by Lois Goodman
Most people struggle with how to break up. This is true no matter how far or how long the relationship has progressed or whether or not it is still in the “in love” phase. Often the actual break-up may inadvertently contribute to even deeper (and longer-lasting) wounds for the other person than the struggles that might have occurred during the actual relationship.
So how do you allow for a clean break that is both honest and kind? This guide will give you some simple tools to break up in a way that will serve the highest possible good for both you and your soon-to-be former partner.
The goal for any break up should be to do it kindly without invalidation of the other person. Being invalidated by anyone makes healing almost impossible, especially when it is someone who we love and respect. The phrase “it isn’t you, it’s me” is an assault on the truth. It doesn’t allow for a shared deeper reality between partners. This prevents true closure.
BREAK UP IN PERSON
A break up will feel like a loss and will normally include a period of grief. For this reason, it is imperative that the break-up be done in person unless the relationship is physically volatile and you are in physical danger. The person you are breaking up with should feel the energy and sentiment underneath the words you are speaking. There should be no room for misinterpretation, which can easily happen by phone, Skype, email, text, or social media. Ghosting is the cruelest thing you can do (and the most cowardly). Don’t do it!
COMMUNICATE WITH FOUR LAYERS OF KINDNESS AND TRUTH
There are “50 ways to leave your lover” according to Paul Simon. He is right. The most effective way is to use a process I call “layering.” If done correctly, it will not diminish the person you once cared for and will keep their self-esteem and significance intact. Layering provides an opportunity for understanding and a graceful exit in a loving kind way. It is certainly the most productive and mature way of breaking up. But like all other 49 ways, it still isn’t easy.
First, acknowledge who the person you are breaking up with really is and why you love the deepest part of who they are in the world. I call this the soul level. For example: “You have the most loving generous heart. To me, it is extraordinary how giving you are. I love you for that.”
The second layer is acknowledging what you both have in common. These are often the things that were part of the initial attraction. An example of this is: “I love how you and I share the same belief systems and how we can talk for hours about all the things that mean so much to both of us.”
The third layer is about the issue that has pulled you apart. It is critical that this be clear and concise without a lot of accusations or anything that implies the other person is “bad” or “wrong.” It is a simple acknowledgment of exactly what is without a lot of emotion or judgment. For example: “The closer I get to you the more you seem to pull away.”
The final layer is taking responsibility for your part. You should explain why the relationship doesn’t work anymore. This will always tie back into the previous layers. It should be said without blame and as lovingly as possible. As a continuation of the last example: “I need more intimacy than you have been able to offer. I think we both need to move forward and find people who are more of an emotional match in the area of intimacy and deep connection.”
In the end, breaking up requires some of the best communication that both parties can possibly manage. Anything stated should be honest, heartfelt, direct, and concise. This may be the final contact you ever have. Saying everything with kindness in a non-hurtful but totally forthright and honest way is critical to moving on and moving forward. Don’t part ways until you are certain you have reached an understanding and share the same reality about why the relationship can no longer exist.
When someone asks the question, “Why did you two break up?” it should be easy to answer. If it isn’t, there is still an energetic bond that keeps both of you from being truly free.
ON BEING “FRIENDS” AFTERWARD
Let’s face it: a break up is a death. It is an ending of what once was. And while there may be a good reason for the break up — at the very least it is the death of a dream. Although a break up is technically freeing, it is generally followed by a period of pain and grief at various levels. If there is any contact with the newly established “ex,” the break up cannot emotionally feel like a death. As such, it creates a holding pattern in the healing process.
I highly recommend there be no contact in any way until the desire to still be with that person is gone and the grieving period is over. Seeing the “ex” should not cause any kind of an emotional response. While some people truly desire to have a friendship with the “ex,” I don’t think it is necessary nor is it a character flaw if you don’t. Being friends with an “ex” is loaded with emotional challenges. Trying to navigate through that is difficult and likely not worth the effort. HOWEVER, if you are co-parents, some kind of positive relationship is imperative and should be a goal.
WHAT IF THERE’S BETRAYAL?
Breaking up on the heels of betrayal and breaking up because it just doesn’t work anymore are completely different. It’s hard to be kind in a break up when you are riddled with pain. You will instinctually hold the natural deep desire for the betrayer to feel the same emotions you are feeling. With betrayal, the goal is to communicate in a calm reasonable way about how you are feeling and exactly why you are breaking up. It is also important that you understand the real reason behind the betrayal no matter how uncomfortable it may be.
Some will advise you that the goal is to “still be friends.” When betrayal is involved, your break up conversation needs to be about creating the last communication between the two of you. Unless you are parents together, be firm that it is completely over. There will never be contact again. It’s also imperative that the relationship end in understanding, which you can ensure by using the layering communication technique.
ON STARTING A NEW LIFE
There is something to be gained from every relationship — even a relationship you might define as your worst. It’s important to take the time to write down all that you’re grateful to have experienced. Recognize what has made you better, stronger, wiser.
Avoid new relationships until you’re truly healed. It is not fair to you or the new person. Give yourself the time to remember who you are alone.
Honor what you learned from the relationship. Attempt to attract the positive components next time while avoiding the pitfalls of the negatives. You may question how you’re going to get through it. You will and you will be far better because of the experience.
This article was published on Medium.com on June 5, 2017