Losing Your Lover, Reclaiming Your Power

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October 29 2009 12:00 AM ET

Love hurts. Aren't there a few songs about that? Losing it hurts even more. Clients whom I'll call Juan, who was recently diagnosed HIV-positive, and Christy, who has been living with HIV for over 10 years, both had their partners break up with them.

"When I started the meds, it was like the whole thing suddenly became too real," Juan says. "When I got home from work last night, my partner told me things had gotten too complicated and he was moving out."

Christy had a similar story: "We have a son together. We are a family-or at least he said we were. All of a sudden he needs what he calls 'my space.' I love it! I'm holding our home together, and he's the one who needs space?"

Sure, it hurts. Whether it's a lover or a friend, when somebody who we thought could really be there for us suddenly heads for the exit, we are left with a big gap that, at that moment, feels like it might not ever be filled.

It's about you, and it's not about you. A medical diagnosis of any kind creates new responsibilities, new concerns. The party isn't over, but some modifications are in order. Life just isn't going to be the same. People are human, and that means they have limitations that, unfortunately, aren't always overcome by their best intentions. Maybe promises won't be honored after all.

So he/she changed. Maybe you did too. Maybe you even changed first. My newly diagnosed clients consistently tell me that their diagnosis has brought about a change in how they view life. They often tell me that they are taking life more seriously, and that means taking a closer look at what they want in a relationship. They talk about wanting closer connections with the people they care about, being able to talk about what's really on their minds, being giving to others, and expecting the same in return. Essentially, to make each moment count.

Ask yourself, Are you expecting more from the people in your life? You may be communicating your needs and emotions in a way you haven't in the past. Directly or indirectly, your expectations may be clear. That can be a scary change and some of the people in your life-lovers, family, and friends-are going to be up to the challenge and be willing to work to achieve a deeper relationship with you. Others are going to bump up against their own limitations and bolt. But that doesn't mean you have to settle for less.

Your power works from the inside out, not outside in. Yes, you're human, and you need other people in your life. Sit with the pain of losing someone and let yourself grieve over the loss. There's not much in life that aches any harder. But let's face it, we all have to be able to count on ourselves first. Being centered in who you are, knowing how to meet your own needs-and knowing what you can give to others as well as what you expect in return-creates a whole new energy that radiates outward and attracts new energy. And, in turn, new people. So get ready for the next chapter of your life!

McClain is a licensed counselor in New York City with a specialty in coping with chronic and life-threatening health conditions. His books include The Complete Idiot's Guide to Breaking Bad Habits and Empowering Your Life With Joy, and he is a frequent contributor to health-related publications.

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