If there is one constant we can count on in life, it’s change. Change is the only thing that remains constant. What this means is that we need to learn to live and let live, and learn to let go. What this also means is that life is full of loss. We lose people in our lives. Friends come and go, co-workers forget us, family members go off to college, get married, move abroad, and pets, parents and grandparents die. Those are all things we can count on for sure, people moving on. But there are the ones, which we don’t expect, like a break up or an unplanned or accidental death. These happen too. And, they are all painful. But sometimes an abrupt break (or accidental unplanned death, which I’ll leave for another day) up can seem so much worse.
Some studies suggest that women who have Caesarian section or C-section births are more likely to face post partum depression. The theory is that the cutting of the stomach and severing of the birthing process, not allowing the birth to happen naturally and unfold on its own completely, prevents the mother and child to experience the bonding which occurs during the complete birthing process. And much like the physical wound this leaves severed emotions hanging out there in the wind like chopped tendrils. The same thing often happens to us in a break up. It feels like the process was incomplete.
In our society, we live under the notion that hopefully there is one, maybe two life partners. For some maybe even this is too high a number, and for others if only they had stopped at two, and been forced to get it right they wouldn’t be so quick to jump to the next relationship and quick to find faults with everyone. The truth of the matter is however, the latter who has experienced many breakups, which are much like deaths, may even not get it right.
But, maybe there is an art to breaking up, and perhaps, I think, that is recognizing and understanding that the relationship ran its course. Hopefully you can do this easily, and many do when both parties agree that the relationship is not working and yes, has run its course. But sometimes this can be hard especially in the type of situation where one person was blissfully happy and the other person pulled the rug out from right under their feet, which is how many breakups happen too. If one person in the relationship is unhappy, chances are the other person is unhappy somewhere in there too.
If one person is not getting some needs met, it is highly likely that the other person feels the same at some given point in time. If one person was totally happy and the other person is unhappy, I think it’s also clear and easy to say that this isn’t a relationship based on mutuality or connectedness. The thing about having the rug pulled out from under you is usually not about happiness, but level of commitment. Despite the problems, one was willing to stay (and hopefully work it out) and the other person wasn’t. But at the end of the day, the break up is better for both parties, clearly why stay in a relationship where one person doesn’t want to work things out. And why stay in something if you are not going to work it out? And, living like two ships passing in the night?
Looking at relationships differently is key. In India, it’s a little well known fact that many, if not most, will have an arranged marriage. People know it since they are very young. They also know that they may not fall in love with their spouse, but will if they are lucky. Ironically, many couples in arranged marriages do report falling in love.
Arranged marriages however are not technically about love. They are about social status, the joining of two families for the sake of the name, financial status, etc. No one expects to fall in love, to stay in love and to have this blissful happily-ever-after. And, ironically or maybe not divorce rates are ridiculously low. (Things are changing now and more and more people are having love marriages and divorce rates are increasing, but mainly due to women refusing to stay in abusive or unfaithful relationships.)
In this society, marriage is based on love and the notion of happily-ever-after. And we refuse to settle for less. Numerous books on love, relationships, and self help exist. People go to see therapists and couples counselors. And divorce rates are excessively high. We are constantly striving for the best love there is. And, not only do we refuse to settle for less, sometimes we refuse to settle period. But, for some reason we still haven’t become any better at breakups. We still consider them painful. We feel guilt, sadness, pain, anger, rage and resentment. We live in fear of being rejected, dumped or broken up with. What gives?
It’s like we understand the principles of romantic love and we strive for happiness but we still wear our heart on our sleeves like the abandoned children we all are. If we want to strive for the best we have to acknowledge our independence. We cannot have the best of both worlds. Or can we? We want independence and security. But we live in fear.
The thing is that we’ve actually got some stuff figured out. In fact, we’re almost there. If we could just accept that when we break up with someone, or get dumped, or lose our partner that it’s just another natural ebb and flow of relationships, love and life. The old saying is that, we are born alone and we die alone.
We can choose to share our life with one person and hope they stick around or we can be open to the idea that life ebbs and flows, and that what comes may go, and that what comes will eventually go, maybe not today or this decade, but yes eventually and maybe even before our lifetime, and just enjoy today for what it is. And just let it be. Let go and let it be. Letting go in a break up means genuinely wanting our ex to be happy. Hope that they will find peace and serenity in their lives and in their hearts and will be free from pain and unhappiness. We genuinely hope they will live long and prosperous lives. That is letting go, in a nutshell. If you love someone set them free, and want only the best for them.
Being friends? I personally don’t see why not. If both parties can agree, to love and let be then being friends after a break up should be fairly easy. Not always, because people tend to hold on to anger. Many people still wear their abandoned child heart on their sleeve, and each relationship is different. You may find letting go in one relationship easy and more difficult in another (that is if you have several.) And, yes, emotions come up in all types of relationships. But keep the state of letting go close to your heart and in the back of your mind where it’s easily accessible, pull it out when you start to feel anger, resentment, fear, and slowly watch all of your relationships, whether they be romantic ones, familial ones, friends or co-workers, become easier and easier.
Mou is a los angeles based sex therapist. Visit her at www.LASexTherapist.com
This is an excerpt from her book, Marriage, Money and Porn, available on Amazon.