Life Advice

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Health & Spirit

How do I move on from a 13-year relationship?

Carolyn Hax on

Dear Carolyn:

As a child, I lived through my parent's horrible, physically violent, 10-year divorce. I remember standing in the kitchen at 12 years old, promising myself I would never divorce.

So, here I am, 51, my 13-year relationship broken up. We never married, as it helped me keep my promise to never divorce. But the effect of a 13-year breakup is the same. And I am the ONE THING I promised myself I would never be.

Any comments on my naive thought that never marrying would ensure I would never divorce? Or on how a person handles it when life shows them they are not in control, and they are faced with something they worked so hard not to have happen? How do I move on and respect myself?

-- The Person I Never Wanted to Be

No, you are not that person you never wanted to be, not because of this breakup.

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And you're not "naive." I'd say traumatized, which is entirely different.

Your having to witness the horrible and the violent -- between two emotional cornerstones of your life -- likely compelled you at only 12 to script your own adulthood to take away this pain. When 12 is, clearly, way too young for that. You fixed on something before you could understand it.

That wasn't your fault then and it isn't now. It also isn't unusual; trauma disrupts the natural progression of emotional growth.

Instead of beating yourself up for all of this, for making the youthful promise, for breaking it, for breaking up -- which can be a healthy step, and so isn't always a bad thing -- please just update your goals and expectations to reflect adult understanding.

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