Sometimes, despite our best intentions, a relationship just doesn’t work out the way we expected it to. When a bond you’ve cherished seems broken beyond repair, you will likely ask yourself two questions: First, how do you know the right moment to throw in the towel and quit? And, when do you admit that all you have sacrificed is simply not going to bring you the closure or balance you seek?
When it comes to the loss of love, these are in fact the most frequently asked questions I receive from my clients. Unfortunately, the answers to these questions are never easy or succinct.
At their core, however, these questions are driven by fear—specifically, the fear of what awaits when a relationship ends. This is because, in many way, the loss of a relationship is like a death that must be grieved as you recognize what you stand to lose. Therefore, it’s important to understand the grieving process to find the answers to these questions, and many others that may arise, at the conclusion of a relationship.
Swiss-American psychiatrist Dr. Elisabeth Kubler-Ross famously broke down the grieving process into five stages, blazing a new path for understanding loss and how we deal with it. For the sake of this article, we will apply these stages to a romantic love and the loss, or possible loss, of a given relationship in order to better cope with the situation.
This is the moment when you may deny that anything serious is wrong with the relationship. Regardless of the evidence, you simply refuse to acknowledge that a bond you have put so much of your heart and soul into could possibly go so horribly wrong.
Whether the bargaining is done with your partner—begging him or her to stay, pleading that you two can work things out—or the deity of your choice—via prayer or meditating or what have you—it still boils down to throwing pride out the nearest window. In this stage you may find yourself offering up self-effacing deals that, in the end, will only make you feel worse after the relationship breathes its last breath. For instance, if your partner is the jealous type, you may bargain with him or her by saying, “If you stay with me, I won’t speak to my friends of the opposite sex anymore.” In this scenario, you just offered to give up something that you may really enjoy, your friends, for the pitiful attempt of trying to gain favor with someone who, obviously, is more concerned with his or her own needs than yours.
Women especially are typically told to avoid anger at all costs. (Being angry is not “lady-like,” after all.) When a relationship ends, however, you can count on anger to make its way into your heart. And, for men, the release of anger can be even more unstable, even violent. But whether you’re male or female, anger is rarely placed in a logical direction. This emotion is fueled by pure passion and you may way want to focus on productive means to express it before it emerges in ugly ways. Make sure you recognize your anger when it arrives and direct it toward a positive outlet: kickboxing, running, or something physical for your body to do.
This one can be a bit tricky. Sometimes depression creates a chemical imbalance that should be addressed by medical means and other times it will pass with a few rounds of ice cream and some good friends who are willing to listen. But, either way, depression has never been solved through chemical abuse (alcohol or other drugs) or by running into the arms of the next person you meet. Those methods of healing are like putting a Band-Aid on an open artery.
This stage can take a while to arrive. Sometimes it takes weeks, sometimes years, but know that it will arrive. Just as the sun follows the worst storms, acceptance will bring peace. You may never understand what went wrong with your relationship. You may never fully forgive transgressions that occurred, particularly unfaithfulness or deceit. You may never forgive yourself for all the signs that told you to get out years earlier. But what you will do is heal, if you allow yourself to. You are in charge of this entire process.
Remember: There is more room in a broken heart that has healed—the scar tissue doesn’t have to leave you with a jaded outlook on love. After all, you found that wonderful love in the first place and you will love again if you so allow it.
So, be gentle with yourself. Dealing with the end of a relationship is not an easy road but it is one that can take you to a place of experience and wisdom like nothing else. You can blend Kubler-Ross’ theories on grief with information you receive from a trusted psychic to find your path into a clear and beautiful future. If you need further guidance, call me and know your heart is in good hands. We will find the road out of the storm together.