One of the reasons so many people stay in relationships long past their due date is because they fear not having the comfort that the relationship provides.
You share a dog. You share a home. You share friends. Your family loves your partner. You have your favourite local restaurants. You laugh together about stupid things nobody else would find funny.
When you look at all of these wonderful boxes that are checked off in your relationship, it makes it hard to look for tangible reasons to end it. This reason might not always be found somewhere visible: it’s an intuitive hit.
It’s a feeling deep in your bones that signals something isn’t right. It’s a longing for something more, or something different. It’s a healthy fear you feel when you imagine spending the rest of your life exactly how it’s going now.
You begin to wonder if you’re just looking for problems because things are actually too good.
You wonder if you’re taking your relationship for granted and just being selfishly discontent.
You begin to fear you’re over-thinking all of it. I mean you do have a tendency to do that in other areas of life, right?
You wonder if everyone has these problems and this is just what a normal relationship looks like.
I get it. I’ve been here a few times and I know the confusion that comes along with breaking up something you’ve built with another human being.
I’ve never been married, but I’ve almost been married before. Let me tell you a little story…
One day I met a great guy in Boulder. Before we knew each other, we’d work remotely at the same coffee shop, every now and again looking up from our computers to smile. One day, the fire alarm was randomly pulled and we both took off our headphones (finally!) to prepare to run out of a burning building.
We started laughing because literally everyone else in the entire coffee shop was just working away as normal, and we didn’t know if we were supposed to run or stay. And so, conversation took hold and the rest is history. (P.S.- it was just a drill)
The next five days we were inseparable. We spent every day together going to lunch, the movies, a Brazilian Jiu Jitsu competition, dog walks…it was an obsession from the beginning.
About five months later, my apartment lease was up and we decided we wanted to move in together. At the time, my parents believed that marriage should come first (they’ve since changed their tune on this), so the boyfriend and I decided to get the ball rollin’ on a proposal at the same time I moved in.
Once I moved in, strange things started to happen.
First off, he set up a fake proposal.
Yes, you read that correctly.
A fake proposal. He sent fake texts to me, acted like my entire family was going to be at a certain place to celebrate, told me to put on my nicest dress and so on. It was extremely painful and embarrassing for me when I realized he did that all to “get me off track” from the actual proposal date.
Once that happened, I started to step into my Masculine. I didn’t want to be a “fool” and so I acted like it didn’t bother me. I put on my tough face and said, “Yeah, so what. I didn’t want a proposal anyways. Haha, yeah that was a funny joke.”
But deep down, I was crying. I was so hurt. I felt embarrassed and fooled and I hadn’t yet learned the tools to communicate this.
Soon after that, my trust levels with him plummeted and I told him to hold off on any future real proposal plans.
Other aspects of our relationships started to turn too.
I started coping with our relationships issues by watching a ton of TV. Not great TV, mind you. I found myself sitting in front of the TV in the evening to unwind instead of hanging out with any girlfriends. (I’m not sure I really even had any at this time).
Our sex life wasn’t great either, so we didn’t have a glue there to keep us together. I still had lingering sexual shame going on, and he was a Scorpio, so his extreme passion for sex put a timer on how often we had to do it in order for him to be happy. I’m not saying that’s all Scorpio’s of course, but looking back that was definitely him.
I had tons of pressure to always be in the mood and eventually I stopped being in the mood and dreaded it.
I stopped wanting to cook for him. To do nice things for him. I wanted to look out for me, and no one else.
I assume that as a reader, you’re looking at this saying, “Well yeah, no duh Maddy of course you needed to end this!” but even after taking all of these elements into consideration, there was still the fear of losing our comfort.
It was hard, I’m not going to lie. Sure, there were a lot of problems we had (oh, did I mention that we also had a “you can’t hang out with the opposite sex” rule in order to cope with our insecurities?) but, even with all of this, we still had feelings for each other.
There was more than just comfort, there was a need for each other in order to feel safe. We had our little home, with our shared furniture, friends, photos around the house and a lot of similar long term goals.
We both wanted to travel the world from our computers, but the problem was that I was already there and he wasn’t. I was ready to take off and travel the world, and he was still stationary (and would be for a long time). And since we had some codependency stuff going on, he didn’t want me to travel without him. So we were stuck.
On the outside looking in, if you didn’t know all of this, you’d say we were adorable. You’d say that it’s fun to hang out with us. That we have “the life” living here in Boulder, CO with our two beautiful dogs and our hiking-every-weekend-routine.
Even still, I had a very strong intuitive hit saying, “No.” Her voice was not the loudest one in the room but she was still there.
After a year and a half, we ended thing. Our relationship came to a close very cordially and adult-like, knowing that what we were doing was absolutely for the best. After we broke up, I booked a one-way to Asia and so my solo travels began.
Our relationship was a beautiful experience, and even though we had a lot of bumps, there were a lot of great experiences too. I learned more from that relationship than I have learned from any before. He taught me how to be patient, how to make compromises, how to communicate better, how to be vulnerable and how to step into my softness. Because of the fact that he so often motivated me emotionally into my masculinity, I was able to realize how much I needed my femininity.
He was the catalyst for how I live my emotional life today. I’m eternally grateful for that.
So how can you do the same? How can you end a relationship that you know isn’t for the best based off of an intuitive hit? Here are a few tips to help you stay broken up with someone who isn’t right:
1. Ask: Is this relationship built from love or infatuation?
I’ll be the first to admit- it’s not always easy to tell the difference. In my experience, love is calmer than infatuation. Love is something you have even when the rollercoaster ride of passion dies off. It’s the kind of connection you have with another human being that goes much deeper than what most of us are used to.
Phillippe Lewis of Exquisite Love Coaching said, “Infatuation is how someone makes you feel. It is dependent on who they are and what they do. Love is what naturally arises in you in their presence. It is your authentic expression in the dance of you two.”
When you love someone, what they do matters of course, but the bond between you two is an authentic expression. It’s there even if you have nothing to talk about. It’s there when you’re fighting. It’s there when your relationship is no longer thriving off of excitement because it’s stable.
Phillippe also added, “A good comparison is actual dance. Are you enjoying the dance just because you enjoy dancing and it is coming from inside of you, or are you enjoying dancing because this person says the right things and does the right moves?”
I love this comparison. And from a literal standpoint, I have experiences with dancing that highlight so much truth to this. I danced with a romantic partner a few times who was demanding and always put heated pressure on me to be perfect like “the other girls” (sometimes causing me to cry). On the flip side, I’ve slow danced in my living room with a very special someone who I just wanted to hold. The difference is huge.
2. Imagine your long-term future
Can you continue in this way?
Many problems can be fixed. You can work on having better communication, expressing your needs and cultivating patience throughout it all. The key here is that both parties need to be willing to commit to work on it.
Even then, some people don’t always fit together for the long haul.
In the relationship I mentioned previously, we were absolutely committed to working on our problems and we did. But even when things got better and we worked on our communication, neither one of us were truly happy.
- Everything can be worked on with two willing partners
- When some issues get fixed, the relationship thrives
- When some issues get fixed, the relationship still might not thrive
There is no black and white in this, so you must tap into your heart first and foremost. Are you happy? Is this relationship sustainable or can it be? Are you in love or are you infatuated?
People change, so no matter who you’re with they WILL change at some point; when you have real love with someone, you will be excited to see who they show up as next. When you have infatuation or fleeting admiration for someone, you may not have that glue to keep you together through the waves of life.
3. Understand there are many “ones”
There isn’t only one “one.” There are many “ones” and most likely, you’ve passed several of them within the past 24 hours.
We get so caught up in this scarcity mindset that we fear letting go of someone that meets some of our criteria. And then, once we start meeting other people, we freak out when we realize they aren’t as “funny, charming, handsome, fill in the blank” as him.
Trust me, finding a great fit for you is not as hard as you may think. Many people are funny. Many people have great jobs. Many people are tall. Many people love their moms. If I’ve found those people, and you’ve found those people, and everyone else reading this has found those people then you better believe there are many out there.
There isn’t only one unique special snowflake out there for you. The right person will come along at the right time, and you’ll have a toolbox full of relationship lessons from this current partnership that will have prepared you for the next.
4. Don’t fight the pain
Breaking up is not a yummy experience. It’s painful. The same part of the brain that lights up when you break a leg also lights up when you go through a breakup. It’s physical pain, and it’s nearly indescribable.
This pain needs to pass through you. Don’t go into your masculinity, where you feel you need to push through and toughen up. Stop. Soften. Cry. Feel.
What you resist persists. You will have some uncomfortable, gut-wrenching feelings come up and that’s normal. You may text them at 2 AM one night when you’re feeling particularly afraid and sad and that’s okay too.
I remember I’d always feel so guilty when I reached out to someone who I was going through a breakup with because my family/friends would always react saying, “Ugh! Why’d you do that?! Don’t!” which of course only added to my shame.
I say bull honky to that stale way of thinking. It’s okay if you reach out to someone you’re going through a breakup with. Remember, they are still human. They’re the only one going through the same thing as you. Of course, there comes a point where it may be best to stop communication to truly move on, but please don’t feel any shame for trying to stop the pain by revisiting the person who may have caused it. You’re doing the best you can.
5. Know what you’re longing for
What do you want to have in your relationships moving forward? What are you longing for? More support? More ambition? More sex?
After you identify what it is that was lacking in the last relationship that you desire, make sure you’re embodying it too. There is a difference in wanting something, and wanting somebody else to be that. First become what it is that you want so that you’re not always looking for it in somebody else, and then you will show up as that with your partner.
6. Let go of thinking that all romantic relationships last forever
When I went to Thailand in 2016 for a yoga retreat, my roommate and I had deep discussions about the ideas we carry about relationships. She told me that many people feel guilty when a relationship ends because they have the underlying belief that all romantic relationships need to last forever.
Some relationships are meant to prepare you for the next. Some are meant to last for a few months or a few years. When we cling onto relationships that have reached their expiration date, we’re living out of alignment with ourselves out of fear.
Like I wrote earlier, the relationship I had with my previous partner taught me how to step into my femininity more. He showed me how much I needed that part of me, because I was thrown into my masculinity almost every single day. Not only was this a huge life lesson I needed to learn, but it’s also prepared me for future relationships. I’m now showing up as the feminine, nurturing woman I want to be.
Ask yourself, what key lessons did you learn in this relationship? Knowing what lessons you gained from the relationship will make it easier to move on because you’re acknowledging the value of the relationship. You’re recognizing the teacher in the relationship.
Thank you for reading! Please share your experience with your latest breakup in the comments below. Would you add another tip in this list? Please share!