I recently went through a bad breakup. I realize now what made it even more difficult is that it was protracted, for several reasons. And I realize that my self-esteem was adversely affected, and my spirit was nearly crushed – not as much by the dissolution of the relationship, as by the perceived coldness. Some of the things said and done during that long stretch of time (years!) reverberated in my mind 24/7 for a long time. I still have flashbacks sometimes.
Hindsight is 20/20. A better – and simpler – outcome would’ve been a pointed conversation or two summed up as: “We’ve talked. We’ve tried. It’s just not working out. I think I need something different. And I think you need something different.” It’s compassionate. It’s loving. It’s respectful.
I’m not saying it’s easy. It’s not. As humans we deal with the fear of the unknown. We tend to like familiarity and our comfort zones. I know. By and large, I’m a creature of habit and I revel in routine. The work I’m doing now is around not letting fear cripple me or paralyze me into inaction, keeping me in the same space even when it’s not a healthy or happy one. However, elevating past this will not save me or anyone else from heartbreak. The end of a relationship is usually painful.
What is even more painful, though, is to be in a situation where one or both parties know it’s not working. What’s born is anger, anxiety, depression, frustration, grief, and tension. These are the antitheses of happiness. Rather miserable, indeed. To no one’s surprise, a relationship saturated with these elements usually ends anyway. Now, though, you’re not just dealing with the loss of the relationship. You also have to heal from the trauma of all the things that were said and done to you by your partner in their miserable state (and vice versa).
Making your partner feel – through actions and words – that they’re not deserving of fidelity, kindness, love, and respect just because they don’t do it for you (anymore) is never the move. This is the dark side of a break-up. The effects are long-lasting. Not just because of demoralization, but because the trauma often shows up in the next relationship. The mind and spirit must be re-wired to heal from traumatic experiences. It takes a lot of effort. And intention. And time. And trial and error. And work. A whole lot of work.
How amazing would it be if we were to only maintain relationships with people – whether platonic or romantic – for as long as the relationship served both parties? We could grow together, learn from each other, be happy in each other’s presence, have meaningful experiences, and build joyful memories. And when it stops being that there doesn’t have to be a falling out. There’s no need to talk down on your loved one or mess with their head. There’s nothing wrong with them or you. The dynamic just isn’t serving you anymore (which also means it’s not serving them, either).
Even though every relationship doesn’t last forever or ultimately end up becoming “until death do us part,” at least you can look back and smile, reminiscing over good times and sweet memories. It’s bittersweet, but still sweet. Because most of your experiences with that partner were happy and filled with love.
What’s bitter – but not sweet – is breaking up and feeling nothing but animosity and resentment because for weeks, months, and years leading up to the break-up, most of the experiences and interactions were negative. Negativity is a natural byproduct of an unhappy couple. An unhappy couple is bred from a protracted period where one or both parties are left unfulfilled, the energy and vibes are off, and there’s nothing productive being done to change that status quo.
Sometimes, the parties involved just don’t have the resources or tools; too much ego or pride; not enough maturity and grit. And sometimes, there’s nothing they can do. Because again, we are all designed uniquely. We are all on our own journeys. Sometimes, there is synchronicity and convergence of our paths. Sometimes there isn’t. And I’ve had to tell myself a million times…well, I’ll let you know tomorrow.