Handling that break-up

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Handling that break-up
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My boyfriend and I have split up twice in the past and each time we both suffered. He was impossible and never left me alone. I was like a yo-yo: one minute, he was the only one I would ever love and the next minute, I was plotting revenge and ways to cause him pain. We have both agreed that our relationship is going nowhere and that we need to move on. How can we break up and still maintain some sanity?

Megan answers:
There is no doubt that break-ups cause us to behave in strange ways. I have heard many post break-up stories like how satisfying it is to toss a lover's belongings out onto the street; that revenge is best when you sleep with your ex's friend; that it's common to spread rumours about how insane your partner actually is or how devious the new lover is.

One friend of mine called her ex continuously late at night and another told me how he showed up at his girlfriend's doorstep in a space suit after being told that she needed "space"?

Sound familiar? Parting calmly enables us to avoid such desperate attempts to avenge our pain, grief and jealousies and assists us to let go and grow anew.

During his divorce, a colleague of mine said to me: "Within the break-up package lies conflict and heartache."

From our discussion, I received insights that have been invaluable. I realised it was naïve to think that anyone can walk away from their partner with a thank you and a smile and expect to still be cherished.

My work and personal experience has revealed that the very thought of a defecting loved one, provokes deep stabbing feelings that hurt at gut level.

Breaking-up, whether you are the abandoned one or the initiator, triggers off core fears deep within us. Fears of loneliness, abandonment, rejection and desertion.

When these deep festering fears are prodded we are overwhelmed by emotions that we often cannot understand. We feel our very life is threatened and our survival emotions kick in causing spontaneous reactions of fight, flight or freeze. In other words we shout, blame and accuse or we run away, or simply withdraw within ourselves.

If we allow these reactions to dominate, a break-up becomes destructive. Similar patterns can occur when any relationship breaks, be it a work partner, a friend, a sister or even a beloved pet.

So how do you do it gracefully?

If you are the one being left, expect to be plundered by changing feelings. You will vacillate from feeling inadequate and that you failed, to satisfying your anger with visions of revenge.

If you are doing the leaving, expect to feel very guilty and uncomfortable with the other's hurt, as well as defensive with the need to blame.

Allow yourself to feel your overwhelming feelings.The secret is not to act on them immediately. It's okay to be weak and pathetic. It's okay to feel anger. Expect confusion. Suddenly you feel like you don't understand the simplest explanation.

Don't get stuck in a spiral of self-depreciation. Loss almost always brings feelings of depression, which translates into general negativity and disinterest in almost everything. Just because a relationship has ended does not mean you have failed as a person.

Remind yourself that you are a complete human being with all the tools and inner resources to live a wholesome happy life. After all, you managed just fine before the relationship.

Give up blame immediately; it will only lead to anger and defensiveness. It's not time to keep score, keep that for the sport's field! It is time to listen and be understanding. Listen, listen and listen again (with both ears!). Tell the truth though and be as clear and decisive as possible. If you mean "I want out", don't say: "I don't know what I want".

A classic manipulative lie is the one the leaver often tells (when moving confidently on to greener pastures): "You are perfect, you have done nothing wrong, it's all my fault. I just can't seem to get it right." Also don't make empty promises to keep the peace; this will only prolong the agony.

Taking responsibility for your role in the relationship's demise is a priority. If you are leaving, face the pain you are causing with empathy. If you are being left, try and give up the victim syndrome as soon as possible. This way you will learn valuable lessons about yourself and receive the difficulties as a stepping stone to further self-development. For instance, maybe you have been too needy? Maybe your self-esteem has been low? These issues cannot be blamed on the relationship. If you are looking to the relationship to make you feel better about yourself, your demands will be too high. Take responsibility for your personal needs, be honest with yourself and find ways to build yourself up from the inside.

No power play. Feeling in control and powerful at the expense of another is cruel and is a sign of a weak ego not a loving one!

Now that you are on your way to a gentle parting, be sure to surround yourself with friends and support. They will remind you that time will heal and you will not stay lonely and hurt forever.

Take on new projects and hobbies. Learn to say "yes" for fun. Laugh gently at yourself and discover new ways to pamper yourself.

Always remember that protecting and believing in love is the only truth. Focus on how you love, not on how you want to be loved. If you loved once you have the capacity to love again. Love is abundant not the exclusive property of one relationship.

If you remember the positivity you experienced within the relationship and uphold it, you will come through feeling less bitter, hence healing faster and clearer. By maintaining your integrity, you may even have a friend for life!