Ending a Painful Relationship and Starting Over
My marriage is falling apart. How will it affect my children? I’ve worked so hard at this relationship, maybe if I just work a little harder. My best friend slept with my wife. I can’t make the mortgage payment. My business is failing. Nothing I’m doing is working.
This is “life.” It’s happening around us and to us at all times. Things change, people change, circumstances change and then our lives change.
These experiences are often incredibly painful, but they don’t need to signify the end of your world. Life and relationships are about beginnings, endings and renewals.
We’re odd creatures. We remember the few positives of an otherwise painful relationship and disregard the overwhelming evidence that it’s time to cut the tie because we’re afraid of letting go. We fight against it, bide our time and make bargains with ourselves and others to try to find new ways to hang on.
We have a tendency to get caught in untenable situations in which we keep trying and trying to make something work, only to feel more frustrated and hurt when the inevitable occurs. We don’t think to ask ourselves, “Why am I holding on so tightly to something that generally makes me feel so bad?”
This calls to mind the image of a sinking ship. If you were a passenger on the S.S. Slow Boat to Nowhere, would you cling onto the deck of the ship yelling, “No! No! We can make this work!” as it begins its descent to the ocean floor? Or would you be doggie paddling like crazy to one of the life boats? As for me, “woof woof.”
There’s a freedom in finality. It gives you permission to start over. Take what you learned from the old relationship and your experiences and try something else. Who you are today is the sum total of all of your past experiences. You carry these lessons with you not as reminders of what didn’t work, but as primers of how to better succeed in future relationships.
Letting go is not synonymous with failure, although a lot of people think so. Some people going through a break-up or divorce believe they can only be happy or “win” if they make their ex miserable. That’s not true happiness. Happiness comes from acceptance and embracing your passions, whatever they may be. If you’re carrying your old baggage in both hands, how are you going to catch new opportunities when they come flying past you? Let it go.
Every ending is an opportunity for something new. Let it inform your future choices, not poison them. These experiences are often very painful at first, but this is where, when and how real growth can occur, if you let it. Just remember, it’s not the end of the world, but the beginning. Okay, then keep telling yourself that until you believe it.
by Dr Tara J. Palmatier, PsyD
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99% Dissolved by Donna62 on flickr.
Sinking ship on unsong.