Q. I am not sure this is Love Letters material since there’s not a big decision point. Rather, I’m looking to tap the collective wisdom for general advice. I am a serial clinger. I have had three significant-ish relationships in my life. In each one, I fought the end. I felt them coming. Something was off in each case. Yet I didn’t accept their endings gracefully. I fought it, talking ad nauseum, analyzing every detail, replaying every would-have could-have, should-have. Ultimately, it just made the endings more painful than necessary. One relationship was six years, with an engagement at the end. I gave myself the grace to dwell in the ambivalence for that was sure to accompany such a meaningful, complex relationship — of course I would want to cling a little. The other two, however, were only 4 months or so — flashes in the night. Any yet, despite my rational brain reminding me otherwise, I clung to each one. I feel like it’s an important part of emotional maturity to be able to accept the end, and yet, despite the years under my belt, I am still a 14-year-old in this department. What is the formula for moving on gracefully?
A. I wouldn’t call you a clinger. Serial clingers cling during relationships. You just fight the breakup.
Frankly, it’s better to over-analyze and fight breakups than walk away without thinking about the experience at all. Some analysis is a good thing. And please know that your loyalty will come in handy when you find a more permanent relationship.
My guess is that you were upset about those flash-in-the-night breakups because you still have some bad feelings about the end of your epic relationship. That’s normal.
I also think that it’s easy to become addicted to grief and analysis. For you, it’s not about the guy you lost, it’s about figuring out what went wrong. You’re looking for answers when there usually aren’t any. You get yourself stuck on the hamster wheel.
Perhaps if you learn to understand that your clinging is about addiction to analysis (as opposed to the guy), you’ll be more self-aware when it happens again and better about shutting it down before you wind up lobbying.
Also listen to the people you trust. What do they say about these relationships? Can they help you bring meaning to the breakups?
I don’t know anyone who is 100 percent graceful during breakups. Even if they’re great in the moment, they usually throw tantrums in private. It’s OK to freak out a little. It happens.