Clear your relationship history

Joey Garcia

My boyfriend broke up with me by text right after graduation. When I responded pleasantly (“Good luck!”), he started insulting me, saying I don’t have a right to wish him luck. He called me fat and ugly. I felt like the relationship was really over then. I tried to be nice and now he keeps sending me really mean texts. How can I get him to understand that I was just being polite?

How can I get you to value your time? Life energy is meant to be treasured. Don’t waste it. Your ex-boyfriend appears to believe that your good wishes were sarcastic. He may be right. Like this: he breaks up by text. You don’t really care that the relationship is over but you’re slightly annoyed that he did it by text. You respond by text with a seemingly cheerful send-off, but he knows you well enough to grasp the strand of “Whatever!” in your goodbye. Your easy acceptance of the relationship’s end upset the balance of power that he craves. By initiating the breakup, your ex-boyfriend had power over you, or thought he did. When you responded casually, he lost the feeling of dominance. That’s why the criticism and name-calling began. He’s trying to gain control. He needs to have power over you in order to feel good about himself. None of this is conscious or intentional. He’s driven to behave badly without any awareness of why he’s doing what he does or whether he should continue. Apparently he has no real friends. True friends call us on our bad behavior; they don’t encourage us to continue it.

Your work now is to let your heart mature. Train yourself not to get hooked into unhealthy patterns of dominance and passivity. Erase the relationship history from your phone, email and social media sites. Block his phone number. When your mind resurrects a sweet memory of the relationship, tell yourself, “That was in the past. I am aware, in this moment, that I am free.” When your mind resurrects a painful memory of your relationship, say, “That was in the past. I am aware, in this moment, I am free.” And don’t try to educate your ex about his subconscious motivations. He won’t be able to hear it from you.

I was married for 20 years to a woman named Mary. Then we divorced unpleasantly. Nine years later, I am involved with a wonderful, compassionate and loving woman whose name is also Mary. Understandably, she objects to me referring to my ex-wife by the name Mary. I suggested that I use my new girlfriend’s middle name when addressing her, but her middle name is also her mother’s name and she doesn’t want to be called by her mother’s name. It has been difficult, in the heat of conversation, to be clear about which woman I’m referring to. Is there a better way to handle this?

Yes, and this story may help: My dad’s youngest sister and I share the same birth month and day, but not the same name. Still, whenever he would get really angry at me, he would call me by her name. Repeatedly. Was it a Freudian slip? Perhaps. But it’s more likely that only his body was present in the room with me. His mind had time traveled to his adolescence and was reliving his fear of failing to protect his sister. And, yes, he projected those fears at me, even though there was no reason to do so. In other words, if you keep your mind, body and spirit in the present while conversing with your girlfriend, you will have no trouble at all. You might also simplify your vocabulary by referring to Mary I as “my ex-wife” and Mary II as your bae, or some other term of endearment.

Meditation of the week
“The first responsibility of a leader is to define reality. The last is to say thank you. In between, the leader is a servant,” wrote Max de Pree in his 1987 book Leadership is an Art. Where is your backbone?

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