A Reader Asks: I feel excluded. What do I do?

Dear Jeremy,
I feel horrible because after talking and arguing with my boyfriend I discovered that he wants to continue to party — with his friends — not including me and is taking two vacations without me. We broke up because it was clear he didn’t feel the same way about me. I asked questions upfront, along the way about our feelings, plans, relationships. He asked about kids and marriage. We were very clear. By Valentine’s Day he didnt give me a card. He said he made a mistake on the card. While cooking dinner, I saw the card in the trash. It was perfect, no mistakes but had very deep feelings expressed via Hallmark. I never said anything and had faith. It never turned around. He had never lied to me before and I had trusted him. So we are broken up and I feel horrible and insecure because I’m 48, he’s 44. I can’t have kids, my body is great, but I was not enough for him….that’s what i feel. It’s stuck in my head and I feel sick. I can’t think straight, sleep…the thoughts keep spinning like what did I do wrong? He was so so sweet and soo kind. But when it came down to big days like Super Bowl, birthday, family vacation, he didn’t include me. It was so opposite him that I thought he was maybe just a clod. So as I write this, I see the writing was on the wall. My question is: How do I feel better now? I can’t work, sleep, relax. It’s horrible. I just feel stuck on this…it’s AWFUL!

Feeling Left Out

Dear Left Out,Thanks so much for writing me. I want to acknowledge you for trusting me to help you with this situation.

It sounds like you’re dealing with a really tough issue right now — one that cuts to the heart of many people: feeling excluded. I can tell you have a tender heart and are deeply wounded by your boyfriend’s behavior. When we feel like we’re being left out or excluded from an activity — whether it be a birthday party or, in your case, something as significant as two vacations — we tend to feel especially activated as it usually drums up past feelings of rejection and not fitting in.

It sounds like you were very clear about your intentions up front when you entered the relationship, and it now sounds like your boyfriend’s expectations and goals have changed. The situation you describe with the Valentine’s Day card found in the trash could be especially hurtful. I want to acknowledge you for sticking it out as long as you did after that incident. What a strong, compassionate heart you must have to stick it out after being hurt so deeply. Anyone who had been through a similar situation would feel the hurt that you feel — and if they didn’t, I’d wonder what was wrong with them! Although I know it doesn’t diminish from the pain that you’re feeling, I do want you to understand that your feelings are perfectly valid and reasonable.

It sounds like the thoughts that you’ve had since the breakup have been especially troubling. What’s interesting to note in an instance like this is just how great the mind is at protecting us. I know, it doesn’t feel like it — but your mind is actually doing a great job using it’s protection mechanisms.

Fundamentally, human beings are concerned with feeling safe, fitting in, and feeling supported. After the breakup, your ground has suddenly been shaken. In moments like this, it can be helpful to look at what happened (events that a video camera would record) and what we make up about it in our minds. I’ll do my best to try to explain.

Video Camera:
You met your boyfriend. You talked about feelings, plans, and relationships.

You didn’t get a Valentine’s card.
You found the card in the trash.
He didn’t invite you to events on “big days”.

Now, I want to look at what your mind tells you that all of these events mean:

My over-protective mind says:
I feel horrible.I’m unsafe.
I am too old now.
I can’t have kids.
I was not enough!
I did something wrong!
I should have seen this coming.
I’m stuck, and it’s awful!

Can you see the difference between events that occur in time and space, and the thing that our minds tell us that they mean? The things that happen don’t inherently mean anything — they are just events. Try picturing these events as a silent film. First of all, it might add a bit of humor (there’s very little difference between tragedy and comedy!) and it might lighten the situation, providing you with a detached perspective.

Here’s what I want you to get:What happened are just things that happened. There is no more meaning in what happened than what you give it; and, your feelings are perfectly rational.

Here’s another way of trying to illustrate what I’m saying:

Left Out, after reading your letter, I am absolutely certain of one thing. You’re a Honda. Yep, you’re a Honda. You’re a lovely automobile, a lovely car. And I’m positive, you’re a Honda.

Now, I’m willing to bet that after me telling you this, you’re not going to log off of your computer and go purchase a tasty gallon of gasoline to drink.

Why not?

Because you’re clear about one core belief: No matter what I say or do, you know without a doubt you are not a car. You are not a Honda, and you are absolutely certain of that.

I want you to consider that regardless of the reasons for your boyfriend’s behavior, it does not at all dictate who you are — unless you choose to believe it. Byron Katie once said, “Only an insane mind believes what it says.” Consider that the things you’re telling yourself — that you’re too old, that you’re not enough, that you did something wrong — these feelings are all as valid as me telling you that you’re a Honda.

Try something on, as you might try on a dress or new outfit. Say to yourself, “I am neither too little, nor too much. I completely approve of myself.” Although it might sound a bit like a Saturday Night Live Daily Affirmation skit, there is power in these words. As your mind starts hearing this instead of negative self-talk and criticism, you might be surprised at how your thinking patterns begin to shift.

Left Out, you are obviously a kind, generous person with a warm and tender heart. I am so sorry to hear that you are not having the experience of someone returning that generosity. Please try observing yourinner dialogue and noticing when it turns negative. You are not a Honda. You’re a vibrant, caring, beautiful individual with a lot to offer. Consider that what others do and what others think about you is none of your business. It’s all up to you.

Thanks again for writing in. Take good care of yourself.



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Jeremy Savage, MA, LPC

2727 Bryant St. #104
Denver, CO 80211


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