Single File: Augmenter or Diminisher?
DEAR SUSAN: I'm writing to you because I can't understand something about me and my girlfriend, and it's getting to me. I think I love her. But my friends keep reminding me that when I'm with her, she makes me feel small, like a poor excuse for a man. She's always saying things like that, and I guess I'm used to it. Whenever I tell my friends that I love her, they remind me that she belittles me in front of them. Is this the real thing?
DEAR BLOGGER: It is, if you want to spend your life apologizing and feeling worthless. You probably saw your parents interact like this, so it doesn't sound the warning bell it should. But your buddies see the danger head on and pull no punches. They tell it like it is; they care enough about your friendship to warn you away from a bad situation -- and this woman is a bad situation. Every time you feel sentimental and dream of proposing to her, they are there to tell it like it is and remind you of the way she makes you feel. She is a Diminisher, someone who doesn't feel so good about herself and needs to bring people down to her level. She will make you feel small, unimportant -- what she herself feels. In this, the most important choice of your emotional life, be very sure to partner with an Augmenter, someone who feels good about themselves and will lift you to their high level of self-acceptance. Keep looking.
DEAR SUSAN: We're breaking up. Going my own way feels OK to me, but he's having a hard time with the decision. I'm not angry at him; it's just that I feel he's not for me, and I want to be on my own so I can start exploring. How can I make this breakup less hurtful for him?
DEAR BLOGGER: For the rejected, breaking up can be the nadir of one's very existence, but when seen through another prism, it becomes a blazing chance for kindness to save the day. If he's been diligent about keeping his friends and interests since he became your partner, the ending can turn out to be a soft landing for both of you: He can go on with his ego intact, while your capacity for kindness experiences a growth spurt. It's sad, of course, when a lovers' world so carefully assembled comes apart at the seams. But it's not a fatal injury. Romantic love will cease to be (for now), but other forms of caring remain -- family, friends, co-workers -- that hint ever so faintly at an emerging new you. Love's ending can be a major crossroads that invites a special sort of kindness directed inward. The kindness you are choosing to direct to your former partner will most certainly help spur a major growth in yourself! Only you can decide which acts of kindness help you heal as you explore a wider world on your journey. But do remember to be as kind to your dreams as you are to the people around you.
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