Reader Question: I want to break up with the man I've been dating and keep hearing about conscious compassionate breakups. Is it really possible to peacefully part ways with someone you've cared about?
Which would you prefer? The drama of a painful vengeful breakup full of blame, accusations, and destruction? Or a peaceful cordial (whether or not you stay friends) ending to something that was once meaningful to you both?
My guess is the latter, even in cases where you believe your ex is hell-bent on making things awful. Decline to play that game and begin by focusing on what you personally want and on healing yourself. Have compassion for the other person, but keep in mind you are setting them free to move on, work out their own issues, preferences, healings, and solutions, and find love for themselves. This is officially all about you.
Re-opening Old Wounds
Whether you are contemplating a breakup now or remembering the ones in your past, chances are words like “heartbroken,” “shattered,” “angry,” “sad,” or “betrayed” come to mind first. What you are really feeling is the re-opening of your own old wounds. They’ve been down there festering and this ending has brought them back to the surface to hurt again.
We all carry core wounds and we all go through life unconsciously looking for ways to heal those wounds. Once you accept that, it’s just a short step to understanding that we often enter relationships looking for that healing, even if it appears otherwise on the surface. (Seeking that core wound healing is also one of the reasons we create the same relationships over and over.) We feel complete with this new person for a while without understanding that we were already whole. What we really wanted was someone to complement us, not complete or heal us.
Relationships based on fixing something eventually make us feel broken. It’s almost inevitable, perhaps even necessary, that relationships built on seeking completion fizzle. We end up feeling suffocated, out-of-step, or annoyed as we grow through whatever attracted us in the beginning. These relationships may last a long time, but are not likely to be satisfying for a lifetime.
Aren't Good Relationships Meant to Last a Lifetime?
Sometimes even wonderful, heart-centered relationships are only with us for a season even if the original intent was “till death do us part.” As humans, we are constantly growing and evolving, consciously or unconsciously, and it is possible to grow apart. In some cases, it is possible to reconnect with the love and rekindle the relationship. In others, it is time to lovingly move on. Losing a relationship we believed to be forever, whether it was your idea or your ex’s, can cause deep grief. Treasuring the love will help you navigate the loss peacefully.
The same principles hold true for friendships, colleagues, and other types of relationships. We are drawn together by a common need or interest, then drift apart (or blow apart) when that has been fulfilled.
Here’s how to do your part to lovingly end relationships with care, compassion, healing, and well wishes.
11 Steps to Conscious Compassionate Breakups
1. Say Goodbye with Kindness – Whatever you do, don’t engage in listing all the faults and flaws of your former Beloved. Before you say a word, take time with yourself to fully understand the role this person played in your own growth and find a reason to be grateful. Maybe the relationship was awful from the beginning, but you have children from it that you adore. Maybe the life lesson you learned is profoundly life-changing. No matter what has happened, find something to be grateful for. This approach will help you understand what you really want and need. It will also help you see who you are, what you want to nurture in yourself, and what you want to release in yourself. Let it become the springboard for how you can be an even better partner in your next relationship.
2. Reframe - If you don’t want relationships to end in painful breakups, start by reframing how you think about endings. Instead of an ending, think of it as a completion, clearing the way for whatever comes next. In Kitchen Table Wisdom, Rachel Naomi Remen presents the concept of endbeginnings, all one word, endings being transitions to beginnings. One cannot exist without the other. Craving an ending is a signal that you are craving a new beginning of some kind and are willing to clear the path. Endings are necessary. Painful endings are not.
3. He/She Is a Good Person, but Not a Good Fit for Me – Never forget that you were once attracted to this person. Hating them now and getting stuck on telling the world how they did you wrong reflects worse on you than on them. Seek the good in them, the original reason you loved them. Acknowledge that you have outgrown whatever need or interest drew you together. Wish them well.
4. Avoid the Blame Game – That means don’t blame yourself or your partner. Acknowledge that you both did the best you could from where you were and what you knew at the time. If you thought your partner did a lousy job, get over it. Blaming them only blocks you from receiving the wisdom of the situation. You’re only hurting yourself. Instead of looking at what either of you did wrong, look at what you could have done better. Receive the wisdom it has to offer and resolve to bring that wisdom to your next relationship.
5. Find Your Own Way - Be willing to go your separate ways without hard feelings. There’s no conscious breakup rule that says you must remain friends or even stay in touch. That’s a choice the two of you make together. Your ex has a right to his/her free will and may want to move on without maintaining any kind of contact. Respect that wish and you will pave the way for a pleasant ex experience. Granted, sometimes, your ex must remain part of your life because of children, business, or something else. In that case, your goal is to collaboratively define what works for both of you. Got an uncooperative ex? Don’t rise to the bait. Stay focused on the kind of breakup you desire and act accordingly.
6. Forgive – Forgive yourself as well as your partner. Forgiveness frees you from the anger, bitterness, and blame you may feel towards you ex as well as from the self-reproach you feel towards yourself. There is an ancient Hawaiian healing practice called Ho’oponopono based on the mantra “I’m sorry. Please forgive me. I love you. Thank you.” You don’t have to say it out loud to your ex, but can say it or journal it to yourself until it begins to sooth your hurt feelings. Forgiving yourself is the first step to healing the unforgiveness you feel towards others.
7. Seek Crystal Clear Clarity – Oftentimes, breakups are all about moving away from what you don’t want rather than moving towards what you do want. If you are having a hard time figuring out what you do want, it’s OK to start with what you don’t as along as you use it as a catalyst. Otherwise, you’ll just get stuck again. Go ahead and write down everything you don’t want, then beside it write down it’s opposite. Is that list what you really want? If so, make it your roadmap for your own development. If it doesn’t paint a picture of your ideal mate, you may have been chasing a phantom all along. Time to get clear about what you really want and get on track. (Click HERE for the 4 steps for getting clarity.)
8. Let the Past Be the Past – As long as you are rehashing the past, telling the stories of how your ex did you wrong, you are stuck. Focus on the nuggets of wisdom you received and allow the ickiness to fade. Yes, you can. It’s a choice so build it as a new habit. Look at the past as if it were the equivalent of sandpaper on fine wood, the abrasion bringing out the patina allowing the wood to glow. It hurt. It’s done. You get to glow.
9. Fall in Love with Yourself – If you don’t love yourself, how can you expect anyone else to? You are essentially asking someone else to do your work for you. You Shirker! Seriously, you have to focus on learning to love yourself exactly as you are, warts and all, not in spite of your “flaws,” but including them. If you ever want someone else to love you for who you are instead of for who they want you to be, you must start by loving yourself that way. (Though it isn't necessary to fully love yourself first, just be moving in that direction.)We all crave unconditional love, yet have a tendency to want the people around us to do all the changing. We fool ourselves into thinking it’s for their benefit, but really it’s to avoid changing ourselves. Avoiding change is not the same thing as loving yourself exactly as you are. You can love yourself exactly as you are AND continue changing an d evolving. Practice the unconditional love you desire starting with unconditional love for yourself.
10. Unpack – Hasn’t that baggage gotten too heavy to carry? If you have had a predisposition to losing yourself in relationships, focusing on “helping” your partner become better instead of growing yourself, that’s really your own old issues of abandonment, people pleasing, tolerating less than you deserve, and resentment. Time to stop hauling it around. You wouldn’t carry clothes that no longer fit on a trip so why carry habits that no longer fit through life? If you were not the one to end the relationship, you may feel grief and shame. Instead of being swamped by feelings of failure, revisit the idea of finding gratitude for the good parts of the relationship. Leave the rest behind. Travel light.
11. Realize You Are Enough – You are perfect just as you are. You are a growing, evolving human being finding relationship with other growing, evolving human beings. And that is perfectly OK.
All of life is metamorphosis with each change bringing new beauty. Grieve, reflect, learn, release, love. Check drama and games at the door. They have no place here.