I’m slightly worried! I’ve been with my boyfriend for about four months. He’s a lovely person and has a heart of gold. But my heart’s not racing – I think after four months it’s probably long enough to know that there isn’t any magic on the way either. My boyfriend has been diagnosed with depression. It’s not fair if I keep pretending to love him but is it fair if I’m just out with it and tell it to his face? How do I break up with him in a gentle way? What if he tops himself? Is it right for me to crush his heart? And how will I feel being all alone again?
Oh, boy! Life can be hard at times. As in all parts of our lives – work, family, community – personal relationships throw up challenges all the time. How do we be true to ourselves without hurting others? How do we maintain our own integrity without crushing another? Are we responsible for what others think or feel? What is our responsibility?
Questions that on the surface can seem impossible to answer, but we need to go below the surface to reach the core of the challenge. We can only be true to others when we are true to self. We can only be kind to others when we are kind to self. We can only love others when we love self.
When we can give ourselves permission to think of self as well as others, we are empowered to be true to self, to be honest with another. When we believe that we must be kind to self, we are enabled to be kind to other. Be kind to yourself, be true to yourself – you will then find the right words to be kind and honest to your friend. By acknowledging your responsibility to your friend, you will do the right thing, say the right things – and you are not responsible for how he feels.
You know what is not working for you; you know what you need to do. Yes, that brings some fear, some more questions about possible loneliness. But as a person who can love self, you are automatically a person who can love others – and others will see that and know that.
It is a hard thing you have to do. Life can be shit! But it can also be great when we are true to self.
I really want to move to Melbourne but my girlfriend is adamant she wants to stay here in Perth. She’s not really giving it a chance. How can I convince her?
Isn’t it amazing how most conflicts in relationships boil down to needs. The needs of one rub up against the needs of another. Unfortunately, in our society, the word ‘conflict’ is a dirty word. ‘Oh no’, people will adamantly assert, ‘we don’t have any conflict.’ The reality is, conflict is inevitable in all human relationships for the simple reason that we are humans. And as such, we all have needs – and what is more, we have the right to have needs. Abraham Maslow, in his Hierarchy of Needs, reminds us that it is only in finding ways to get our needs met that we become what he terms as self-actualised, i.e. we become the person we are meant to be, a person who is able to utilize and bring to fruition all our gifts and talents.
So what does all this mean, and how does it help you to solve your conflict? You have a need, a wish to move to Melbourne; your girlfriend has a need, a wish to remain in Perth. Two humans, two people with needs; two people who have a right to express those needs. A resultant conflict.
Conflicts in relationships can be resolved if we approach the conflict with a sincere desire to find a solution that both parties can live with. If we approach any attempt for resolution with the idea that the most important thing is a solution, we inevitably run the risk of failing to find a solution that enriches the relationship. Approach conflict with the belief that relationship and needs come first, solutions second.
Yes, this may take more time; it will definitely require good communication, open and honest about needs. But that is the only way in which you have an opportunity not only to find a solution both of you can live with but also, more importantly, a beautiful opportunity for the intimacy in the relationship to deepen. Acceptance of each other’s needs, acceptance of the right for each to have needs and the willingness to put in a bit of time.
I cannot give you the answer. You will have to do the hard yakka yourselves. Regardless of the outcome, it will be worth it. It is not a question of who is right and who is wrong, who will win and who will lose. You will find a solution you both can live with. Put in the time. Good luck.
Relationships Australia is a non-profit organisation offering education, counseling and other services to people of all backgrounds and sexual orientation. RA has lesbian and gay counselors with many years experience working in our community. The website www.wa.relationships.com.au gives information on all services. Elizabeth has over 30 years experience in relationship education and counseling.
Please send questions on relationships to Elizabeth Brennan, Relationships
Australia, PO Box 1206, West Leederville, WA 6901, or email
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