2. Practice having difficult conversations. (I have a template and a download you can follow on my site HERE that makes it much easier to hear and say those difficult things.) It’s what we aren’t saying that’s eroding the intimacy in our relationships. This goes for withheld acknowledgements and appreciations as well. If you have the courage to talk about the good, the bad and the ugly, and continue to practice talking about things as they come up, then an eventual breakup doesn’t have to be this huge, surprising shock. You’ve already built skills to talk about things, and you’ve been clearing the “relationship gunk” out of the way with continued conversations about what’s real between the both of you. So having a difficult conversation about not being a good relationship fit anymore -while it may be painful- doesn’t have to come hurling from out of nowhere like an asteroid that disintegrates your lives upon impact. Plus, you’re not opening up a closet stuffed full of old resentments that you dump on each other in frustration, pain and anger. Having difficult conversations strengthens healthy relationships and helps you recognize when to move on when transitioning a relationship when it’s not serving the both of you.
3. Get clear on your relationship intention. When you’re starting a relationship, get clear with each other what your relationship intention is. I like to call this your Shared Intention.
A Shared Intention is the one thing that, no matter how ugly the fight or how harsh the situation, you two can always agree on. A Shared Intention is the place you can both always come back to and find connection and shared purpose. It’s your relationship’s True North.
Do the work to arrive at a Shared Intention. It will help illuminate what you’re each trying to get out of being in relationship in the first place, what’s important to each of you in the relationship, and where these things overlap. Shared Intentions help you keep the relation-“ship” on course and let you know when you need to re-check your coordinates and adjust course, or when it’s time to abandon ship because the two of you need to head in different directions.
Your Shared Intention is the compass that helps you both stay pragmatic: “I think we’re moving in different directions and in a way that doesn’t make sense for us to stay together.” One of the best relationships I ever had was one where we realized we were a lot like each other’s parents and we were unconsciously working out our parental issues on each other. No wonder we each felt like we’d known the other for our entire lives! We were doing family therapy on each other rather than with our actual parents.
We’d been engaged approximately 8 months when we realized this, and because we were adept at having difficult conversations and could look at our relationship’s trajectory against our Shared Intention, it was apparent that we should work out our parental issues with our actual parents! The answer for us became clear: while we cared about each other deeply, we were a horrible fit for marriage, so we got disengaged. It was one of the best breakups I had ever had. And it was one of the most important relationships I ever had because it was in that relationship that I learned the power, integrity and respect in choosing powerfully to end a relationship that wasn’t suiting us both. To this day, we still remain really good. (Hi, Bunny!)
Remember, you CAN stay friends! Gone are the days where you have to bulldoze a relationship and burn the whole thing down to move on. In some communities they talk about “transitioning” rather than breaking up. Consider the possibility: you get to choose! Remember: you decide what aspects of your relationships to keep. You may decide that you both want to remain close and in each other’s lives as friends, co-parents, or family-by-choice. Or you may truly part ways but without all the hurt and emotional scar tissue. When there’s a possibility that you don’t have to sever all the ties and call your ex bad names on Facebook, breaking up doesn’t have to be traumatic. Of course, there’s always grief and sadness, as there is with any meaningful shift especially when love is involved, but “this too shall pass.”
Enter a relationship mindfully, have healthy communication, and plan your exit strategy to improve your relationships NOW. Plus, it makes breaking up easier when and if you get to that place. MORE choice, MORE love and LESS hurt will create a more fulfilling life.