Ferne Kotlyar

How do you break up with someone that has a horrible illness? Should you stay with them out of pity? How do you get out without hurting them even more?  

In this episode of the Frame of Mind Coaching™ Podcast, Ferne and I explore a case study about a man named Philippe who is dating a girl that develops cancer. As the treatments proceed, their relationship changes, she becomes short-tempered and mean. Philippe does everything he can to help her but realizes that he is in over his head. He doesn’t know how to take care of her. He doesn’t know how to take care of himself. He doesn’t know how to get out. He feels trapped in his obligation.  

Here is a sneak peek into my insight. “Imagine that you’re in a relationship with someone and find out that they are only with you because they feel obligated? How would that make you feel?” I ask. “Being in this relationship certainly isn’t serving him and, in the end, also isn’t serving her. When you look at someone and only see their illness, you’re not looking at the person, and you’re not helping them get better.” I recommend Philippe be honest with her and help her find other support.

What would you do if you were in Philippe’s shoes? Let us know!

Do you have an interesting case you’d like to share? Let’s talk! If you want to share your experiences and/or thoughts on this episode or the show, please reach out to us!



Episode Transcript

[00:00:00] Kim Ades:
Hello, hello. My name is Kim Ades, I am the President and Founder of Frame of Mind Coaching™, and you have just joined The Frame of Mind Coaching™ Podcast. Today we have a special guest. It's my daughter Ferne, and she's back again this week to share a case study.

Ferne, welcome.

[00:00:24] Ferne Kotlyar:
Hello, and thank you for having me.

[00:00:27] Kim Ades:
What do you have on your plate today?

[00:00:29] Ferne Kotlyar:
All right. So today we have, once again, another true story. So, this is about a young man, let's call him Philippe. So he starts dating a girl. It's his first real relationship. It's going pretty well. And she then ends up getting cancer.

Now, she has a really tough family life. And as they're dating, he kind of becomes her soul person. You know, that person that she goes to, the one that takes care of her, the one that is moral support, everything. But as she gets cancer, she kind of falls into a little bit of a depression. And as she is sad, she's also a bit aggressive sometimes, and the relationship starts to get tense.

And it's really, really hard for this guy Philippe to be in this relationship. He kind of falls out of love and develops-- he doesn't-- he cares about her, of course, but he doesn't connect with her on the same level. And she becomes, at this point, more of a burden than a relationship.

And he's having a really, really tough time because he's supporting her, he's working extra hours to help pay for things. He is doing everything that he possibly can. And he keeps thinking that, you know, when she gets better, when she gets over this she'll return to who she was before now.

So he waits like a year and still she hasn't changed. Nothing's changed. She's still the same person. And he doesn't know what to do. He doesn't know how he could possibly break up with her when he's, like, her whole world, you know? Like, he is everything to her. But he feels guilty on one hand that he doesn't love her as much as he used to, if at all. And heartbroken to let her go-- not to let her go, but to kind of let her fend for herself. And he doesn't know what to do.

He doesn't want to be a bad guy, he doesn't want to do the wrong thing, and he feels really torn between these two sides. So what advice would you have for this guy?

[00:02:39] Kim Ades:
This is a true story.

[00:02:41] Ferne Kotlyar:
True story, yeah.

[00:02:44] Kim Ades:
How old is he?

[00:02:45] Ferne Kotlyar:
He was 21 at the time.

[00:02:48] Kim Ades:
21 at the time?!

[00:02:50] Ferne Kotlyar:
Yeah. And she was actually a bit older.

[00:02:52] Kim Ades:
How old was she?

[00:02:54] Ferne Kotlyar:

[00:02:55] Kim Ades:
Wow. Okay.

[00:02:56] Ferne Kotlyar:
Yeah, it was...

[00:02:58] Kim Ades:
Adds to the story, right?

[00:03:00] Ferne Kotlyar:

[00:03:02] Kim Ades:
Okay. So here's the thing that regardless of whether or not someone is sick or has cancer, we never serve anyone when we are there by force or out of obligation. Okay? So, we always want to do things because we want to do things. We don't want to be in a position where we're doing things because we're obligated to do things. And this is very important as a general concept.

And so poor Philippe. First of all, the age difference is rather interesting. So at 21, he took on the responsibility of full time caretaking and that's kind of young, right? Like, he hasn't had a chance to live his life. He hasn't had a chance to do things he wants to do, and he's been thrown this responsibility that he's taken on wholeheartedly. But it's not serving him to continue to pretend that he's involved or engaged in a relationship at the same level when he's really not. Right?

So doesn't serve him for sure. Right? He's feeling the pain, the pressure, the stress...

[00:04:18] Ferne Kotlyar:
All of it.

[00:04:18] Kim Ades:
...the hurt, all of it. So, he's in this relationship unwillingly, out of obligation. So imagine that I'm in a relationship with you out of obligation and you discover that I'm there just because I feel a sense of obligation. How does that feel to you?

[00:04:37] Ferne Kotlyar:

[00:04:38] Kim Ades:
Terrible. So it's not serving him, and in the end, it's also not serving her.
But how does he let her go at such a vulnerable time in her life?

Well, here's the other part of it is that when we look at someone and just see their illness, we're not looking at a person. And when we look at that person and see their illness, that also doesn't help them get strong or better.

And so, you know, the fact that he is her only support or resource is a bit of a challenge, it's a bit of a problem, and it's set up so that she's relying a lot on him and she doesn't have any other sources of support. So perhaps the first step is to help her find other sources of support.
And then the second step is it's very important for him to be honest with her. Because even if, I mean, a lot of people have cancer and don't necessarily die, but even if she is dying, it's important for her to die with a sense of honesty, with a sense of authenticity in her life.

And so the question becomes, how does he become a friend to her and not a lover, right? He could still be friends with her. He can still support her in a different capacity. The issue is that the way he is showing up in her life right now doesn't cause her to be healthy, it causes him to be unhealthy.

[00:06:15] Ferne Kotlyar:
So I guess I have two questions. One, what kind of support would he get for her? Like, where would he find that? How would he go about that? How would he essentially go about, from what I understand, replacing himself?

[00:06:29] Kim Ades:
Well, he's not going to replace himself. He's not going to find another boyfriend for her. That's not his job. Right? But he could certainly tap into her parents and ask for help. He can certainly see if she has friends that would be willing to be more present. And he could also potentially access other services, like counseling, coaching, social work, other services that might support her at this time.

And I think it's very important for him to say, "Hey, you're mean. You're being mean to me". And even though she is in the middle of cancer, I think it's very important for him to have an authentic relationship with her. And I think what he's been doing is sucking it up and not speaking up, not being real, not being truthful.

[00:07:23] Ferne Kotlyar:
Yeah. I guess the other question would be, how does he-- like, I understand that he has to be in a happy place and the point of relationship is for him to be happy as well and everything like that.

But how does he physically go about breaking up with her? Like, what does he say? How does he do that? How does he move on after he broke up with her and not feel guilty leaving somebody like that?

[00:07:48] Kim Ades:
Well, again, he doesn't have to leave her completely. He can maintain a friendship with her and he could still be supportive.

[00:07:53] Ferne Kotlyar:
What if she doesn't want it?

[00:07:55] Kim Ades:
Then that's her choice. And she's entitled to have that choice. But he can make a choice for himself that says, "Hey, this relationship is more of a friendship to me, and I'm going to stick it out as a friend. But as far as having a relationship goes, this doesn't really work for me". And I think it's important for him to speak up. And I think what he's been doing ever since she was diagnosed is not speaking up.

So he has no voice in this relationship. And I think step one is to actually help him find his voice and to say, "Hey, these things that you're doing, these things, the ways that you're treating me doesn't work for me". And so--

[00:08:29] Ferne Kotlyar:
What if it--

[00:08:30] Kim Ades:

[00:08:31] Ferne Kotlyar:
Sorry. What if it's like, how does he know that it's her who's being mean and not like the medicine or the drugs or everything else?

[00:08:40] Kim Ades:
It may or may not be the medicine or the drugs, but if it's been going on for a year, it still doesn't mean it's okay. So maybe this medicine and these drugs aren't acceptable, or maybe they come up with a way to say, "Hey, you know, like you're doing it again". And so that, there's a way for them to communicate with each other where she says, "oh, I didn't realize". Right?

So the problem is she's unaware of how she's treating him. She's unaware of how that is affecting him. She's unaware that he doesn't feel good in this relationship. And so, on top of having cancer, right? She has a blind spot in her relationship that she can't even address. She can't even fix because he hasn't given her the opportunity to do that.

And so I think it's very important for her to have the opportunity, for him to have an honest conversation with her to say, Hey, "you know, this has been going on for a while", and at that point, they could say, "okay, well, this isn't working. Goodbye." or "let's give it another try", but he hasn't given her the opportunity.

He hasn't spoken his truth and he's not taking responsibility for the way he feels in this relationship, because he's put himself way down on the list of priorities because we decided, or he decided cancer's more important.

But in order for them to be healthy together, they each have to be healthy independently. And right now, neither of them are.

[00:10:05] Ferne Kotlyar:
Yeah. I'm just still trying to understand kind of like, I understand the principle, but to let go-- I know that you're not letting go, but to... How do you even do the breakup? Like, what do you say? How do you--

[00:10:19] Kim Ades:
Well, before you do the breakup, you address the issue, right? You say, "Hey, listen, there's something I want to talk to you about. You know, for the past little while you've been talking to me in this way. And for a long time, I just let it go, but it doesn't feel good".

So step one is to identify the problem and talk about the problem, right? And then, step two is to say, you know, "I care about you, I want to be by your side. I care about your health, et cetera, but this isn't really working for me".

Like, you need to have the conversation. You can't just kind of stop showing up suddenly out of the blue. That's not going to work.

So it's very interesting because I find in a lot of relationships, and I've seen this over and over again. There's a difficulty in being completely honest because we think that being completely honest means being mean. We think that being completely honest means that the other person can't handle it.

And so here's what's very important: when he's afraid to tell her how he really feels, how does he see her, as strong or weak?

[00:11:44] Ferne Kotlyar:
Weak, because she can't handle it.

[00:11:46] Kim Ades:
Right. So if he sees her as weak, does that serve her? No. So in order for him to serve her, he must see her as strong and being able to handle this conversation. And in order for her to get better, he also must see her as strong.

[00:12:10] Ferne Kotlyar:
The other piece is that he kind of assumed that she would improve her attitude, you know, that she would get kinder and the relationship would go back to as it started, as she got better. And this expectation of a person to change when, you know, they move on or when they find a new job or when they end school or when something, I think that's also a common theme. How would you... what would you say to that?

[00:12:39] Kim Ades:
You're right. Well, there's two parts. It's like, you're waiting for somebody else to behave differently in order for you to be happy. That's a problem. The other part of it is you're waiting for something to happen in the future before you can be happy in this relationship. That's also a problem.

In relationships, do we have ebbs and flows? Yes. Are we always a hundred percent happy with our partner? Absolutely not. But the question is how long has this been going on for. And it sounds like it's been going on for a long time and it has been unaddressed for all this time.

And I think there comes a point where he needs to address it on many fronts. He needs to come to terms with it himself. He needs to make a decision to have a conversation. He needs to be real. He needs to be authentic and he needs to be honest. And the problem is he's not being honest, not with himself and not with her.

[00:13:35] Ferne Kotlyar:
Yeah. It's tough.

[00:13:37] Kim Ades:
It is very tough, but also just because we decide to break up our romantic relationship does not mean we need to break up the friendship or the connection. And so he could-- because part of what you're saying is how do I live with myself and do something that's hard for someone else...

[00:14:01] Ferne Kotlyar:
Yeah. That's it.

[00:14:02] Kim Ades:
...that's painful for someone else. And the issue is that you can take care of yourself. In fact, the more you take care of yourself, the more able you are to really show up for someone else. So right now, you know, he's there, but he's not a hundred percent showing up because he doesn't feel good in this relationship.

So it's very important for him to feel good and help along the way. So there is a formula in this where he can remove himself from a romantic relationship, but still be a key supporter of hers. And that would allow him to look in the mirror and say, you're a good guy.

[00:14:43] Ferne Kotlyar:
Yeah. Yeah, that's important. I think for sure.

[00:14:46] Kim Ades:

[00:14:48] Ferne Kotlyar:
So if you were to give this guy one more piece of advice, one more... Yeah.

[00:14:54] Kim Ades:
One last piece of advice?

[00:14:56] Ferne Kotlyar:
Yeah. What would you say?

[00:14:59] Kim Ades:
I would say it's important to be honest, and to sit down and have an honest, honest, heartfelt conversation with this person who matters to you. Maybe you're not in love anymore, but she still matters, and in order to show respect, it's really important for you to be honest. And not only respect for her, but respect for yourself as well.

So really we're calling on him to be respectful because staying in a relationship where you're not in love, where you're feeling a sense of obligation, isn't so respectful.

[00:15:35] Ferne Kotlyar:
Makes sense. Well, thank you so much.

[00:15:37] Kim Ades:
Thank you! Another very, very tough case. You're bringing me all kinds of moral dilemmas here. They're hard. They're hard to work through.

For those of you who are listening, I hope you enjoyed today's case. If you have a case that you want to share with us, here's my email address.

It's kim@frameofmindcoaching.com.

Ferne, what's your email address?

[00:16:00] Ferne Kotlyar:
Mine is fernekotlyar@live.com.

[00:16:13] Kim Ades:
For those of you who are listening, please like, please share, please send us feedback! We want to hear from you! We're dying to know what you think of these episodes. Again, please reach out to us.  

In the meantime, have a great day!

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