This is a time of
great change. So many people are feeling an under current
of restlessness and longing for something more meaningful.
Very often, that restlessness manifests in relationships
breaking up, job or career changes, selling houses,
relocating and other major decisions that portend an
opportunity to begin again. We want the high back,
that sense of satisfaction with the quality of joy
in our life.
We wrestle with the issue of ending relationships because of the pain, the history
and the security of the known. It’s hard to hurt people you love and scary
to start over. So, when do you know if it’s really time to go?
Couples often come to therapists, consciously or unconsciously, to break up.
They may need to hear from a third party that the relationship is over and they
are not guilty or wrong for knowing it. Sometimes they just want to make sure
their partner has some support because they have already decided to leave. It’s
an insurance policy against having something bad happen.
The reasons people leave are varied. In some relationships, too many connections
have been broken to get back. We connect with each other on four levels: spiritually,
emotionally, intellectually and physically. First the intellectual and emotional
connections go when we stop talking to each other on a real level. Then the touching
and passion leaves and finally, we do. In some cases when partners have either
neglected their connections for a long period of time, or if they have broken
them by being untrustworthy, couples may feel it’s simply impossible to
get back. It is possible to recreate these connections and rebuild trust, but
both partners must be willing and committed to the process. It’s amazing
to see people fall in love with each other all over again.
Another reason people leave is because one partner is growing and wanting deeper
connections and the other partner refuses to do his or her own work and grow
as well. It is exhausting being in charge of a partner’s emotional well
being when he or she refuses to do the healing necessary to feel whole and secure.
These kinds of relationships become uneven because one partner becomes a parent
rather than the beloved.
When people ask, when is it really ok to leave, my answer is always when you
can’t go back. The truth is, that any lessons you have not learned in your
current relationship, you will learn in the next one. Your own spirit is the
highest authority about when it is time to go. There is a subtle, or not so subtle,
knowing that no matter what you say to yourself, there is no going back. It is
a sense of truly being done. People stay long after than knowing has arrived
and often end up hurting each other more because of the disconnect.
When you know that it is time to leave, do it with integrity. Do not add betrayal
to the pain of ending a relationship. If you still have questions as to whether
the relationship can work stay until the questions are answered. Get into therapy,
buy a good book that has exercises in it you can do together and see if you can
reconnect. Break Up or Break Through is the book I wrote for reconnecting couples
and providing new tools and aliveness to relationships.
It’s important to remember that you can change the form of a relationship
without losing the love. You may not be great partners, but you might become
great spiritual or extended family. Very often the people we have been in relationships
with know us best and can support us in the ways we need most. This goes both
ways. So unless your partner has become someone you would not choose as a friend,
don’t lose the valuable connection you have made. Simply change it into
what works better for both of you.
Whenever you are about to make a major decision, such as leaving a relationship,
it is critical to be fully aligned with yourself. That means taking some introspective
time. Does every part of you agree with the decision you are about to make? We
rush so many things in this society that the unfortunate result is that we often
look back with regret. Take the time you need to make sure there is no doubt.
Fear or anxiety is different than doubt. You can feel fear about starting over
and still know that it is exactly the right this to do. This is a normal human
emotion and doesn’t mean that you shouldn’t move forward. But if
you have doubt that this is the right decision, give yourself and your partner
the respect you each deserve to make sure. Do nothing until you feel certain
about your decision. Ask yourself, who am I going to or from? If you are just
looking for the next fix that helps you avoid your feelings you’ll be looking
outward for someone else to fill the gap. If it is the right decision, and part
of your path to leave and you will feel like you are taking this step toward
who you really are and what is inherently right for you.