Dear Dr. Fred: My partner of seven years recently broke up with me and moved out, because … get this …he “doesn’t think he’s gay anymore!’’ He was married to a woman when we first met, but he had been having sex with men on the down low for some time. All I can say about him “not being gay anymore’’ is that he sure put up a good act in the bedroom over the years we’ve been together, (although I have to admit, we haven’t had much sex at all for a long while).
While I was pretty torn up at first about the break-up and the reason he gave for it, I’ve been working my way through all o f that with my therapist and am pretty proud of the progress I’ve made there so far. So that’s not my biggest problem.
My biggest problem is that my ex and I co-own and operate a business together — a very busy and profitable salon and spa. There’s no way either one of us can walk away from it, as we still owe a substantial balance on a loan we took out to get it started. So now. I’m trapped in a situation where I have to go in to work every day and spend the whole day working beside a man who just dumped me!
Worse yet, he seems to want us to be “just friends” now, spending all day chatting it up with me, making stupid little jokes and acting like nothing ever happened between us, assuming I can do the same thing. But I can’t, and in fact, sometimes I just want to choke him, but I have to act civil for the sake of our patrons.
So my question for you is, how do I cope with working with this man who (I now realize) is completely superficial and about as deep as a mud puddle?
Should I continue as is, and wait for the day when our loan is paid off and we can afford to sell the business or I can afford to buy him out? Also, what are the health/ mental health consequences likely to be for me of having to work under these stressful conditions? I already have an ulcer. Is this likely to make that worse?
For starters, let me commend you for your decision to start therapy and for the excellent progress you’re making there. I can’t imagine getting through a situation like this without a good therapist. I also need to ask if you’ve processed the questions you’ve sent me here with your therapist, and, if the answer is yes, what he or she suggested. If the answer is no then I strongly suggest that you do run all of this by your therapist.
From there, I think the best I can do here is try to normalize your situation a bit. To wit, lots of people, gay and straight, find themselves in the uncomfortable position of having to “make nice” with each other for financial, child-rearing or other reasons after a breakup, when what they really want to do is “choke each other,” as you’ve indicated here.
In fact, we might even go so far as to say that perhaps most people, or at least a large majority of people who go through a break-up have to make some concessions in the honesty department in order to get along with their exes.
For those of us who value authenticity, this may at times be a jarring thing, causing us to feel disingenuous or even “fake.” But when counseling clients through these times,
I usually try to remind them to focus on the ends that justify the means and to think in terms of what their highest priorities are.
In your circumstances Andy, that would be the need to keep this shared business afloat until your financials improve. You state that you’re clearly not in a position to buy out your partner or sell the business — at least not now. So in this respect, you really don’t have many other choices but to hang in there and make the best of a trying situation.
On the other hand, you might try finding other backers to buy into the business, and buy out your ex, especially if the salon/spa is as busy and lucrative as you suggest. That said, any such research is going to take considerable time and effort on your part, and it sounds like a process you may just not quite be up to yet, considering how hurt and angry you are presently.
That leaves the question of how to manage the stress of working with your ex in the meantime.
Again, I’d direct you back to your therapist and suggest that you ask him or her for some training and coaching in stress-management techniques. There are countless relaxation and meditation CDs on the market to choose from.
A final thought … do more to take care of you! Join a gym, get a massage, treat yourself to a manicure or a facial. If it works for your patrons, it should work for you.