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In Uncle Otto, the title character faces one breakup in particular that devastates him and skews his perspective on women and relationships. Author Winfred Cook has had his own experience with a difficult end to a relationship.

I must have heard this jingle in a million popular love songs.  Yet the catchiness of this lyric, I was to learn, did not prepare me for the enormity of the effort required to end a once-thriving relationship. There was nothing “catchy” about my breakup. In fact, coming to terms with my failed relationship was one of the biggest obstacles I had ever had to overcome, and I wasn’t singing.

Overcoming affection proved to be my most significant challenge.  Even when terms of endearment became indistinguishable from barbs of criticism, my need for affection bonded me to my mate.

It took some time before I realized that I had allowed him to stop me from thinking clearly. In the chess match that was our relationship, “I love you” had become “checkmate”.  However, the realization of being a “captured piece” changed the dynamics of our relationship; it compelled me not merely to feel but also to consider. As a result, when I felt the need for affection, I also thought about its costly consequences. It was not only costing me my peace of mind, but also my sanity.  I had allowed myself to be driven by feelings left unchecked by my surest tool for survival. I had banished my mind from my relationship for the sake of temporary pleasure.

Once I recognized what I had done, I knew my days of captivity were at an end.  And although the effort required to reclaim my free will was enormous, the payoff was equally so. I reclaimed my sanity.  No catchy tune accompanied my recovery, only the solace of a peace of mind.

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