Is She Heartless?

Q: At age 39, I've made the decision to move on from a 12-year-plus relationship. The problem is I still love and care for this man and respect his opinions, especially those of me, but he has spoken some really harsh words that I don't feel depict me at all. I'm constantly told how selfish I am for not considering his feelings and wanting to leave him, and he says I'm "cold-blooded" and "heartless." I'm none of these things, yet staying with him is killing me on the inside. -- Nan

Dr. Susan: It's odd that you continue to "respect" this man's opinions of you, while he calls you names. He's doing his best to manipulate you into seeing things his way. I can't help but wonder, though, if he's been verbally abusive all along or did he recently begin when you said you were leaving? Not that abuse is ever excusable, but at least I can understand how he might reinterpret your personality in the light of your decision to leave. It may be the only way he feels he can make sense of what you're doing.

What I don't get is why you feel the need to move on if you still love and respect him. I won't patronize you by asking if you've tried to work out the problems between you. I assume you've gone to see a therapist or two, and that you've both been honest about your needs and what's missing in this long relationship and how you could both compromise. There are many ways to die on the inside. It's sometimes possible, though, to revive enough of what you used to have by opening up to one another in ways you never have.

If your mind is made up, you'll have to ignore his hurtful name-calling. Tell him you realize you've made a decision that is painful for him, but that it wasn't one you arrived at lightly. He won't really believe you care about him, much less still love him, but you don't have to convince him you're right in order to get on with your life.

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