Personally Speaking
Single session email therapy with Dr Bob Rich

Cover of 'Personally Speaking'
Finalist, EPPIE 2002 Awards
ISBN 1-877053-01-5

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   Come and look over my shoulder while I do therapy. Face to face, on the phone or by email, I use exactly the same techniques, and even turns of phrase, to form an alliance with my clients against the problems that distress them. In this book, you will see pretty well every way people can make themselves or each other miserable. If you have ever been overwhelmed by life, you will probably find someone here who is facing a similar issue. And so, my response to them may speak to you as well.

   The book consists of three introductory chapters, one by Cort Curtis, and fifty of my answers to email clients. Some are actually addressed to more than one recipient who had presented with very similar problems.

   Many of the cries for help were posted at a wonderful web site, Queendom. I, like a whole group of other counselors, answer a minimum of two questions a month for free. Even so, the number of questions is always far greater than the number of answers.

   My own personal clients, all of whom have given their permission, are mixed in with the Queendom ones. All have been thoroughly disguised, in some instances their questions made to seem like Queendom cases.

   Because this is an electronic book, I can do things that would be impossible on paper. You can search clickable indexes organised in different ways, to go to just those chapters you are interested in.

One of the 50 cases

26. Separation


relationships, love, infatuation, immaturity, power, grief

The Cry for Help
Subject: relationships

   I feel very nervous about writing this, but i feel to move on up i need help; My boyfriend of 6 years just broke up our relationship. We were living with each other for 3 months. Had some teething problems but i thought this was to be expected and that we would work them out. He went out and phoned me constantly declaring his undying love. And he returns 6 hrs later saying it was all over. He said he met a girl who displayed a great attitude to life and he felt that we were just soldiering on through this relationship to the advantage of neither of us.

   He said it had nothing to do with her. But of course I had my doubts. I moved out and after a week i begged him to tell me the truth as i felt i deserved it and needed it to move on. I asked him how important this girl was to him. He declared 'If you can fall in love in such short time well then i have. I was so hurt that a 6yr relationship could be ended so quickly because of a 6hr encounter.

   But now I know that these things can and do happen. I am sick with pain and want desperately to move on to a happier plain. He promised that he would tie up all bits and pieces to save me the pain of doing it but of course he has not done so. I am hassled by landlords and others who cannot locate him as he is not answering his phone. And i am left to deal with all this because he is spending time with this new woman.

   I feel insulted by this and very angry as i am the one that needs to get over him while he enjoys bliss with this woman. I want him to sort all these things out so that i can remove all contact from him. I hope that one day we will be friends as does he (he wants that NOW) but i am beginning to hate him because of his immature running away behaviour. Can anyone give me advice and help to ensure me that I will get over this, i am better off without him and he did not deserve me anyway.



Dear Bridie,

   I am not surprised that you are so upset. Who wouldn't be? You feel that you have wasted six years of your life on this fellow, and are now left holding nothing while he is enjoying some other woman's love.

   If he had been hit by a truck and killed, you would be grieving him, and furious with the truck driver. This is the same situation: he has killed perhaps the major part of what was important in your life, and you are grieving for having lost him ... and at the same time, you are furious with the person who did the killing, and that was him!

   Of course you are angry!

   Just the same, your message shows a remarkable degree of maturity, and I can see that already you are working on getting over this situation. Already, you are ready to move on, as shown by your last sentence: 'I am better off without him and he did not deserve me anyway.'

   My dear, this realization is the start of your healing. But let me try to answer your questions.

   I only have your description of the situation, and of your ex-friend. He may very well have quite a different story to tell. However, I have come across many couples with a story similar to yours. One possible explanation of what happened to you is something I've seen many times. It may not be true for you -- I cannot tell without a lot more information -- but see if you find it to fit.

   A healthy partnership is based on mutual respect, and equality in some senses although not necessarily in all. But many relationships have an unhealthy basis. One of the partners acts as if s/he was the child of the other. Reading between the lines it seems to me as if for the past six years you have been a sort of a mother to this man. To you, he was an equal partner. To him, perhaps, you were a source of emotional support, advice, practical organizational direction, a shoulder to cry on and a hand to hold. And he was immature enough that, like a teenager, he resented the fact that he was so reliant on you. This would explain the many minor tensions you suffered. And he is not dealing with the practical details of the separation, because such real-life things are what he had always used you for.

   Breaking a long term relationship for a brief infatuation is consistent with an immature personality like that. And so is the wish to 'stay friends' -- having it both ways. Of course he'd like you to continue to run his affairs, and wipe his nose and bum!

   So, perhaps you can look on the past six years as an apprenticeship for the time when you have teenage children of your own.

   Not all men are like this. Grief, including the grief of separation, is a wound that heals with time, and as a result of the kinds of thinking that you have already been engaging in. It will definitely help if you decide to find something good from it. One thing is, now you are free to find a man who DOES deserve you. But you can gain a lot more.

   If you were an ongoing client, I'd set you a 'homework' task: to keep working at an answer to the question: 'In what way have I become a better person because of this?' When you have found the answer, you might even have the strength to forgive this fellow. [However, don't bother to go back to becoming his mother.]

   All the best,


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