Dealbreakers: What to Do When You Have (Very) Mixed Feelings About a Guy

Here’s a letter I got recently which highlights one of the most common issues women have when it comes to dating.  For all of you who have ever been in mediocre relationships, listen up:

Hi Alex,

Thanks for the compassionate, thoughtful and straightforward presentation of your experience and perspective.  This information has been very helpful in creating new possibilities for my own experience.

In 3 weeks I will have been in a self-described ‘partnership’ for two years.  It has been both delightful and devastating. My partner, while he verbally professes love for me, and has shown up in many very supportive ways, has also betrayed me repeatedly in public, always for a person he says is ‘only a friend’.  I have gotten stuck on wanting to forgive and move through it and not been effective in being aware of and communicating or acting on what I am honestly experiencing. He has expressed sincere regret that ‘you are having this experience of betrayal’.  Something about that phrase is very uncomfortable to me, as if I should deny my experience in order to pretend to be happy or that I am the sole creator of the experience…though on some profound level, I may be creating it all.

I believe he genuinely wants to be a good partner, but do not feel that he loves me with any passion, as he does that other person.  Actions speak, words pass.  I do not want to blame, accuse or punish him or me for our roles in creating this situation.  I would appreciate any advice on the most compassionate and effective way to give us both the opportunity to have the loves we both deserve.

Many thanks, Michaela

Awright ladies — so let’s see what’s going on here.

Michaela — I’m not exactly sure what you mean by “has also betrayed me repeatedly in public, always for a person he says is ‘only a friend'”.  Seems cryptic, and the rest of the situation is unclear.  Is he a boyfriend?   Is he cheating on you?

When you’re inside a situation like this, it’s sometimes difficult to see what’s going on.  Using descriptive terms and calling a spade a spade often helps clarify things.  If you can’t do it yourself, ask a friend to do it for you.  And, the clearer you make your situation and your question, the better people like me can point you in a useful direction.

The good news is that I don’t really need to know the specifics on this one.  Seems pretty clear that you’re unhappy (and the other ladies who are reading this will probably agree).  So the questions to ask yourself: Does what I’m experiencing with this man constitute my fulfillment? Or am I better off alone?

Here’s the thing: everybody’s got pluses and minuses.  Even the most toxic boyfriend has some redeeming qualities.  Maybe he gives you great compliments, or makes you feel great in the sack.

But then there are deal-breakers.  You need to know what yours are and stick to them.  When they get violated, the deal is broken.  Betrayal sounds like one of those for you.

Maybe an example from the car world can illuminate what constitutes a dealbreaker.  Let’s say you’re buying a used car (NB: all human relationships happen between used cars — some are just more used than others).  Would a small dent in the back door be a dealbreaker?  Probably not.  How about a big dent in the rear bumper?  Well, if you’re getting a great deal on a solid car otherwise that kind of thing can be be repaired.  Unless there’s an identical car next to it without the dings, in which case you’d be crazy to get the first car.

What about missing brakes?  Or no exhaust?  Or no air-conditioning in a hot climate?  Dealbreakers all.  You get the picture: no guy is completely ding-free, but you get to pick the level of damage you’re willing to put up with.  And if you follow the abundance mindset of The Tao of Dating, you know there are always other options.

I see a lot of the kind of self-compromise that Michaela brings up.  The introduction of The Tao of Dating for Women is about Holly, my college classmate who was being beaten up for 18 months by her freeloading, wimpy, unsupportive boyfriend.  Then there’s the story of another reader about the husband who was running off to gay bathhouses and lying to her about it outright.

Mind you, the first guy was very talented, witty and good-looking, and Holly had great sexual chemistry with him.  And the second guy was a great dad, supportive guy and a sweetheart in other ways.  But physical abuse is a universal dealbreaker.  Violating your trust through pathological lying is another universal dealbreaker.

In both of these cases the women were asking themselves how to be more loving.  They thought the answer came in the form of how she could patch up the relationship.  They even blamed themselves for what was going on.

No, no, no and no.  The first rule of being loving is to be loving to yourself.  If you tolerate lies, abuse and betrayal, you’re basically abusing yourself.  Stop it, and dump his ass immediately.  This is not a time for compromise.  It’s a time for protecting and honoring yourself, because the world needs you to be the most capable, radiant version of yourself.

Also, by separating yourself from him, you’re also being loving to him.  The biggest favor you can do him is to allow him space to overcome his challenge on his own.  As a man, he needs to work on it by himself, so let him do that.

Sometimes people hold on to a mediocre or downright toxic relationship for fear of being alone.  What they’re actually doing is slowing down their own growth and blocking the right person from entering their lives.  Michaela — sounds like it’s time for you to make a decision to be stuck in mediocrity or to move on.

If you’d like to move on but aren’t quite sure how to do it, may I refer you to the How to Get Rid of Toxic Mates article of a little while back.

Categories: Dating for Women

3 Comments on “Dealbreakers: What to Do When You Have (Very) Mixed Feelings About a Guy”

  1. Marcella

    Yes Michaela, I think if you set this guy free, you know free to go pursue something with the other person, then if it is meant to be he will come back to you more committed then ever. And you will also be preserving your self-respect and dignity….feel the right thing in you gut.

  2. Marisol

    Thank you Dr.B…
    I get it now…like you said before Love is the solution. Sometimes, taking the step to love yourself comes in the most unforseen circumstances. Yet, it is during a situation like the one above, that empowers us to love ourselves and others more. Love the way you simplify it for us.