Hi Celina. I love your column.
My sister and her partner are splitting up after fifteen years. I will spare you the details. I keep writing them down and then deleting. That’s my problem. I am obsessed with it. Why am I so concerned about my sister and her long-term partner? It upsets me a lot. I am afraid it will happen to me too.
Hey there! Thank you.
I can totally relate to what you’re going through. As much as it may sound weird to a lot of people, the second I read your question I kind of face-palmed and was revisited by that familiar churning in my stomach from when something similar was going down in my life. Except, as you know, it wasn’t actually going down in my life at all.
What seems like many moons ago now, my brother had a long term girlfriend who we, as a family, came to adopt as one of our own. She practically lived with us so she became my new sister, therapist and binge-watching partner. She just fit, like a missing puzzle piece of sorts. I can’t speak for anyone else in my family but I can certainly say that it never once crossed my mind that one day I would never see her again. It was pretty much unfathomable.
When they broke up it not only felt like that puzzle piece was missing again, but like she destroyed the picture altogether. Of course, she didn’t. Their break up was roughest on them, clearly and without question, but it also left me feeling very lost. I was suddenly overcome with so much anxiety and general craziness in my own long term relationship. It was the first time I ever had to consider the idea that just because something has worked for a very long time, that doesn’t mean it can’t break at any given moment.
Much like living through your parents’ divorce, or mourning the end of Brad and Jennifer (insert any and every other celebrity break up that has ever, for mostly incomprehensible reasons, affected an entire nation), it’s all a matter of comfort. You are indirectly being shoved straight out of your comfort zone. You’re witnessing someone you love go through a change that was most likely unexpected, definitely devastating, and you are now tearing at your hair thinking, holy crap this better never happen to me.
Who can blame you? When my relationship of six years finally ended I had friends who, in some ways, were more shaken up than I was. It definitely created a sort of domino effect of paranoia and fear and more break ups. It’s almost like a plague or something. The thing is, it’s all in your head and that’s actually good news. You just need to try as hard as you can to emotionally detach yourself from their break up and then mentally detach yourself from this impending doom-mentality about your future. Yes, it could happen to you. But, also, it might not.
The important thing to remember is that whenever we finally come face to face with something we’re afraid of it usually ends up being pretty alright in the end. Nothing is ever as horrible as we think it’s going to be and people are capable of surviving anything. Except death (duh).
So, stop dwelling on this fear. Be there for your sister. Feel for her but don’t feel for her, you know what I’m saying? Use your energy to build her back up, assuming she’s as upset as you and I are so inclined to be.
Make her an empowering mixtape. You can use www.8tracks.com to make her a virtual one. I suggest lots of Cher, and death metal for the angry days. Here’s one of my favorite ones (you’re welcome).
Watch Legally Blonde. This is actually my go-to, post-break up and in dire need of empowerment, movie. Not only is there an amazing scene in the very beginning of the movie where the main character is broken up with herself and has an epic love-hating meltdown, but she turns it all around by becoming a bad ass lawyer and proving she don’t need no man. I don’t know why I’m telling you this because I know we’ve all seen it but, seriously, it’s like free therapy.
Bake her cookies, take her dancing, take your mind off it at the same time as you’re doing her that favor. As someone who spent a grand total of four years dwelling on someone else’s breakup followed by my own, I can tell you that it’s absolutely not worth it. It’s ok to be scared of letting go but time is precious and yours should never be wasted. Don’t you forget it! Best of luck to you both.
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