HomeMain PageRelationshipsMap of RelationshipsWhat to do when He/She Leaves?


What to do when He/She Leaves? — 757 Comments

  1. Hey, Al.

    I am in a situation that neatly fits into the “What to do when he/she leaves” article with one caveat; my girlfriend has left because she no longer believes she can trust me.

    She interprets me not changing communication behaviors with her after apologizing as broken trust and is therefore no longer willing to try any more in the relationship.

    She’s agreed I’ve made great strides and progress in removing toxic behaviors but simply believes the trust will never come back. Her exact words were, “I don’t care how much you change, my trust is never coming back”.

    How do I move forward and follow your guidelines in this article when she doesn’t even see changing as a viable sign of worthiness?


    • Well, hi Eric. This business of Losing Trust and believing Trust can’t be rebuilt seem to me very very common. Take a look at my Map of Relationships and you’ll see it as central to what I call the Choice Point. Where one partner still wants to go on with the “work” of making a great relationship, and the other has finally given up Hope.

      Of course both can give up, but I don’t recommend that.

      There are many ways to move forward and both Hope and Trust can be rebuilt with effort and growth of wisdom.

      Without knowing more about the two of you it sounds as if you may have learned and practice some specific communization habits that are poor. You need to learn better and probably she does also.

      Go any ideas what them foul habits are?

      Keep a going.

      • Hi, Al. Nice to hear from you again

        About 2 weeks ago, she told me more clearly what exactly she did not like about my communication with her and that she was thinking of ending things because of it.

        I pulled out a little note card and wrote down the ways she felt I was behaving poorly. At the time, she only listed one: “You don’t have to always be right”. Internally, I honestly didn’t think I behaved that way but could understand how I could come across like that at certain points. Still, I wrote it down and invited her to share more things with me that I could list. She gave me two more items that I wrote to round out the list. Another was not to tell her about the things she’s doing “wrong”. I showed her the bullet points and told her I’d be keeping the card on me as a reminder.

        During those next 2 weeks, I was hyper vigilant about being aware of those bullet points. I slowed myself way down and focused on pre-validating and validating her whenever she spoke. She would often talk about certain topics that I was familiar with, but I would allow her to do most of the talking and invited her to teach me things she knows and that I do not (horse training and farm life, for example)

        The night she broke up with me, over text, she said that there was no point in continuing since she realized it would be impossible to ever trust me again. I was stunned and deeply confused and hurt. I tried to reason with her but my attempts to reason caused her to label me as a manipulator and she threatened to block my number if I didn’t accept it.

        Any advice on how I should proceed in this case? I feel that I’ve been “blocked in”. If I do nothing, it may seem that I don’t care. If I make an attempt to connect, she may see it as manipulation. I have not attempted to contact her in any way since she broke up with me. I feel I need to be wise and cautious with my next move here because I believe her lizard is raging right now and has been for some time. (As is mine) There’s so much I am now remembering about her behavior I could tell you, but this message is running long as it is.

        Thanks for your time and site, as always

      • Update:
        It appears that she has blocked me on social media. I have not attempted to text her since the breakup 10 days ago and I do not know if she has blocked my number as well.

        I’m wondering if it would be intrusive to follow your “When To Fold ‘Em” advice and try to send her a card with a short message.

        I’m really not sure how to proceed and not do anything that would appear to me manipulative.

        • Hi Eric, thanks for writing. I am standing in for my dad, Al, who is retiring but still overseeing my efforts here on the website. I know I’ll never be him, but I hope I can help.

          Your description of your interactions with your girlfriend and the break-up made me think of the essay on the website on “Reliable Membership.” If you haven’t already, I think this might be useful to read to learn more about the common clinger-avoider pattern in relationships. I know that, for many, “manipulation” feels like someone else wants them to do something, but they aren’t telling them exactly what that something is; instead, they are just putting pressure on them. And this pressure can feel really overwhelming.

          So, I like your idea of trying some of the suggestions in the “Know When to Fold ‘Em” paper. But it’s important that you do this in your own way. Maybe a very short note (4-5 sentences max) where you explain how you’re working on yourself and offer that gentle invitation – that you’re still here and open (when and if she’s ready) to do what it takes to realize your goal/dream – and be clear about that goal/dream (i.e., “a long-term relationship with you where both of us feel safe, heard, supported and loved”).

          This stuff isn’t easy. Be sure to take care of yourself.
          – Mary Turtle

        • Hi Mary,
          I didn’t know where to contact you, apologies for hijacking the thread.
          I just want to send my regards and gratitude to your dad. his work and the few sessions I’ve had with him mean so much to me. It’s great that you are going to try to maintain (help out) the website, large shoes to step into 🙂
          Best wishes to you on carrying this and to Al.

  2. Hi Al, I came across your work about 6 years ago but I was unfortunately grasping at straws at the time and The effects of anxiety were severely limiting my ability to comprehend, much less synthesize your writing. With all of the understanding that I could muster, I tried to invite my partner along to learn. The scars from going headlong into the brick wall time and time again are proof enough that it takes 2 to make a relationship and 1 to make a divorce. Fast forward 5 years from the time that I closed the door and I have found myself partnered with a truly wonderful mind and a pure heart. She embraced me and my son (7yrs) in a way that I could have never imagined, or dared to hope for but she has shown the capacity and willingness to reach for the “biological dream”. Trouble is, I have been delusional, operating with the most basic concepts of IMAGO in my toolkit. (When I gave up on my last relationship I failed to carryon with my learning of the SKILLS! Needed if I were to succeed). Two years in with my partner/fiancé now and it has been the source of the single greatest and now the single most miserable experiencesof each of our lives. Standard conflicts. She communicates well and I am a lifelong passive master (ugh!!). So we have a lot invalidation, trust issues because (passive master rebellion), confusion from “agreements” broken, and more arguing (mild, no big anger) and standard cognitive issues, insecurities, projection, fears that come out sideways and defensiveness. They have all combined to tip the scales to where she felt she was hopeless here and that it was the highway of self preservation or the slide to her demise. She left for the weekend just over a month and a half ago and we have not spoken since, except for just the other night. I want to tell you that I really found the clarity to digest so much more of all that you have shared (thank you again) and painfully and patiently practiced in my mind until I stepped forward and asked for one conversation from her. It is clear that she is struggling at the crossroads like never before and both options she is facing bring back fear and carry massive heartache. Our conversation went well, hours of tears and boundaries 98% intact, and we both professed the deepest love and care for each other.

    So, now I have joined her at the crossroads and am thoroughly stuck. I am 49, she is 29. She has been accepted into a graduate program in another state and is surrounded by family hi are predictable. I am not fully predictable or trusted at this time.
    Half of her heart is here though, this I know. I am stuck because I have lost some faith in myself and our vision and I would go slowly forward but there is about a one month window where major decisions need to be made. This brings me full circle to the point of asking if you might have some insight to share on how, in that short of a window, the changes in me might be conveyed. I have too quickly agreed to things and professed “change” in the past and I worry that I am going to seem pushy and manipulative. I know what I want to do though and am practicing and have come to a place of breakthrough understanding (for me anyway).
    We will see what happens.

    ….I didn’t intend on posting more than my gratitude for you and what you do. But it looks like I fell into the Turtle zone. haha!
    Thank you for reading.
    ~Much respect

  3. I need advise my boyfriend of 4 years cheated several times and I forgave him and we moved on only to find out several days ago that he was in a relationship with another women for a year and I was not aware of it I asked him about it he denied it and said he was not in a relationship with me either. He let the gal swear at me while he was there listening after he calls me and apologies he does things to impress her at my expense am so broken and hurt by this situation. He is no longer my boyfriend as the girl told me he is now her boyfriend I must back off the thing is that he seems confused by the whole situation what must I do to win him back or must I leave him completely

  4. My partner leaves me.. He told me dat he is not interested in me.. He blocked me everywhere i.e on calls,, messages,, WhatsApp everywhere.. He said now he feel bored of me.. Please tell me what i do now.. ❓ I have my 7 years relationship.. I don’t want to break up..

    • Well Asfia, you’ve got a good start. You’re clear that you don’t want to end the relationship and you have 7 years under your belt. And you’ve found my website and the right starting article.

      Next, follow the 4 steps. Steps 1 & 2 are all about practicing Patience and keeping yourself from panicking.

      Step 3 is the big one. You may need some help. Basically you study those 7 years looking for things to do better for you and for him. Then you learn new stuff and lead him to learn also.

      This ain’t easy partly cuz the people around you are probably teaching you to do things that I think are dumb. Hard to tell the difference at first. Keep at it.

      Lots of ideas on my website. Read up on the Map of Relationships http://www.alturtle.com/archives/801 and Reliable Membership http://www.alturtle.com/archives/100

      Good luck.

  5. Dear Al,
    This is a great article! My partner left several days ago and I have read your words numerous times.
    We have been together almost 15 years and living together and engaged almost 6. Since living together, I have experienced a downward spiral (weight gain, depression, etc.). It didn’t help that a close family member took their life one month before our scheduled wedding. We postponed the marriage, but I later found out that my partner had wanted to call it off anyway.
    I have struggled with these issues (weight, depression) throughout our relationship, though the year before my partner proposed, I had found a good balance through changing my job and diet/exercise. Once I moved into his place, I found myself quickly falling back into old habits.
    Now, after 6 years of living together and not seeing the person he wanted to marry, he thinks it is best if I move out. He is currently away for work for a few months. I was supposed to go with him, but he didn’t think it would be a good idea.
    I cannot say that I am shocked about his decision. In fact, I felt it coming for months. So, since he left, I have looked at apartments, started therapy and gone back to the gym. I am almost too motivated and feel I will crash at any minute.
    He doesn’t want me to tell our family or friends anything. I’m not sure what that means. I did receive an email from him today. He said he was sorry, but his feelings haven’t changed and he would like me to move out by the time he returns. He also says that he has little faith that I will change. He didn’t directly break up with me. Am I naive to be hopeful?
    My response to his message was that I agreed that I should move out and I briefly mentioned the progress I’ve made. Maybe that wasn’t a good idea.
    Right now I am hopeful, but sometimes I feel a sinking feeling in my chest. I would appreciate any insights you have on my situation.
    Thanks again for your article,

    • Hello Maria, and good wishes to you. Well, it sounds as if you are at what I call the Choice Point in your relationship. Do you give up and walk away? Do you just give in and do whatever he wants? Do you work to find a great relationship with him? This point is characterized by a sense of hopelessness. You mention he feels hopeless that “you’ll change,” whatever the heck that means to him. And you wander in and out of depression, which I always think of as a kind of sinking into helpless/hopelessness.

      But hopelessness is a fragile thing, broken easily by progress. I’m glad you found a therapist and exercise. I’d focus on learning about yourself and growing yourself and making events that show progress. Don’t make promises. Follow the four steps in this article and read on more. I think it and you and he are worth it.

      • Good morning Al,
        Thank you so so much for responding to my post!
        Your words “helpless” and “hopeless” really struck a cord with me. I need to figure out why I keep falling into those feelings.
        And the fact that you asked about me “just giv[ing] in” to him has made me think about what it is I really want. You are right. If I keep making progress, I should be able to feel less and less hopelessness. The time and space apart has already made some things clearer.
        Thanks again for your kind and encouraging words.
        Very best wishes,

        • Dear Al,
          So here I am, back after almost 3 months. I have to say that your words have helped me so so much. Over the past few months, every time I felt like giving up on myself, I reminded myself that progress breaks hopelessness, took a breath and carried on.
          At this point, I have moved out and my partner is back in town. Only two of my friends know, and he just informed me that he told his mom and adult daughter, and will tell our friends that we have mutually split. I, on the other hand, feel not ready to give up, meaning I’m not ready to tell my family and friends.
          Soon after he returned, he asked to see me for coffee and I think it went well enough. I didn’t go into too much detail about what I’ve been doing over the time apart, but mentioned the counseling and career progress. He seemed to want to linger, but I told him I had things to do that day. At one point, he looked at me and said he couldn’t understand why we couldn’t make things work. I told him that I have found and am figuring out the answer, and would like to speak to him about it specifically at a time when he is ready. I took this advice from your article on resentments. You see I realized that I stopped trying in our relationship because I grew to resent him. Now that I recognize this, I no longer resent him, but realize I should have been more vocal about my needs.
          So, my question is, how should I go about relaying this to him? He might be hurt because I think he feels he did so much for me (which is absolutely true). Should I warn him that I want to talk about resentment or wait until we are face-to-face?
          Thanks for everything you have done to change my life. I truly feel I am finally on the path to a fulfilling existence.

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