The time between New Year’s Day and just before Valentine’s Day is known as breaking up season.
Couples who have been struggling for during the autumn and through the holiday season often use the ‘new year, new you’ energy as an impetus to end the relationship so that they can look towards Valentine’s day as a time to start another romantic adventure. This is breaking up season.
In mid-December, I toured WeWork Aldwych House in London. If you haven’t been in co-working office space like WeWork, you might not know how much creativity happens in casual conversations in the hot desking common areas. Co-work offices provide hot desks which are tables or desks that you can either reserve or just claim when you arrive in the space. Most spaces have great Wi-Fi, free beverages and a variety of comfy seating arrangements. You sit down and work and during the time you are there, often enter into a conversation or two with the people working around you. People can be from any field, business or discipline. In any event, I ended up in a conversation with one of the local team. We were talking about what I do for a living and he said that there really should be a good guide to breaking up since there didn’t seem to be any guides to help people refrain from emotionally shredding each other when they leave a relationship. That is how I came to be writing this guide. This blog is an introduction and outline that identifies the problems and gives some good hints and tips to avoid the worst of the pitfalls. If you want the full guide, you can purchase it here. I have laid it out as an eBook/eworkbook.
I have been working with individuals, couples, families, and relationship groups for the past 30 years. Most of the time when people come in with relationship problems, they will say they are coming in to therapy in order to save the relationship. In reality, in at least 60% of the cases, one of the people has come in with the desire to end the relationship and wants help so that the end is not absolutely horrible and destructive. Most people know that acting on the intense emotions that are frequently present at break up time can be destructive to themselves in addition to their soon to be ex-partners. But they still cannot help but lash out. Even people who are usually excellent at negotiation and have great emotional and social skills can behave like out of control bullies when involved in a break up.
Why do people behave so badly when breaking up? Here are the most common reasons:
They have been betrayed by their soon to be x.
Breaches of trust cut incredibly deeply. There is nothing worse than discovering that the person you have trusted with all of you has betrayed you. The most common betrayal is an affair but there are other betrayals. All betrayals involve lying and/or withholding truth (pretending). The ones that have gone on the longest are the most emotionally damaging.
They are betraying the person they want to break up with.
In this case, the person projects their own bad motives and behaviour onto their partner. They become angry and horrible because they cannot admit their own bad behaviour. They feel guilty about breaking up and it makes them angry.
They find it too hard to be honest, vulnerable and make a clean break.
Being angry and belligerent pushes the other person away.
4. They don’t want to stay friends and don’t know how to end the relationship with compassion without their partner wanting to stay connected.
They have no empathy.
There are people who have little or no empathy and cannot place other people’s needs before their own needs. Sometimes they are just thoughtless.
They know that breaking up is the best thing for both parties but don’t feel they can stay separate if there isn’t animosity.
They feel helpless in the face of their partner’s sadness and upset and this causes an angry reaction. Anger is easier than powerless feelings.
They cannot stand their own feelings of sadness and grief and find anger much easier to bear.
What are some of the pitfalls to an amicable or friendly breakup?
It can be hard to stay away from the person you are breaking up with.
You are in the habit of spending time, sharing things. If things are friendly, those habits are too easy to continue. You may not have a new routine for emotional support or sharing the little things about your day so this too will make staying separate hard.
Making the decision to end a relationship that is not meeting your needs is often a huge relief.
Once you have made the decision, sometimes a lot of the negativity will lift and you will find being together more comfortable and even more fun. Sometimes people remember what it was like at the beginning of the relationship when they were really into each other and things were going really well. Suddenly the relationship may feel like it is salvageable. This is the time when people forget the reasons that they decided to end the relationship.
Going back out into the world can be harder if you are still close to your ex-partner.
Many people find it uncomfortable if a person they are dating is close with an ex. Also when you are emotionally close with someone, you may compare new people to the person and this may put you off developing closeness with someone new.
Some tips and tricks to avoid behaving badly:
- If you have been betrayed, do some personal work (counselling, therapy, coaching, talking with a trusted friend – whatever works for you) to resolve some of the intensely negative feelings you are experiencing.
- If you were the one who was having the affair, own up to it (at least to yourself) and make a clear effort not to project your stuff onto your soon to be x partner. You might benefit from some personal work (counselling, therapy, coaching, talking to a good friend – whatever works for you).
- Use journaling to help you get what is in your head out onto paper. If journaling doesn’t appeal, try some type of art work.
- Create a separation plan. This is particularly useful if you have been living together or leaving lots of stuff at each other’s places. It’s also useful to help manage the emotional and social aspects of separation. If you attend a regular social event with common friends, this is where you can address who will be attending in the future and who will not or how you will both manage to attend. This can be a detailed plan that allows you to address all the ways your lives are entangled or it can be simple and just have some basic rules.
- If you are attending the same events, it can help to go with another friend to avoid awkwardness.
- Build in time for your favourite stress reduction activities and plan these around when you have to deal with the breakup.
- Remember that breaking up involves loss and so there is a grieving process that most people experience. If grieving isn’t something you are good at, get some help to learn how to grieve (which usually means to learn to allow yourself to feel the loss until you are finished feeling it instead of trying to suppress the feelings or push them aside).
Working towards ending relationships without lots of destruction is one of the best things you can do as you will need these skills in multiple places over your lifetime.
Sometimes we end business relationships, friendships and even familial relationships and all of these can be as traumatic as ending romantic relationships.
If you found this introduction intriguing and useful, look for my Modern Guide to Breaking Up eBook/eWorkbook on https://the-intimacy-coach.com on the products page to be released on 25 January 2018 or simply set up a discovery session with me by going to my website https://the-intimacy-coach.com and then my contact page and clicking where it says ‘click here’.