“My boyfriend has left me. I cling to the hope that he’ll take me back.” Proper Advice from a Psychoanalytic Perspective

My boyfriend broke up with me yesterday after several months of living together. He hasn’t been the perfect man, as he would often go AWOL on nights out, but I love him nonetheless. He says our relationship became too intense and I was too restrictive of what he did. The thought of never being his girlfriend pains me so much. His phone is off and I desperately want to speak to him. He has left me with some false hope that some space and time apart might be good for us, and who knows what will happen in the future? I am now clinging to this and hoping he’ll take me back soon. 

 This letter first appeared in the Observer.

 My advice:

 This short letter is full of negative vocabulary describing the man, the relationship and your feelings. ‘Nonetheless,’ ‘intense’, ‘restrictive’, ‘never’, ‘pains’, ‘desperately’, ‘false’, clinging’. This was written the day after he made the decision that is causing you such anguish, so you may well have recovered to some extent already.

 However, your position throughout is extremely masochistic. You say you love him despite the fact that he would disappear when you went out together and wasn’t ‘perfect.’ I’m not sure whether ‘not perfect’ means unfaithful sexually, but it sounds like it. My strong suspicion, since you choose not to describe his qualities at all, is that you love him not despite these shortcomings but because of them.

 It seems he felt you were trying to possess him and that may well be the case since you describe yourself as his possession. ‘The thought of never being his girlfriend.’ This seems to have little to do with missing him, wanting to spend time with him, getting your emotional needs met – you express it as a status issue, defining yourself as his appendage, you feel as nothing without him. You have projected all the good in the world into an unworthy object and feel that he has walked away with it. Why you chose such an unreliable vehicle for your projections, we can’t know. One can guess that this is what you have always been used to. That you feel unable to expect better.

 You say he has switched his phone off, presumably to avoid your calls, but that you desperately want to speak to him. It sounds then as though he is to some extent a willing player in the S and M power games in which you are entrenched. The more he avoids the more desperate you become.

 There is an experiment with rats where they go to the feeding point and sometimes there is food, sometimes an electric shock. They have no choice but to keep trying, but they become highly anxious as well as more intelligent. There is another where they approach the smell of their mother but always get an electric shock. They become keener and keener to approach. This is thought to be because you cannot survive without your mother, so you must keep trying whatever the obstacles. It feels as if you are doing something like this with your ex-boyfriend. When he disappeared on nights out you did not write him off as a bad loss but started trying even harder to keep him by your side. His phone is off but, instead of acknowledging his cruelty, you keep calling.

 Again, at the end you are passive – hoping he will take you back rather than hoping that ‘we’ might get back together or work through this or move past it. You call it a ‘false hope’, so to then give it any credence is self-confessedly delusional. He is in a position of supreme power, a position that you let him hold while you are utterly passive and submissive, simply clinging in the hope of not falling. This is not a relationship between two adults. It is not possible to discern what he is like from this letter (though he has obviously hurt you very badly) but it is clear that you feel yourself to have no sense of autonomy whatsoever. All you feel able to do is hope and know even that is futile.

 I would speculate that you come from a background in which you had to feed off what scant affection you got and make the best of it. You seem to have no sense of self worth and I suspect that you had to cling to your parents or parent in a desperate effort not to be forgotten. It seems that you often were forgotten. You were wholly reliant on very unreliable people who terrified you with their absences and were possibly fairly abusive when present.

 I don’t think you are in a state to be in a relationship with anyone at the moment as you are going to get yourself abused by repeating childhood patterns that have damaged you very severely. You will need to have a real think, ideally with a therapist, about why you are so passively accepting of neglect and abuse and what about it is familiar, what draws you unconsciously to it.

 I desperately hope the person who replied to your letter in the newspaper did not give you tips about how to catch that man back. Nothing could be worse for you than moulding yourself further to try to fit his needs.

Proper Advice in private via Skype or email: anna@blundy.com

About Anna Blundy

Honorary psychotherapist with a Masters in Psychoanalytic Theory and another in Psychodynamic Clinical Psychotherapy. Novelist - Author of the Faith Zanetti quintet - The Bad News Bible, Faith Without Doubt, Neat Vodka (US - Vodka Neat), Breaking Faith, My Favourite Poison. Also a memoir of my father, Every Time We Say Goodbye and my most recent thriller - The Oligarch's Wife
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