How to Break Up and Still Be Friends
When I was in the tortuous throws of contemplating divorce, a dear friend said to me, “You get to take the best part with you, if you want to.” This was a revelation.
You mean, he still gets to crack me up? I can still respect and admire his intelligence and sound advice? We can still... gulp... love each other?
I wanted to believe that! Spending eight years of my life with this man meant something to me. We had a profound history. We'd seen the darkest, deepest sides of one another, as well as the brightest, shiniest sides of one another.
We witnessed everything from job transitions to soul transformations. I couldn’t imagine my world without him, but the old path no longer worked for either of us. Could there be a new path that, although separate, still included each other in a loving way?
My friend’s soothing words became my compass point over the next three years as my husband and I separated and went through divorce proceedings. I was willing to do some serious healing work so that I could see him with refreshed eyes.
In his own way, he did the same. Many phases ensued: there was the sad phase, the angry phase, the-not talking-to-each-other phase, but eventually we reached a clearing in the woods of our break-up.
The dismantling of what we once were completed itself and we were left with very simple and tender-hearted bare bones. For us, the bare bones were the best part of us.
What remained was laughter, a belief in the other person, and a genuine belief that if we ever ended up in a ditch, or in prison, we could count on each other.
It might sound odd, but my former husband still feels like family to me. We are proud of each other and who we’ve become. We’re also completely free, as we no longer are trying to create a life that is not in alignment with the other. So yes, we took the best of our marriage with us, but also, we created something even better!
Here are 4 helpful hints as you navigate these challenging waters:
1. Allow yourself to feel how you feel.
Recently, a beautiful client of mine ended a six-year relationship. Three months later, she sat on my couch, in tears, judging herself for not being over it yet. Relationships are complex organisms! Everyone processes things differently.
Allow yourself to feel your emotions, including anger! Each emotional purge is clearing out the old belief system that created your past relationship. Some of these beliefs are core wounds from childhood. There is deep, profound work at hand. As you feel your emotions, and bring loving kindness to them, you create the space for healing to happen.
2. Give yourself, and your former, space.
You are both grieving the old and birthing the new. This takes time and breathing room. Dying and birthing are messy things. Let it be OK for things to seem messy for a while.
Yes, he might be angry for a while! Yes, you might cry every time you see him! You both get to feel how you feel in this time. Practice non-judgment. This, too shall pass.
3. Ground yourself.
In the whirlwind of grief death of old creating the new, it’s easy to get swept up, overwhelmed, and/or depleted. There’s a massive healing taking place that requires your attention and support. Lean into your true support team.
Let family and friends love you and care for you a bit more than you might normally. Take a vacation to the mountains. See a therapist, an acupuncturist, a minister, whatever speaks to your heart. Nourish your mind, body and spirit.
4. Get curious.
Be brave enough to look at your part in the dismantling of your relationship. This will reveal amazing and transformative things that will support all your future relationships! What was my part? How did I co-create this?
Fill in the blanks: Because of _____, I learned _____ about myself.
Finally, look for the new dawn. Who am I now? What am I creating? What within me is eager to express itself?
The beautiful part of all this, is that if you do the healing work, no matter what ensues, you will be a better, more authentic you and create a more fulfilling life for yourself. And, whether or not you and your former become besties when all is said and done, you will absolutely be able to stand in peaceful gratitude for what you shared and how it expanded your life.