February 26, 2017
The Right Way to Break Up
How does it usually go when two people break up?
Tears, insults, blaming, yelling... Or maybe not much communication at all. Maybe avoidance of the cause altogether, stepping over it, or lying about it. Secret, unspoken resentment. Maybe it takes months or years of conflict, or happens suddenly as though the rug has been pulled out from under you.
You may spend the months following the break-up still seeing one another frequently, making closure damn near impossible, or cut one another out completely and never speak again. Maybe you manage a somewhat tolerably painless friendship.
I say break-ups can go completely and utterly different. In fact, they don’t have to be break-ups at all; they can a peaceful completion of a union, rather than the shattering or invalidating of one. I recently co-created this with my last partner, and I want to share it with you, because what it made possible between him and I is the example of what I know humanity can be as a whole.
So, this is how it happened. After a long time of being together - 4 years - and not feeling it quite ‘fit,’ I realized through reflection and coaching that I had completely given up on the possibility of true love. I was with a wonderful guy who I thought I was a lunatic for not feeling completely fulfilled with. When we were ourselves around each other, it caused problems. We loved each other and created a great life together, but I noticed I was wishing he was a way other than his true self, and him me. Then one day, it hit me. I’m with him because I believe what would actually fulfill me doesn’t exist! And not only did that not make my love life hopeless, I decided it just meant that true love was out there – I just hadn’t found it yet. It existed.
One of the breakthroughs was in being willing to see where I had given up on true love, as a fundamental belief that was silently running my life. I saw where I could take responsibility for how I had judged my partner, rather than give him the space to be with someone who would love all of him, and where I deserved the same. I saw where I was living in a made-up story that delicious love was a fairy tale, and making myself the victim in the story.
THE OTHER BREAKTHROUGH WAS IN ANSWERING A SERIES OF QUESTIONS I ASKED MYSELF THAT I’VE BROKEN DOWN INTO 10 STEPS:
1. Allow yourself to picture exactly what you want. Give your mind and heart the freedom to voice what it actually desires in a partner, and in relationship. What does it look like? Paint the picture.
2. Notice which things you ideally want you’ve decided are impossible.
3. Allow your partner to picture exactly what they want, unattached to it being you. Do your wants match up?
4. Notice what exactly doesn’t work for you about your current relationship, and write it down.
5. Regarding what doesn’t work, ask yourself, “What was my part in creating this?” Go through each thing that you don’t like and find your responsibility in them, one by one. This is going to be the hardest step for most people. The NUMBER ONE thing that makes break-ups painful is needing to be right and seeing the other person as the perpetrator. I promise you that knowing where you created it is key to being happy.
6. Remember: responsibility = freedom. The more of your “stuff” you take responsibility for, the more facile you become with your patterns, the more compassion you have for your humanity, and the less power it all has over your next relationship.
7. Ask yourself, “What had me choose this relationship in the first place?” and, “what needs got met during this relationship?” and, “what needs did not get met in this relationship?”
8. Take a step back. View your partner in all of their perfections, imperfections, hopes, dreams and fears. What can you forgive them for? Where can you put yourself in their shoes?
9. Have a conversation in which you share your answers to these questions. Share what you see possible for the both of you in ending your relationship, so as to get what you truly want.
10. Create agreements around what will make the break-up work for both of you. Do you need space? Do you need time to move your things out? Do you need communication? Be clear about your needs and ask them to be clear about theirs. Undelivered communication breeds unmet needs and blame.
When my partner and I chose to complete our relationship, it was filled with compassion, apology, allowed sadness and hurt, and love. I shared my vision of us both finding that delicious true love that I always craved. Over the following weeks, we shared how we took responsibility for different things in our relationship. We apologized to one another. It was a process, but every time we spoke or moved more of his things out, we treated each other with respect, hearing one another’s perspectives, saying what we needed and granting it to the other. I can’t speak for him, but I purposely leaned into the pain and sadness. I chose to fully feel it, so that I wouldn’t carry any of it into my next relationship – whenever that would be. I reassured myself that, even though it felt like total crap, it was the ultimate display of Self Love: a declaration that I would create and deserve the love that would blow my mind every day.
I even called him a few times to tell him about a big life event that I knew he’d be happy for me about, or to tell him what I loved him for in our relationship, or to acknowledge who we were together when we were still together – because we actually were pretty rad.
Today, he called me.
“Hi!” I picked up the phone excitedly. (Because, yes, I was excited to hear from him as I would an old, dear friend, only 3 months after our separation). He went on to say that he had something to share with me. He began to explain a certain behaviour from our relationship that was based on old patterns, that at times pushed me away to a large detriment. He apologized, and acknowledged me for my part in having our separation be so loving. I told him that I had complete compassion for his pattern – and I meant it.
“I have so much respect for you, I love you, and I’m so proud of you,” he said.
“I love you too! So… When can we be, like, actual friends?” I asked. “I miss you.”
“Right now! When I’m back in Victoria, let’s grab a coffee and hang out!”
“Yeah! I’d love that!”
… And I am overwhelmed with gratitude for how we co-created this.
Imagine if this was how we all handled break-ups. Just in transforming this one mechanism alone, what would be possible for humanity? How would it ripple out into the other things we do?
In my opinion, we would start to be our true selves in relationships on an unforeseen level. We would build the muscle of declaring and getting what we truly want. We would develop communication skills that end conflict. We would craft a beautiful symbiosis of ownership and dreaming; seeing the power you have to create your circumstance, then taking that power, and building your dream.