Histories: She/He has left. Now what?

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© Al Turtle 2005

This is so common.  Oh, I feel sorry for everyone involved.  I think I have seen this situation 6 times this month.  A person calls in, “their whole life has changed”, “their dreams are shattered”, and “they don’t know what to do.”   Their partner of 5 years, 14 years, 33 years, has announced they are leaving, or they have packed up and gone, or they have found someone new and now want to cut the ties with their “older” partner.  The person calling feels surprised, betrayed and hurt.


How do I start?

Well, the first thing I do is listen, perhaps mirror, always pull and validate. 


I may introduce them to what I call the Diversity Tool (All People Make Sense All The Time) while I am seeing their point of view.   My client makes sense feeling hurt and surprised and betrayed. 

At some point, when they seem to shift into curiousity about “WHY???,” I bring in the Diversity Tool, again.  Their partner also makes sense.  Their partner makes sense in leaving.   My client frequently doesn’t like this.  I validate their dislike of these thoughts, while I keep on reinforcing the idea that somehow their partner makes sense in leaving and in leaving in the way they did.   This is all just PreValidation of the missing partner.  No matter how my client wants to go, I don’t let them escape “their partner’s validity.”   I will not let them "invalidate" their partner in my presence.  I believe I do them a disservice if I let them.



Eventually my client typically gets serious about the “why” and I support this. 


I invite them to start guessing about what has been going on that might make their partner want to leave.  

Usually my client begins by drawing a blank.  They start saying “I don’t know.”   I have a sign in my office to stop this.  The sign rejects “I don’t know” and suggests people replace that phrase with “I think..” or “I guess that…” or “I imagine that…”   (This is the best sign I have ever had!)   The sign only helps them share more thinking which I listen to, mirror, pull, and validate, etc. 

When they begin to run out of guesses about why their partner left, I introduce them to the idea of “Where is the real answer?

It is in your partner, right.  What do you think kept you from hearing what was going on in them?”   This begins a whole new line of thinking about communication.  It almost always brings to the surface awareness that their partner has been/is quiet a lot, and that my client has been blind to what is going on in their partner.  I validate, “Well, no wonder you don’t know what was going on in them.  They didn’t tell you.”  (Remember, I am not trying for me to understand what happened with them.  I am trying to develop awareness of the disconnection between them.  If I were to ask a partner about this, the partner would often say, “I told it over and over and over.  But was never listened to.”   The bottom line is that communication didn’t happen.  It only happens when a) someone speaks and b) someone listens.



Once we have arrived at the idea that the departing partner didn’t speak much,


 I then invite my client to think about it.  (This is the typical problem of Reliable Membership.) I hand them the rule about quietness: “People don’t talk for one reason and one reason alone – they don’t feel safe to talk.”  Then I ask, “What kind of things did you do that might make it unsafe for your partner to talk to you?”  And I mirror, pull and validate. 

Usually this is enough for my client and they begin to shift into wanting to know what to do better.   I tell them that I have an answer that they might consider.  Then I share the paper on “What to do When He/She Leaves.”  This gives them a lot to chew on, and yet feel validated all the time.  

This is how I start.




Histories: She/He has left. Now what? — 1 Comment

  1. Hi,
    I have been dating my husband for 11 years and only married a year and a 1/2. About 3 months ago, I asked him if he was ok and got the suprising answer that he was not sure if he wanted to be married and he never thought he would lose feelings for me and never wanted this to happen. We are both only 29 and have been together most of our adult lives. He lasted in a “confused” state in the house for a month when I found text messages from a 23 year old at work, not sure of what the content was but I saw the phone bill. He also had her number under “tim” in his phone book. When confronted he agreed that he talked to her too much and that was wrong but there is nothing there. My husband and I have so much in common and do everthing together. He has been out of the house for 2 months now and in the beginning he would call or e-mail and I would ignore him and it would make him contact me more. Then if we hung out you can tell he missed me and even told me that he loved me after dinner one night. I am living in the house and he is staying at his grandma's house that is up for sale and vacant. He stops by the house for silly reasons sometimes and I would like to believe its to run into me. Lately, we have had less and less contact and I am trying to be patient and let him be. He seems like he just wants to be my friend. The problem is that up to the day he left the house we were riding bikes and hanging out and still intimate with each other. If we are best friends and still physically attracted to each other, what part of a great relationship am I missing? I know I should be grateful that I dont; have kids and am still very young but I truly believe that we love each other. I am fearful that I am in denial and just hoping for something that is not there. I cant follow the steps you set forth if he is not contacting me anymore. I have contacted a lawyer and given him a settlement letter regarding the house that he had 10 days to respond and it has almost been a month. i am hoping the lack of response is a good sign.

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