Splitting 2

Aug 13, 2020 | featured, Getting Past Your Breakup, splitting

by Susan J. Elliott, J.D., M.Ed.

Author, Attorney, Podcaster, Media Commentator, Motivational Speaker, and Creator of the World's Most Successful Breakup Program. 

  • Getting Past Your Breakup: How To Turn A Devastating Loss Into The Best Thing That Ever Happened To You (Hachette Book Group 2009)
  • Getting Back Out There: Secrets to Successful Dating and Finding Real Love After the Big Breakup (Hachette Book Group 2015)
  • Getting Past Your Past Workbook: The Definitive Workbook to Emotional Healing, Health and Happiness (La Bella Vita Publishing 2012)
  • GPYP Power! Affirmations (La Bella Vita Publishing 2019) 


Backstory to this post: I wrote a seminal article about Splitting HERE and followed it with this one.  I haven’t reposted it since the website revamp. Based on the Facebook group, it’s time. 

I went to graduate school in the last year of my only serious relationship after the end of my first marriage. There had been other relationships, some semi-serious and some almost serious but we moved in together and had a very happy 3.5 years together. It was a first in my life and I was glad to give my kids the kind of life we had when we had it. It was free of turmoil, stress and upheaval. Everyone was happy…we met in a support group at work and we were both in therapy and other groups. We supported each other and it was a really great relationship for a long time.

Until it wasn’t.

There was nothing terrible going on but my partner was finding out a lot of stuff out about his stuff and I could tell he was growing distant and had some issues around enmeshment, emotional and maybe otherwise, with his mother and there was a whole bunch of stuff going on. He felt terrible that he was letting me down and letting the boys down (who adored him). We had dogs and kids and a house and had built not only a life, but a nice life.

As much as I wanted to help him (I was in graduate school to be a therapist!), every time we talked I wound up feeling hurt and helpless. I know there were some issues there. Some sexual and physical issues that had nothing to do with me but I really felt rejected. I talk about in one of my videos about the guy who told me his type was tall and long-legged and I’m 5 feet nothing and weigh 100 nothing and my legs are 2 inches long…well this is the guy. I found that out in year 4 of our relationship and still having SOME insecurity, that one smacked me in the face.

I had a friend in grad school and we were very close and there was definitely that undertone of attraction. A “every romantic comedy where the two leads are friends who eventually fall in love” kinda thing. As the relationship at home withered, my friend stepped in and just was a friend to me. Nothing inappropriate. 

I used to take the train from Boston and I would take the T to the commuter train. He could tell I was exhausted. I was working all day. Had 3 kids. Was going to school all night and was dealing with a dying relationship that I really liked with someone I really loved. So he started driving me to the commuter train and we would sit and talk in the train station. He never made a move on me. I could tell he was trying to be “therapeutic” and not coming on to me. He seemed to be trying, really hard, to stay respectful.

And I had let my appearance go in the wake of my partner not finding me attractive any more. I had been dressing frumpily….much older than my years and I was hiding my figure which was SHORT but I wasn’t overweight and I walked regularly and was in okay shape.

I had never been into making much about my looks. When I left my first marriage I looked like I was 30 going on 50. My self-esteem went up with affirmations and a therapist who insisted on me getting a professional hair style, nice clothes and to start paying attention to how I looked. Most of the guys I dated had complimented my looks. Most said I was cute. The words “pretty” or “beautiful” didn’t really ever come up.  But I would take cute. I had male friends who wanted knock out gorgeous, and I knew I would never be THAT, but between my first marriage and my move-in relationship, I kept up my looks, my wardrobe and my shape (I worked out regularly). And it felt good.  At the end of my relationship, I was once again dressing down, hadn’t had a good hair cut in a while and had just stopped taking care of myself physically.

So as I started to move through the breakup, I knew that I had to pay attention to my appearance. It was something I had learned through my divorce. So, I started dressing really nicely and went back to my hair stylist to get my hair done.  my hair was down to my butt.  It was highlighted and turned even lighter in the summer. Strangers stopped me in the street to comment on it. Little girls asked if they could brush it.    I started wearing short sun dresses and cute little ballet slippers. I started wearing earrings and bracelets again and occasionally put on perfume. 

The way I looked that summer was something EVERYONE commented on – how nice my hair was and even women would comment on how cute my summer wardrobe was. One night another man – one I didn’t know that well – said to me, “You are one of the most beautiful women in this place.” I was stunned. It was the first time I heard the word “beautiful.”  I knew it was a combination of my new physical look and my feeling good about myself.  I don’t think it was JUST physical…I was starting to feel really good about myself again in the face of a devastating breakup. 

My friend was a key to taking the opportunity to boost my looks.  Every change I had made he applauded in a very platonic way. Over the years I evaluated if he was a narcissist doing the “charming” “sweep you off your feet” thing, but I didn’t feel it in that way.  He didn’t try to sweep me off my feet. He wasn’t trying to charm or beguile me as narcissists do.  He was very sweet and kind to me when I was hurting – but we had been friends – just friends – for a year before my relationship at home started to crumble.

At first he just made some very friendly comments like, “your hair is so shiny today” or “cute dress” or something like that. It wasn’t salacious or overbearing. And the “class” of it – the non-flirty way of it – really helped and impressed me.  

He really did encourage me and I found that, after feeling unattractive for a while, I was suddenly liking who I was, once again. I didn’t realize, until his attention, how low I had been feeling about myself…so powerless to hold onto to this other person who loved me…so powerless to heal whatever needed healing…and it was sexual and physical…something dark in his past…and he had pushed me away…and now I was healing from all that…finding my voice and my physicality once again…I didn’t realize how long it had been missing. At first my friend was friendly about the compliments but slowly…very very slowly (he told me later he did not want to upset me or ruin our friendship) he turned it into a much more romantic/interested compliment. Again, I was impressed with the way he did it, the way he moved slowly and how careful he was with me and with his approach to changing friendship into something more. He was SMOOTH.  

When my relationship was pronounced “OVER” we stayed friends. Nothing happened for a long time. Months. And then it happened and it was magical and I’ve written about it on here before so I won’t revisit that.  But over the months he called me beautiful and pretty many times. I never remember him saying “cute.” I was working with personality disorders at the time and I felt very tuned to narcissistic “charm” and did not pick it up with him. I caution everyone who has been feeling down about themselves and then they meet someone who lifts them up, to take the time to step back and think about narcissistic “wooing.” It may be it or it may not be. (if “charming” comes into play, it’s most likely narcissism).  They easily find victims of low self-esteem. That is why I took a lot of time to think about this relationship and him in the framework of a narcissistic personality.

After feeling rejected for so long, it felt so nice to be with someone who just loved me. Who just cared about me….and cared FOR me. We would go over his house and he would have dinner ready for me (delicious dinners!) and candlelight and Luther Vandross and we would eat and laugh and slowly make out on our way to the bedroom. It was definitely a romantic movie scenario.

Yes, you have to give yourself the love and the attention and do affirmations like you are attractive but there is a bit of a disconnect when someone you’re in a relationship doesn’t treat you like you’re attractive and then someone else comes along and says, “Oh wait…NO YOU ARE ATTRACTIVE!”  (I wrote a post the other day about a guy who stuck his booty out the window – this is the same guy). 

So being with my friend was nice and comfortable and we were falling in love. And early on there were some warning signs…but come on! He was so loving and warm and caring and sensual. I would go to the store and seek out the cologne he wore (smell is the sense most connected to memory). And I needed what he gave me…I had been so low on fuel and he filled me up. But – oh – the dangers of depending on someone else for feeling good. It’s a very fine line when what has been taken is your sensuality/sexuality in a relationship for reasons that had nothing to do with you. My ex was uncovering sexual abuse and pushing me away. Intellectually I knew it wasn’t about me, but physically and emotionally I felt low and unattractive.

With my new friend it was very sensual…much more than sexual. It was about “you are a desirable woman.” The nights in the car. The hugs at the train station. The candlelight dinners and laughing and Luther Vandross. I loved all of it. Such a treat from what I had been dealing with for the last year…nothing major but the feeling of being physically rejected. He fixed all of that. Again- DANGER WILL ROBINSON!

And when it started to wane months later and he started to disappear, I was still convinced he was the person who gave me all that stuff…who said all those things…who waited through the death throes of my relationship and just wanted to spend time with me. Who waited and was never inappropriate when I was still coupled but on the day we broke up, he brought roses TO SCHOOL even though it was a little embarrassing but he thought I could use them.

We had magical holidays and graduation.

And then it was gone and he was gone. A few things happened. We disagreed about when to see each other. Things got blown up and it all happened so fast I couldn’t even believe it or make sense of it.

He had taken money from me that he promised to pay back and never did. I was starting to feel used. Great. I kept splitting him – ignoring the warning signs and Just concentrating on those wonderful nights early on.

But had I been paying attention all along, I would have believed it. I would have gotten it. It would have made sense. In the vacuum of his absence I could look back and see how many times there were signs that I ignored…how many passes I gave him…and the fact that the reason he didn’t pounce on me when I was still in a relationship was because HE was still in a relationship. And his ex-girlfriend appeared one day to tell me he hadn’t broken up with her, but had just disappeared. Though she was a lot younger than me, she said, “He’ll do it to you too.” and I thought, you’re just a young thing fling. I was a friend. A long-time, trusted friend. WRONG.


So when he did his disappearing act on me, it was horrible and painfuland I suspected he met someone else on a night he played music. He used to take me to all his gigs and now I never went anymore. And that hurt too. Everything hurt. I remembered that girl’s words. Aiyiyi. She was RIGHT. Dammit.

I went into the hospital for a biopsy and he was supposed to meet me there. I was a wreck and he knew it. He showed up hours after I had been discharged home. I couldn’t believe it. I was so upset. This was not the caring person I fell in love with. This was a bananahead.  Again, I evaluated against the NPD criteria. He never devalued me as a narcissist does. He never insulted me and didn’t try to control me. What he did was just stop being there. Completely. At all.   But you don’t have to be a narcissist to be BOY BYE’D. You just need to be a bananahead and he was being that.  BIG TIME.

My big problem in this time was me splitting him. Mentally and emotionally splitting the good from the bad.

It was something I had done with my abusive husband who WAS a narcissist and something victims tend to do. Chop people up into good and bad and being so in love with the good and just wishing that the bad is an aberration and was a phase or just go away or be something unusual.

And I did it for all the nights when my abandonment issues were all over my face. And I grieved not only for this relationship but for the one before that.

Even though I had grieved that relationship when it was dying, I had not done the spartan totally alone thing because I felt so knocked as a woman.

And I just hurt so much over something that just withered and died and didn’t really have a bang. I just hurt so much over someone leaving a REALLY GOOD relationship and a very nice life we had built together. In retrospect it was all for the best but I didn’t know it then.

So when that was going on, I fell, no plunged into this other relationship with my friend who was so caring. And when my friend started to go away, my emotions went crazy. I was so hurt and so upset that I just couldn’t see straight. I didn’t sleep, I didn’t eat, I didn’t do much of anything but fall apart.

I wanted the good person who loved me, who helped me get through the end of a relationship that would have really really hurt and been so much harder had he not been there.

I just wanted to ignore all the things that told me he sucked. He really did suck. How could this person who did so much for me leave me like this? I couldn’t keep it straight and I split him into the person I loved and the person I hated.

Because I could not let go what meant so much and yet I could not ignore what hurt so bad. And how many more illogical situations could I even begin to deal with? I was just feeling nuts. 

And then he left me alone in the hospital.  I hated him and my brain could NOT make it make sense. This person compared to the other person. It did not make sense and it would NOT make sense.

I split him all the time. I kept holding onto that good person…kept smelling the bottles in the store…kept trying to believe in candlelight and Luther Vandross.

But what I actually had was an abandoning boyfriend who left me scared and alone in the hospital when I needed him the most.

Well screw him.

It took me a long time to extricate myself from the pull of those first few months as well as the whole year before that when we were friends and so close. I not only lost a boyfriend, but a friend…and it hurt. And then I started to think that mofo took advantage of me in my vulnerable state. Then I would think of all he did and think, NO he would never do that! He was my FRIEND. Yeah, a friend who wanted to get in your pants. NO. There were times he really was my friend. Was he? My brain hurt.

There was no way to not miss what he had been…the cushion I needed when I was losing a really great part of my life. There was no way to not love that. But I had to see that it wasn’t what he was for the long haul and I needed that for the long haul.

But I didn’t need to marry those first few months. Because the putz who left me at the hospital came along with Mr. Sensuality. It was ALL the same package.

And I didn’t want the putz.  I had to just MISS the guy who had been there for me and all those wonderful nights. As painful as it was, I had to just ride out the emotions until the grief was gone. 

And I had to just miss the good guy and love him until I didn’t love him anymore but I couldn’t have him because the underbelly of who he was had the ability to hurt me. And hurt me bad.

And I didn’t need it.  So I broke it off for good….

Then the work began 

I had to write letters I did not send, inventories and my life stuff that was swirling around like crazy. 

And I had to STOP SPLITTING and put these two together and see that I could not separate the wheat from the chaff and see that the jerky guy was someone I wanted no part of.

I couldn’t separate the shiny, waxy, banana peel from the smushy, overripe and smelling garbage, bananahead. They were one and the same.

And I had to keep concentrating on that horrible person and stop pining for the loving person.

It was hard to stop splitting. It was hard trying to make sense of it because it didn’t make sense. 

So I wrote and I cried and I kept tearing it apart and then one day I had to declare ENOUGH IS ENOUGH. Our relationship is not going to make sense. It doesn’t matter. I don’t care and I have to get on with life fer cripe’s sake.

Like my client that I describe in THIS POST I had to make “The Turn” and needed to affirmatively and definitively make that happen.

Sometime after the book was published this guy sent me an email and a few tweets. I was angry for a few weeks. He’s in the freaking book (the “pushing glue up a hill” guy). If you’re in THE BOOK as an example of what a bad boyfriend is, then chances ARE, I don’t want to talk to you. But there he was. Clueless. Clueless. Clueless. He MUST have thought I still had a thing for him. He must have been splitting ME into the woman who got over him and the woman who couldn’t get over him. Well, the 2 halves have come together and guess what? The woman who COULD, did.

I wanted to say, “Excuse me but where did we leave off? Oh yeah, you suck. That’s where.” But I did not. I’ve heard from other ex-boyfriends since the book was published, but this one was the bigggest “ARE YOU FREAKING KIDDING ME?” I did hear from my abusive grammar school boyfriend who apologized for being a jerk and I didn’t answer…

If you split someone into good and bad, holding onto the loving person and ignoring the person who hurt you and the things they did, you are doing yourself a GRAVE DISSERVICE…remember to concentrate on the person who hurt you and know they are the same person.

If you’re splitting, work on grieving the good person but keep acknowledging the hurtful person. They are one and the same.

And be glad that neither are still in your life.

But you still are.

Be good to yourself and put the two haves together…and then dump them both.U CAN DO THIS!

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