How do I say goodbye?

All Woman

Dear Counsellor,

I read a recent column of yours, and I agree to some extent why we as women would settle for relationships where our partners are cheating. But looking at my situation, none of those factors that you outlined apply to me. I stayed because I genuinely loved this person, after sharing more than nine years of my life with him.

In hindsight, I can honestly say I don't know how we lasted as long as we did. Our issues with cheating started from the get-go when he cheated on me with his ex-girlfriend. We broke it off, but got back together. The second incident happened, and I was willing to forgive this indiscretion yet again. His explanation was that he was just acting out because I was reluctant to move in with him. He did cut all ties with this person, and we were able to move on.

Now here we are again in the same situation. This time he has been carrying on a four-year relationship with this other woman, based on lies. And to top it all off, he has made it known that he has cheated on this other woman during that relationship with possibly several other women. After everything that we have endured, he has now decided that he wants to be with this other woman.

So like you said, I have to pack up and start all over again. But my question, Mr Powell, is this: How do I say goodbye to nine years? Truth is, I don't even know how to break this to our families because they were all so vested in us. It's literally like breaking news to the children that their parents are separating, and I feel embarrassed too. Is this really love, or am I just stupidly holding on to something that's not there? I need some perspective and clarity.

Don't be too hard on yourself. These things happen to many people who are in love and who strive to keep their relationships intact despite the challenges.

Sometimes we wonder how a seemingly intelligent, educated and well-balanced individual could allow her/himself to be taken for a ride and not see the perils that await them. The truth is that the innate need for love and emotional attachment overrides logic. In other words, the heart (emotion) rules and dominates the head (intellect).

What seemed to have happened in your case, as with many women in failing relationships, is failure to align the heart with the head. Although you loved this man, you were obviously putting in more than you were getting out of this relationship. No doubt you would have been frustrated with the very little return on your love investment.

Forgiving a partner for an indiscretion is sometimes encouraged. As they say, however, the first time could be a mistake, but similar subsequent behaviour is a practice that ought not to be taken lightly.

The truth is, you have seen glaring red lights and flags that you kept on disregarding in the name of love. Is this really love? you ask. What do you think? Love, as the Good Book says, does not dishonour others, nor is it self-seeking. Do you feel dishonoured by your partner? Would you say his actions were self-centred? Mr Mention was sending you the memo long ago, but you chose to ignore it. He is obviously not the type to commit to one woman, and so he played the field while he was with you. You even admit that he has boasted about cheating on this current woman.

How do you say goodbye to nine years of a relationship? The answer is that it won't be easy, but like everything else, this too will pass. Would you prefer to have spent 19 years in a relationship that could drive you into a state of depression? In my view, making a clean break is better now than later.

The first thing you need to do is accept that Mr Mention has made his decision to move on without you. That's his call, and no matter what you say or do, it won't matter — not even the nine years of togetherness. Try not to attribute 100 per cent of the failure of the relationship to yourself alone, although there are things you obviously need to work on, such as being more perceptive and assertive.

Moping over the nine years spent in the relationship will not do you much good either. Look at those years as part of your personal growth and learning curve in navigating relationships.

Your family members may be heartbroken over the break-up, but the sooner you sit with them and share the bad or good news — depending on how you look at it — the better for everyone concerned. I'm sure they all want the best for you, so don't worry about their possible reaction.

Try to go high. Don't berate your ex when you speak with anyone about the situation. You are not obligated to reveal your personal details to anyone, not even your parents. This man will do a better job of showing his unworthy self to them without your help.

So take this break-up in stride and wait a while before you move into another relationship. And as I always say, “Don't worry, be happy.” Some things are blessings in disguise. Try to work on your self-esteem, and do take care of yourself.

Wayne Powell is a relationship counsellor. Write to; check out his work overseas on, e-mail




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