Sometimes ending the wrong relationship is just as hard on the person doing the breaking-up as it is on the person being broken-up with
A few weeks after my long-term relationship ended I expressed to a friend that I was worried about how my ex-partner was coping in the wake of our split.
Without blinking an eye she looked at me and replied:
“It’s much harder for him than it is for you because he’s not the one who ended it.”
It’s funny, isn’t it? How we automatically assume that the one ending the relationship will have an easier time of it.
Our attention, our empathy, our understanding, our concern, often tends to extend itself to the person who is on the receiving end of the difficult news rather than the one delivering it.
The partner being broken up with has a legitimate right to grieve. The partner doing the breaking up is not often granted that right.
It is assumed that they are fine. It is expected that they will quickly pick up the pieces of their life and move on.
It is assumed that the feelings they had for their partner simply died or were never really there in the first place.
And sometimes that’s exactly what happens.
But sometimes it’s not.
Doing The Things We Least Want To Do
The decision to end our relationship earlier this year was not one I made lightly.
There were many a night spent wrestling with the knowledge that I was getting closer to having to do something I didn’t want to do.
It took me longer than it should have to summon the courage to end things. I often wonder if that’s a universal experience – spending too much time in the space between knowing and action?
That’s the strange thing about our minds.
As comedian and motivational speaker Kyle Cease explains, preparing to let go of something causes us pain because our brain can measure what we’re about to lose yet it cannot measure what we might gain.
If we were able to see that then perhaps we’d all jump much sooner.
Grieving For What Could Have Been
When we end a relationship that isn’t right for us we’re not grieving for the loss of our soulmate but for the loss of what could have been.
We knew this person wasn’t right for us or couldn’t show up in the way we needed them to otherwise we wouldn’t have ended it so it’s not that we’ve lost the one person we were destined to be with.
Rather we’ve lost all the possibilities our minds dreamed up. We’ve lost what we hoped that relationship might be.
In the 12 months leading up to our relationship ending, I grieved for what I knew was coming.
I grieved because deep within my soul I knew I was in the wrong relationship and that the partner and relationship I need, the one that would be a good fit for who I am, could not be found with him.
Yes, I was the one who ended it and there is no doubt that the time I had to process things, time that he did not have, made it easier on me at the end than it was on him.
But that doesn’t mean it wasn’t equally painful or that I don’t still have days where I feel moments of sadness about what might have been.
On those days I remind myself of why the relationship wasn’t right for me, a necessary evil to ensure that I grieve the reality and not the story of our relationship given birth to by my imagination.
Giving Yourself Permission
If you were the one who ended your relationship other people might not give you permission to grieve which is why it’s so important to give it to yourself.
- You have a right to grieve for the wrong relationship.
- You have a right to grieve for something that has died.
- You have a right to grieve the loss of someone you loved.
- You have a right to grieve all the hopes and possibilities you had for that relationship.
Just because you ended something that doesn’t mean it wasn’t one of the most difficult things you’ve ever had to do or that you’re not in pain.
When someone dies our grief is deemed legitimate. Society gives us permission to grieve something that it understands.
But one of the hardest things in the world is grieving for someone who is still here but whose life we can no longer be a part of.
That grief is just as real and just as raw as any other.
Jump And Your Life Will Rise Up To Meet You
Endings can be painful. We often fear them even when we know it’s right because we fear what the future may hold without something we’ve become used to having in our life.
And yet how can there be anything other than beautiful things waiting for us on the other side of a relationship that was never going to be right for us?
How can there be anything other than amazing things waiting for us as we step into alignment with who we know ourselves to be?
Those first few months after the end of a relationship can be messy, chaotic, and painful. We can feel lost and confused. We grieve and we mourn all that we thought our life was going to be.
And then something miraculous happens. We start to come out the other side. We see the first rays of light shining brightly at the end of the long dark tunnel we’ve just walked through.
As we step fully into the light, turning our faces to the sun, we find our new life waiting for us. A life full of peace, hope, joy, and promise. A life that we would not have had if we had not called forth within us the courage to jump.
So grieve the loss of the wrong relationship in the knowledge that when you are done something beautiful will be waiting on the other side to greet you.