Break it, don't fake it

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Before my boyfriend left for a 10-week vacation with his family, we were really close. While he was away, we connected every day through FaceTime and text. Since he’s been back, things don’t feel right. He wants to pick up where we left off, but not having him around changed more stuff than I expected. I used to think I couldn’t live without him. Now I feel more confident alone. My friends think I’m crazy because he’s popular at our high school. Plus, senior year is a good time to have a boyfriend and we were each other’s first for a lot of things. My boyfriend is hurt that I don’t want to be in a relationship anymore. Is there something wrong with me?

No, all is well with you and the world. You’re just caught between social expectations and spirituality. Society says it’s important to be partnered and that romantic relationships should lead to lasting commitments. That view is thought to promote marriage and a stable society. But from a spiritual perspective, romantic relationships are valued, as is any experience, for how we grow in understanding about others, the world and ourselves. We are alive to love and be loved. That sounds delicious, but its actually labor. Sometimes loving or being loved requires that we assert ourselves. Other times we must retreat. Real love challenges us to accept others but not allow them to languish in harmful attitudes and behaviors. Instead, we should work to call forth the best of ourselves, and others. Still, we sometimes fail to love well. That’s why real love also includes the ability to offer and receive forgiveness.

You are discovering who you are and that new awareness clarifies who you want in your life. So as sweet as your relationship may have been at times, it no longer feeds you. If you were married, I would suggest that you see a psychotherapist before uprooting your relationship. But a dating relationship contains freedom. You are free to decide what is best for you. (In marriage you must consider what is best for your partner and the marriage, unless there is abuse or addiction.) Freedom includes the responsibility to keep nurturing the inner strength you found while your boyfriend was away.

By breaking up with your boyfriend, you give yourself permission to focus on building self-esteem. You will need it. The break up will be misunderstood, maybe even ridiculed by friends and, possibly, family. Don’t let their pettiness distract you from taking care of yourself. This is your life. Trust your insight. Accept that you are maturing beyond your chronological age. Be willing to risk being misunderstood to reach the higher goal of empowering your self-confidence. Years from now when you look back at senior year, you will be amazed by the courageous, brilliant teenage you.

My boyfriend doesn’t want me to have lunch with male friends, but he hangs out with a female he calls irritating and repulsive. We live in different cities and are in our 40s. I’m jealous. Please help.

If you or your man struggles with codependency or sex addiction, establishing different rules makes sense. Otherwise, it doesn’t. So tell him you’re going to lunch with male friends. If he balks, you know he’s not a keeper. Yes, it’s that simple. If he loves you he will do what is necessary to ensure you feel cherished and safe.

Meditation of the Week

“Love is never any better than the lover,” writes Toni Morrison in <i>The Bluest Eye</i>. How many hours have you devoted to the study of love? Have you been tested on what you think you know?