Saturday, September 21, 2013

Breakups: How to Handle the Ending of a Relationship

Facing the end of a relationship is one of the hardest things you may ever go through. This is especially true when this course of action is not what you really want. Yet, when the inevitable is staring you in the face, what are you to do?

I do believe the unwanted ending of a relationship is equivalent to a death. The difference is that with a death, there is no choice. As well, with a death, you are often allowed and encouraged to "grieve and take all the time you need." However, with the ending of a relationship, whether you were actually married or not, most often you are encouraged to "let go, forget about it, and move on with your life" with little to no actual grief time given.

If you have tried everything and there is no possible way you can save your relationship, then facing the reality of what is, is the first step. This step entails putting away the fantasy thinking of what could have been, might have been, or should have been, and really coming to peace with what is. If you are the one wanting the relationship to end, this step is not a big deal. However, if you are not the one wanting things to end, this step can be very difficult. This is so because the natural inclination is to "hold onto" or more often than not "cling onto" the relationship and the other person. Generally, this occurs because we are turning away from the current reality and refusing to accept it for a variety of reasons. These reasons could include; a desire to not fail, abandonment issues, unresolved issues from your childhood, a feeling of non-completion within the relationship, unrequited love, or just not wanting to have the person out of your life. Whatever the reason, the work entails facing what is.

Once you can accept that the relationship is over, the second step is allowing yourself time to grieve. Whether your relationship was three months or twenty-three years long, if your heart was in it, a grieving period is in order. I do not agree or support any set formulas that are out there concerning the right amount of time to grieve. I believe the process of grief is unique to each individual. Therefore, there is no right or wrong way to do this. It truly entails allowing yourself to feel the feelings. These feelings may include feelings of loss, sadness, anger, relief, frustration, and/or hopelessness. All of these are normal, just as long as they do not excessively persist and then cause a real clinical depression. There is a natural flow to the process. Once you allow yourself to feel these feelings and the actions, which normally accompany them- such as crying, moping, lying around, and acting unmotivated, you will begin to let go and heal.

The third step in this process is forgiving yourself and your partner. This step provides a great opportunity to do some self-exploration, allowing yourself to gain a deeper understanding of who you are. You could ask yourself questions like: What did I learn from this relationship?... From this learning, can I be a better partner in my next relationship?... How could I have done things differently?... What would I like to improve upon within myself?... What kind of partner will I pick next time...? Do I feel angry at my former partner or myself? From here, you do your necessary inner work and forgive. Forgive yourself, forgive your former partner, forgive the situation, and then move into the final step.

The final step is gratitude for the relationship. Finding the place within you to be grateful for the time you shared, the memories you built, the lessons learned, and for coming out of it a much deeper, richer, and stronger person. Honor it all and when you find the gratitude, you will truly be able to let it go and move on with your life.

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