Breaking up can be hard and messy, but it doesn’t have to be that way. We’re taught growing up that a relationship is more successful the longer it lasts. And breakups can be so painful, complicated and destructive that staying in a bad relationship can seem more sensible than having to face a catastrophic ending. No one taught us how to gracefully exit the “ship” of our relationships, so we’re left with two alternatives: stay on board, struggling to stay afloat, or resign ourselves to going down with the ship.
But what if there was another option?
Why is breaking up hard?
It’s not your fault that breakups are so messy and awful. We aren’t taught how to handle breakups, mostly because our parents and our grandparents just didn’t know how to breakup either. The cultural model was “’til death do us part.” While it’s a great slogan, that rule doesn’t make anyone a relationship expert! If you’re like me, you grew up in a family where your parents lacked good communication skills. My mother and father couldn’t talk through their upsets and hurts, so there was little healing and a lot of arguments. My Mom and Dad (and Culture) taught me that when you break up, not only have you failed, but that relationship is completely over. ALL over. Forever. You never talk to that person again. You give them back their CDs and their books, and you complain about them because they kept your favourite socks. You cut them out of your life and you do your best to erase them from your life and your heart.
But the price of breaking up this way is that you cut out the good stuff, too.
Imagine if you could end a relationship without having to erase your ex completely? What if you could heal old hurts, wounds, and upsets AND transition out of a relationship AND keep what was special about the person in your life? By the “old standards” of relationships this seems impossible, but it’s not.
To do this, I recommend three powerful approaches to incorporate in your existing relationships to ensure you are staying in a healthy romance out of choice, and to allow an easy separation if that time comes.
1. Have the “breakup conversation” first. It sounds crazy, but having a conversation about what the breakup would look like, if it were ever to happen, shifts things. Co-create an exit strategy, and get all the weird conversation and fears out in the open. Some people think that this is horrible dating advice. Many people never want to consider the end could come and never want to discuss it, but getting fearful things out in the open often takes away their power over us. It’s when fears and worries are left alone to run rampant in your head that they start gaining momentum. I think that if you’re dating somebody who can handle having this kind of conversation, you’re probably dating a grownup, somebody who can actually handle being in a relationship. How wonderful would it be to be dating somebody who might be ready to be in a relationship! Thus, the break up conversation becomes a way of assessing the person you’re in or thinking of getting into a relationship with!
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