So you’re at the end of your rope and ready to cut, burn, or gnaw it off. It’s okay. Take a deep breath. You’re not alone. Studies show us that the divorce rate in the US is over 60% and that’s not even including the relationships that never make it down the aisle.
Ending a relationship does not mean you’ve failed. In fact, as a couples therapy specialist, I say ending an unhealthy relationship, one you’re enduring in misery is a much better and more successful outcome than surviving the dysfunction, barely clinging to life.
As humans we are meant to thrive, not merely survive. Sometimes thriving in a relationship just isn’t a possibility. If that’s where you stand, give yourself permission to let go. I say give yourself permission because truly it is only YOU that can make breaking up “okay”. No one needs to give you the nod of approval. But, if that’s what you’re waiting for, envision me - a Licensed Marriage & Family Therapist - nodding my head in agreement that it is OKAY to walk away.
Now, don’t get me wrong, I am a champion for relationships. I tell the couples on my couch that barring extreme cases of abuse, most unions are salvageable. IF you have two partners willing to do what it takes to make it work.
Often what it takes to make it work is change. If you’re the only one willing to invest the time, energy, and finances to heal what is wounded and fix what is broken, true change just isn’t realistic. Any person can only go so long not getting their needs met, not being respected, not being loved, not being a priority.
BUT if you’re about to jump ship, let me just help you break up better. You don’t need to walk away from the relationship with resentment and venom oozing from your heart. Follow along and I’ll give you some steps to end your union with a sense of mutual respect, gratitude for the time shared, and resolve in your heart.
Take Time to Self Reflect
Prayer, meditation, journaling, even seeking individual therapy are all great ways to get clear on whether or not breaking up is in fact what you want. Oftentimes we think the grass is greener on the other side of the fence. In fact, the grass is greenest where you water it. If you’ve been neglecting yourself and/or your relationship, maybe jumping ship isn’t the right answer. Now I don’t agree with living indefinitely in a space of unhappiness, which is why I tell my couples, give yourself a timeframe. Thirty, sixty, ninety days and be two feet in trying to repair what is broken. Ask your partner to do the same. Seek couples therapy. Then, at the end of that timeframe, assess the progress or lack thereof and make your determination. The peace that comes with being able to say you gave it your best and actually mean it is absolutely priceless. Identify what you’re doing right and wrong in the relationship - before you tally your partner’s score. I say this because it is MUCH easier to find fault with the other person. But guess what? Every relationship is bound to have problems. If you don’t identify the mistakes you’re making in this one, you’re likely to repeat them with the next.
Ultimatums are Last Resort Only
Here’s my problem with ultimatums, as a couples therapy specialist, I would be rich if I had a dollar for every time one of my clients gave an ultimatum they weren’t prepared to fulfill. Once a boundary is set and not carried through with, your word becomes weightless. Maybe that’s a bit harsh, but my point is that your partner will not take you seriously next time you draw a line in the sand and that’s not a healthy place for either of you to exist. And here’s the thing, if you are absolutely certain about your ultimatum, say it and back it with 100% confidence. Know your worth and expect your partner to treat you accordingly.
Work Through Your Issues
Now, you might think, well if I’m leaving, what’s the sense in trying to work through the tough stuff? Well, you CHOSE to be with your partner for however long you’ve stayed. Give the relationship and yourselves the respect of communicating what went wrong. I hear some of you sighing, I’ve said it a thousand times. Okay. Then once more isn’t going to kill you. Saying your peace when you’re calm, controlled, and matter of fact has a much different impact than all those times you screamed it in the midst of a nasty fight. Walking away from the relationship with a sense of understanding and resolve will make the recovery process much easier. And trust me, it’s a process. Even if you’re done with a capital D. Acknowledge your mistakes, apologize - genuinely, give grace and forgiveness for the hurt caused by your partner, express gratitude for all the good times shared over the years, wish them the best and mean it, discuss appropriate boundaries moving forward.
Show Some Respect
This one is two fold. One, respect our partner. Two, respect yourself. By respect your partner, I mean don’t talk shit about them. Particularly if you have children. Kids deserve to love and feel loved by both parents. This is ruined when the mudslinging begins and that’s just not fair for the innocents of the equation. Coparenting is a real thing and I assure you, it makes for a healthier family and better adjusted children. You CAN work with your ex in an amicable way to best raise the kids. In fact, you can use the children as a reminder of all the good that came from the relationship. Surely you are grateful for their beaming little faces. If you have mutual friends, don’t make them choose sides. If you feel the need to let loose on what a loser you think your ex is, journal, go to therapy, use a healthy coping skill. Don’t pick up the phone and drag your friends and family into the mix. That only perpetuates the resentment and dysfunction and you want to move forward, right? The second half of the respect equation is to respect yourself. By this I mean spend some time getting to know who you are now, in this season of life, as a single person. Don’t go sleeping around, looking for love in all the wrong places. It will only make you feel worse. And desperate. Trust me. Respect yourself by defining clear boundaries about what you want in life, for yourself, and out of your next relationship. Then don’t settle for less. You are worthy.
Okay. I think that’s a good start to breaking up better. Should you need help along the way, don’t hesitate to reach out. Wishing you all the happiness you deserve.