I’m writing on behalf of my brother. Robbie has always been socially awkward, which is why his circle of friends is very small.
His wife of 23 years left him for another relationship, which shot down the small bit of self-esteem he had. Robbie has tried very hard to put on a brave face, but he finally broke down over the weekend and cried to me about how lonely he is. He is a brilliant man, very soft spoken and shy. Even his job is spent mostly in a lab doing solitary work.
He told me he wakes up every morning in a panic and it broke my heart. I need to help him get out of this place he is in and move on after this devastating breakup. Any advice you could give would be appreciated.
Lonely and Alone
Dear Lonely and Alone,
Starting over after 23 years of a life together would be difficult for anyone. You paint a picture of a sensitive, bright, introvert who is struggling with self-esteem issues. In his mind, his wife leaving him for another person is confirmation that he is not good enough. Nothing could be further from the truth. Robbie has lived a secluded lifestyle for a long time. You don’t have any idea how much his ex may have contributed to his already weak opinion of himself. He has created a comfortable and safe mental space where no one can hurt him. He needs to be able to get past his fear and get out of this rut, so he can see that there is a whole world waiting for him.
I know this is easier said than done. Robbie has to take the first step and push out of his comfort zone. He might find it easier to manage this journey with a professional counsellor who can guide him. He may be dealing with depression, as well, and that is not something you can diagnose. Once your brother gets to a place of “productive discomfort,” where he will learn to feel an optimal amount of anxiety and excitement, he will feel better.
He could start by joining an interest group, like a book or photography club, or taking an evening class. There, he will have the opportunity to talk with people who have similar interests. As long as he is willing to move forward and push through the confining boundaries of his comfort zone, he will eventually feel healthier in his new heightened state and realize how great it is to feel alive again.
My new boyfriend loves hiking and so do I, but our ideas of hiking are very different. He loves climbing and rappelling off cliffs. I prefer strolling through well worn trails that have a few tree roots or rocks that I might have to navigate. To add even more drama, I have a horrible fear of heights, especially open heights.
We had a great winter together coming up with ideas for new adventures, and maybe I over stated what I would be willing to try. Now that summer is around the corner, he is talking about taking a trip to Banff National Park for a little adventure.
I don’t want to lose this guy, but I’m not sure I’m willing to jump off a cliff for him, either. Help!
Dear Cautious Climber
Oh what we won’t do to keep a man, even climbing cliffs!
It’s time to come clean. But before you tell him you won’t do it, how about giving it a try? Maybe a cliff in the Rocky Mountains is not the place to start, but what about starting at a climbing gym and working your way up to a natural cliff formation?
First, this will show your boyfriend that you’re willing to challenge your comfort level of anxiety for him and, second, you may find that you love this new sport. One thing is guaranteed: pushing yourself to try something new and adventurous will only fire up your confidence and push you to achieve new heights that you may never have thought possible.