QUESTION: I have been in an unfulfilling relationship for many years now, but recently I have realized that I really need to terminate it. But I am unable to do so. I am in a lot of pain due to being frozen in place despite my desire and need to talk to my partner. I am just unable to break away and speak up. It is eating me alive, it is slowly killing me. I am self-destroying like never before. I gain pounds by the day and am using alcohol to numb the pain. I can not function or work. My body is in pain. How do I summon the courage to leave this unhealthy relationship?

I thought I could sum up my courage yesterday, but I did not. I feel the need to have the right moment to speak up, and it was there many times over, but I couldn’t find the energy or the courage to talk. I am afraid of hurting her, but now I am destroying myself instead. Deep in my heart I know that she is not happy either, but I know she will never take the first step. She is a very nice person, and I do care for her, but I do not feel fed. I feel responsible for her and am afraid she will fall apart if I do leave.

I do know that this needs to be done and it is for the best for the both of us. I can’t breathe and I feel like I am choking constantly. Why is it such an impossible task for me when I know in my heart what needs to be done? Sorry for this dramatic tone, but it is the tone of my heart and soul.

ANSWER: The breakup that you are attempting is a very difficult task and can not be rushed. The hesitation is not only about your present but also about the ways you were raised. The inability to speak up for our needs, the shame around it, etc., is a direct result of our upbringing and self-care.

As such, observe your behavior. This is a great opportunity to put yourself and psyche under the microscope: your fear of hurting your partner, taking care of another to the detriment of yourself, etc. These are all deep-rooted behaviors, and as painful as it is - the only way out is in. Leaving relationships when these feelings are present is difficult, but rushing it will not make the feelings go away. One then tends to idealize the relationship once one has left, and then the yo-yo of getting back together/breaking up again takes place.

Learn to investigate, and then tolerate these feelings. This is all about you, not her. The biggest way that we hurt another is through dishonesty. Even though it might seem noble on the surface to deny oneself for another, it in fact is destructive to both parties involved. It is only through practice and experience that one learns - that by taking care of oneself, the other is taken care of. I don’t mean this in the narcissistic way - some rape and pillage everything around them for self-benefit. That is addiction and no one is fed there. I mean the real needs, the needs that nourish the heart.

When we are raised in an unsafe environment, trust does not exist. As such, we become control freaks as a way of survival since we are unable to rely on our caregivers to care for us. In your case, this control extends to playing God, so to speak, and the belief that if you don’t care for another person or situation they will be doomed. In my own experience of terminating codependent relationships, whether they were romantic or not, the other person either went along as before or became stronger because of the experience. Both parties suffer in codependent relationships, always.

So this is about you and your issues. Quiet your mind; this is not an issue of courage or will. It is about honesty and kindness to self. Your own self. We do not have the right to hurt anyone, including ourselves.