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A Conversation

by Michael Halloran a day ago in breakups

When the truth is hard to accept

A Conversation
Photo by Nathan Dumlao on Unsplash

‘Sometimes you just have to let them go’, he said, leaning towards me across the rickety table outside the inner-city café.

‘I know’, I sighed.

The ‘them’ he was referring to were females. This was clearly an absurd and sweeping generalization.

But I knew that he was referring to just one woman in particular, the woman who had broken my heart.

I also knew that I was lying when I said, ‘I know’.

Sure, my head understood that he was perfectly correct in his assertion, at least the bit about letting her go, if not the bit about letting them go.

But my emotions told me otherwise.

‘Once a woman makes up her mind, there is no going back’, he continued.

Whatever, I thought. Another oversimplification. So much for professionalism!

‘What you still do not seem to understand is that she didn’t make her decision overnight or lightly. What you thought was a sudden decision was something that she would have been agonizing over for a really long time’, he lectured.

He leaned back for a moment, stroking his beard, studying me, before coming forward to deliver the coup de gras.

‘While you lay together in bed at night, blissfully unaware, she would have been planning to leave you, negotiating alternative living arrangements for herself and the children’.

He sat back and studied me in the way that one might examine a rare insect under a microscope.

‘Mm’, I finally grunted in a non-committal manner.

He then shot me dead.

‘Even when you were making love, perhaps’, he added.

How much more ruthless would this bastard become if I didn’t completely capitulate and agree with every observation that he made?

‘I’m curious, though’, he frowned. ‘Why is it then that you think you can’t live without this woman? Why would you want to be with a person who does not want to be with you – and has made that clear to you?’

I thought about this. It was an excellent question.

‘I know on a rational level that I can live without her, of course’, I finally added, twirling my empty coffee mug. ‘Clearly I spent decades of my life before we met. I didn’t even know that she existed until I was in my twenties, and I was perfectly fine before that …’.

‘Continue’, he nodded.

‘But what you seem to minimize – no disrespect intended - is that we did a lot together. And we not only have these shared memories together, but I thought we had plans for the future. I got ahead of myself and had an imagined future with her. Now I’m having trouble understanding that the future is not how …’.

‘Stop right there and hear yourself. As you said, it was an ‘imagined future’, not what was ever going to really happen! You really did get ahead of yourself, as you say. She was clearly imagining a different future. My friend, have you heard of ‘realistic thinking’?

‘I can’t say I have’, I muttered. ‘But I’m sure you’re about to enlighten me’.

He gave one of his rare smiles.

‘Touché’, he said. ‘But, no, not necessarily. I’m not the enemy here. You know I’m just trying to help you, right? You need to start looking at the situation you have found yourself in and start being realistic about it. We have talked around this for, what, 5 or 6 appointments? It is over. She is not who you thought she was, and you are definitely not who she thought you were. It’s remarkable your relationship lasted as long as it did. She has had the courage to say that it is over, and we need to respect that. You need to find strategies to cope with the new reality, the ‘new normal’ as we increasingly like to say these days. Stop being so co-dependent’.

‘Co-dependent?’ I repeat, as if part of my brain has been surgically removed.

‘Yes. Thinking that you need another person to make you complete, in layman’s terms. You don’t. You need to be comfortable in yourself, happy by yourself, doing whatever it is that makes you fulfilled. Another person in your life who is “special” is just a bonus - if it turns out that way’.

‘Ah’, I say.

‘Think about it this way. I couldn’t say this directly when I was officially your psychologist, of course, but that has all changed now that I have resigned my position. And now that you are officially ‘cured’. Ha! Sorry. Is it not kind of pathetic to crave the company of a person who does not want to be with you? You had a life before her and you will, in time, have a life after her’.

I look at him.

The bastard is right. Why then does it not feel that way?

‘Rewiring your brain takes some time, of course’, he says more gently, as if he has read my mind. ‘But it can be done if you follow the advice. And seriously – what would you feel, now that you have come this far, if she suddenly came to you and said she wanted to get back together? Hmmm?’

I consider this scenario and am shocked to feel alarmed at that prospect.

Being single again recently, despite the confused painful aspect of it, has been kind of exciting, after all. My future is open again, full of possibilities.


‘You’ve been through this before and came back bigger and better, correct?’ the voice continues. ‘So why can you not do it again? Life is a journey’.

He looks at his Rolex watch. I check the time on my phone.

We stand.

Our ‘appointment’ is over.

‘What did you think of our unofficial ‘cafe appointment’, anyway? It is a radical experiment’, he chuckles, as we touch elbows.

‘It was good’, I reluctantly acknowledge. ‘You were much less formal. And I must confess, kind of ruthless’.

‘Ha-ha. Ruthless! I like that. Make sure you put that in the online reviews on my webpage’, he says mischievously, again touching his beard. ‘But remember that we have spent many sessions where I did a lot of listening and simply paraphrasing. You’re not my patient anymore, and today is the culmination, really. The rest of it is up to you. Stay in touch if you need to and best of luck’.

‘Thanks, Doc’, I say. ‘What did you say you were planning to do now that you have resigned your position at the clinic?’

‘Oh, I’m heading off to some islands to work with people who are stuck in offshore detention. New challenges and all that. Believe it or not, many of them have real problems on their hands!’

‘Well, best of luck with that’, I say. ‘And thanks again’.

I head back into the sunlight. It takes a moment to remember that I’m supposed to be gutted and sad about my marriage breakup.

I hear small birds singing as I walk to my car. I notice the winter sun on my face, warming me, and the scent of freshly mown grass from the nearby parklands.

I think of that pretty lady who always smiles at me at my local café when I order my coffee.

I think everything is going to be okay.


Michael Halloran

Educator. Writer. Appleman.

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