about deeply.  But in the same breath, I want to say that you are brave because it takes knowing one’s self very well to see that your roads are diverging and act on that.

With every decision we make as humans, and especially dealing with love, there will always be doubt.  Second guessing can become second nature when emotions are involved.  I believe that it takes a strong-willed person to make a decision like you have and follow through with it.  So many of us stay just because we are too scared to leave.

It seems as though the bottom line here is what you have already stated: you want to move forward while your partner is totally fine with standing still. You asked if I think you jumped the gun.  No.  Absolutely not.  It sounds like you looked down every possible route before you came to this decision.  You didn’t throw in the towel after one discussion.

You also asked if they would come back. I wish I could answer this, knowingly.  Perhaps they will see what life is like without you and come running back. However, maybe you both will see what life is like, without being together, and flourish. This is something only time will tell.

Now: the dealing. This is the hard part. This is when you test your resilience. This is going to sound harsh, but this struggle is not going to subside without a little radio silence.  And this also means that one of you needs to relinquish custody of the dog for the sake of your hearts, until it isn’t inhibitive to your progress.

You will begin to deal once you sever the ties. It’s hard and terrible and the last thing you want to hear, but it is necessary. After that, you cope. You throw yourself into your friendships.  You begin a new project.  You re-arrange and re-decorate your apartment.  You start yoga and meditation. You run miles on end. You find some place for that energy and you pour yourself into that.

I promise you that only good things can come of this.  Nothing bad will come of your turning inward and taking care of yourself in a new way.  These changes and small steps are only going to make you more aware of what you want and who you are. There is always that old saying, “distance makes the heart grow fonder”.  Well, in this case, maybe distance will make the heart grow stronger, for you and for whoever might come along in the future.


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