Stepping away from a dysfunctional, or only partly functional relationship, is one of the greatest gifts you can give to yourself. Yet it can be extremely difficult to do, no matter how much suffering is happening in the relationship. Why is that?
For a couple of reasons. The first is that when we open intimately with someone, especially over a considerable amount of time, the bonds that we create together go deeper than the mind can understand. Letting go is a totally visceral experience, as much as an emotional or mental one. We may find ourselves still relating to the person long after the outer separation has happened, for example, or feeling them or knowing that they are thinking about us. To truly move on, we have to acknowledge and work with this deeper energetic level of the relationship, in addition to making the outer gestures of signing the divorce papers or clearing our stuff out of the shared house.
And, another reason is that we all take our deepest hopes and dreams into our relationships. When these dreams start to come true with a person, we invest our soul. We start to equate the fulfillment of our dreams with that particular person, rather than seeing that even if we feel connected to a person very deeply, our dreams are ultimately about us and what we desire…our dreams are what we will create for ourselves. We don’t need a specific person to fulfill a specific role in order for our show to go on, believe me. If you let it, your show will always go on.
If you can fully let go and walk away from a partnership that is not working, you are giving yourself a second (or third, or fourth!) chance on a deep level. You are betting on yourself, saying, “I am going to be someone, no matter the circumstances, I better keep moving on or I will miss out on me.” Often when we don’t want to read the writing on the wall, when we want to hang on for dear life to what we’ve had, it is more of a sign of our own self-worth and insecurity issues than of anything else.
And so, once you’ve figured out that you want to bet on yourself, and that separation is the best path for you, what you most need in the time of separation are some tools tailored for the difficult task you have in front of you. You need tools big enough to handle the irrational pain and anger, exacting enough to glean the insights you wouldn’t want to miss, and gentle enough to soften the immensity of heartbreak you’ll face.
If you do walk away in a good way, and apply as much consciousness as you can to the separation, you will get these benefits:
- If you look at how you contributed to the breakdown, you will see what issues of yours prevent you from experiencing intimacy.
- If you take inventory of what didn’t work for you, you will understand more clearly what your needs are in future relationships.
- If you honor yourself and stay ferociously true to yourself through the breakup process, you will understand more clearly who you are, and what you bring that is special, unique, and desirable.
So, what can make the separation itself easier? Nothing, really, can make it easy. I’m sorry not to have any magic wands for heartbreak. But these tools can help with the separating process and help you get from it what you most need to get from it:
Grieve the separation like a death, because it is one! Have the expectations of yourself that you would have of a grieving person.
When we enter intimate relationship, we start to bond in a way that creates a third energy. This third energy is the unique blending of our two energies. It is an alive energy, and when things are going well, it gives back to us, enhancing our lives, bringing more celebration and love. When we split up with someone, this relationship energy does die. Some would say it changes, which is true, especially if there are shared responsibilities like children…some form of relating does go on. But ultimately, this special energy that you both contributed to creating doesn’t ever return to what it was, and so therefore, it is a death process. It’s as real as a physical death to our energy system, which doesn’t differentiate form from non-form. The more we invested, the harder we fall, so if you’re ending a full-soul, all-in, full-investment relationship, you can bet it’s going to be a tough thing to recover from.
One thing I can say about every person I know who has gone through deep loss, whether through a relationship ending or a friend dying or a pet dying, etc, is that there is an irrational element that just must be given space. So, give yourself space. Take time off. Lie in bed whenever. Get lost in the woods. Feel what you feel. It will teach you a lot. Even if you think you are losing your mind, just be with that and give it space. If you stay connected with yourself fully through the death, you will get more of yourself than you’ve had before. And you will be strong again, much stronger than you were before.
Release shock from your system through yoga, therapy, friendships, healings, etc.
Treatments, treatments, treatments! My reason for saying this is that I have worked on people years after they divorce or break up whose energy fields are still frozen and in shock that the dream of a life together didn’t manifest. While it can be difficult to face an abrupt or unforeseen ending, if you don’t face it on as many levels as you can with great support, there’s a good chance your life will feel jilted and frozen for a long time afterwards.
When you go in and start facing the truth head on, you’ll find lots of your images and beliefs about life have been shattered. Images like “once you fall in love and marry, it should last a lifetime.” Or “without a partner I am nothing.” Or “she looked exactly like the picture I had of who I would be happy with.” Or “I failed and I won’t be happy again.” These images/beliefs are all inherently limiting to the bigger reality and unpredictability of life. I suggest finding a great practitioner to help you look within and find what images and beliefs you were holding on to that keep you from releasing the experience of shock from your system.
Sometimes we invest so deeply in a belief like “he’s exactly right for me” or “we have to make this work” that we can’t see that there could be someone or some situation that is far better for us waiting right around the corner. Releasing self-hatred and judgment that you couldn’t make it work, releasing fears of how you’ll be perceived in your community, and letting go of limiting beliefs around relationship can make moving on much easier. Sometimes when someone doesn’t face these things, they become frozen in the memory of the past and really can’t move on at all!
Working with the shock element in whatever way suits you best, is a big part of the healing around breakups.
Create and believe in a narrative that supports all parties.
Many people who are operating from more of a reactive or victimized place in life, will go on and on about either their own failures or their ex partner’s, continually re-hashing details and impressions of what went wrong and why and illustrating to you in great detail the terrible flaws of their ex partner…*sigh*…you get the picture! When someone speaks like this about their failed relationship, it is a red flag that they haven’t completed the relationship inside of themselves and understood what the breakup was about for them, and how they contributed to it. Their chances of finding a better relationship are nil until they can find a new way to process and understand what happened.
As soon as the acute grief stage has passed, I recommend finding a way to talk about and think about the relationship that is supportive of both parties (assuming there was not abuse happening on either end…that’s a different story. I am not telling you to be supportive of someone who abused you! That’s a topic for another blog!). When you can expand into compassion for your self and your struggles, as well as your ex partner’s, it will be a sign that you have moved on.
An example would be going from “he broke my heart. What an asshole. He’s no good” or “oh my god I failed miserably, I’m such an idiot” to a larger perspective that you can actually learn from. Like, “wow, I really see how terrified she is of being seen in her imperfections. That really blocks her ability to receive love. No wonder our relationship couldn’t go deeper.” Or “I really didn’t know what I needed or who I was in relationship back then. I acted out a lot because I hadn’t learned how to voice my real opinions and stand up for myself.” You can see that both of these simple examples give you a sense of compassion, and even paves the way for internal/spiritual shifts that will benefit you in your next relationship. Staying in a reactive mode of shame and blame will not help you end this relationship, let alone create a better one.
It takes two to tango and the more you can own, address, and work on your intimacy issues, the better your chances will be of finding a deeper relationship that really works in the future. So, drop the blame game as soon as possible! Practice feeling and speaking to yourself a narrative that most relaxes your nervous system, not one that trips you into high gear and tension when you think about your ex.
Invest in yourself, give yourself time to grieve, and even as your partnership is breaking down, I hope you can start to feel the possibility of newness and an even better life, awaiting you.
“We must be willing to let go of the life we’ve planned, so as to have the life that is waiting for us.” ~ Joseph Campbell