May 8, 2015

Ask Me Anything; Having The Dreaded “Break Up” Conversation (Weekly Advice Column).


Dear Elephants,

Welcome to this week’s Ask Me Anything, where no question is out of bounds! To submit questions for next week, please email me at [email protected].

I look forward to hearing from you!

~ Erica


Dear Erica,

I had just recently recovered from a hellacious year, about two years ago. I had two very scary hip surgeries and a very long recovery.

My boyfriend at the time broke up with me days before my first surgery. He was the first man I had given my heart to since I divorced my partner of 10 yrs (who ended up marrying his mistress—a friend of mine, and leaving me in horrible debt).

During this time my Facebook friend “Andrew” was very attentive, caring, and helpful. He broke up with his girlfriend and became even more attentive. Once my walking restrictions were over, I posted on Facebook that I wanted to celebrate my new lease on life. Andrew responded to my post saying, “Come out to Rhode Island”, which, having never been, I said yes.

Our few days together were magical. We Skyped every day after that. I was in love! So, I packed up everything and moved to the east coast.

The problem is, after having arrived in August, I’ve become increasingly frustrated by his lack of a life plan or any ambition. He pays his bills late and has no credit and zero interest to fix it.

I budget my own stuff and every time I want to talk future finances and goals, he shuts down! He is a very caring, loving, giving, and funny soul, but I fear for my future with him! My gut is telling me to run for the hills, but I don’t want to hurt the nicest guy I’ve ever met!

I don’t even care that I have nowhere to go (I moved in with him.) I find myself loving my life outside of him. However, I can’t find the words to break it off. I have no one to talk to about this.

What should I do? 


Run For The Hills


Dear Run,

You took a big risk when you decided to move in lock stock and barrel with a virtual stranger.

You have discovered that although he is a “caring, loving, giving and funny soul” he is financially a deadbeat. This doesn’t sit well with you because you (rightly) see that it will cause future trouble and also because his values and ethics regarding work and money do not align with yours.

As time passes, this will become a greater and greater source of stress for you. There is little to no chance either of you will change—especially because, based on your life story, neither of you are babes in the woods and the older people get, the more they are set in their ways.

Your life without him is happy and self actualized, and aside from the home you share you are not legally or financially tied to this guy.

According to you, the only real reason you’re still there is that you’re dreading the difficult break up conversation. (These are admittedly some of the very hardest conversations to have.) But—and you know this—that is no reason to stay.

So, what do you do?

Plan out very carefully what you need to say, determine a time and a place to say it (with compassion and clarity), take a deep breath and get it over with.

You will feel much better once you’ve spoken your truth and you can move on.


Dear Erica,

I used to be a really ambitious person. I was on the swim team all throughout high school and college, never partied, really focused on grades and got a demanding job right when I graduated in tech.

I work hard, like the people I work with, and I got promoted a few times. Everyone seems pretty envious of my life. On paper, I have it all. But I find myself suddenly drained by everything.

Each day that passes I find it harder and harder just to get out of bed. I don’t want to talk to anyone or do anything. Simple things like taking a shower seem overwhelming.

I am only 28 years old. What is wrong with me? I can’t go on like this and no one even knows there is a problem. I have absolutely no idea what to do. I am stuck. I am scared. And at the same time, it’s like I don’t feel anything.

Why is this happening?




Dear Stuck,

Any number of things could be happening from physical illness to some kind of existential crisis which demands that you reexamine your life.

What I do know based on what you’ve told me, is that this is serious. Any time our behavior or mood radically changes for no readily apparent reason, it is a huge red flag. You’ve taken an important first step in acknowledging these changes and reaching out to me.

Now you need to find the courage to reach out to the people closest to you, too. Explain what’s happening, be open and vulnerable. Ask if they have noticed anything different about you lately. You’re going to try and gather both support and information.

Once your loved ones have weighed in, you should make an appointment with your general practitioner. Write down all your concerns prior to going so you don’t forget anything. Your doctor will likely want to run a fair amount of tests—let her.

Assuming the cause is determined not to be physical, your doctor will likely suggest that you see a therapist and/or a psychiatrist. Welcome this opportunity to begin to uncover the mystery of you.

My gut tells me you have spent your whole life pleasing other people and conforming to their expectations, and now that you have achieved what you believed you were supposed to achieve, you are left feeling hollow.

This sensation of malaise—if you can embrace it—may turn into a wonderful chance for you to begin living more authentically.


Author: Erica Leibrandt

Editor: Alli Sarazen

Photo: Bruce Aldridge/Flickr & Wirox/Flickr

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