A New Way to Look at Breaking Up
Whenever two souls come together, many things can happen. Most of the time, it will just be a passing glance. However, you may find someone that is more than just a touch-and-go. They create something much more than just a fleeting moment in time and space. Sometimes we meet someone that has affected us deeply.
These moments and people are melted together for eternity, seemingly stuck together, entangled forever. It is that feeling of ‘love at first sight’ or how newlyweds feel after they share and experience looking deep into each other’s eyes while saying their vows.
Ideally, we will all beat the odds and make love last, but the Romantic view of love won’t apply to everyone. We will undoubtedly be left or leave someone in our lifetime. However, this doesn’t mean we should see the relationship as a failure.
They Changed Our World and Then Decided to Leave It
‘Remember when you held me tight
And you kissed me all through the night
Think of all that we've been through
And breaking up is hard to do’
- Neil Sedaka, ‘Breakin’ up is hard to do’: A pretty cheerful song about breaking up.
Breaking up is hard to do. It seems silly to state the obvious, but it can also be comforting to know that what we experience is common suffering that afflicts all of us. There are many ways to try to deal with the loss of someone you love, especially when that person chooses to leave you.
Yet, what if there is a way to overcome the loss of a lover that didn’t involve:
Drugs - prescribed or not
New love - rebound or not
Empty sex - pleasurable or not
Drinking marathons - with friends or alone
Or simply giving up on life
It can feel, and quite honestly be, a tragedy to see love end. If we are lucky, we will have family and friends there to comfort us in this most solemn moment of our lives. (The rest of us have philosophy.) They pass by with their sympathetic faces as if attending a funeral. A part of us has died and it merits a moment of grieving silence.
Sadly, it is very much like a funeral. The way we handle death is very much one of denial and shock when it arrives. The same can be said of lost love. Rather than seeing the end as a form of inevitable completion, we have this subtle, yet hard-felt, idea that our love story shouldn’t end until our corporal deaths, if at all. Anything before is a failure that will leave both at least a little hostile to each other due to said failure.
A New Approach
Yet, perhaps there is another way to look at the end of the relationship that doesn’t have to be filled with remorse, regret, sadness, and anger. Change can always require an adjusting period whether moving to a new school as a child or moving on from the relationship that defined your life for so long.
However, looking at a relationship as a sort of course in life to becoming a better person, we can happily walk away knowing we have completed it and ready to face the next challenge in life.
The relationship is over, not because it failed, but because it succeeded.
By thinking of love in a more human-experience way and less of a Romantic novel that must end in death, we can possibly each walk away with a sense of shared appreciation and joint achievement.
Our philosophy of love is very well ingrained into our culture, and it will be hard to ignore any pain and sourness to walk away from it as simply another life-lesson learned. Yet, this realistic and Classical approach to the relationship can come from a very simple question to bear in mind throughout:
What is all of this for?
It seems cold-hearted and gloomy, possibly even contradictory, to the way we feel love should be. This does not mean you should use people in a psychopathic way to get what you want. Rather, it is okay to be Romantic, to be hopeful, to give yourself completely, and to allow yourself to be loved.
It is to say that this question can and should be in the essence of love. It isn’t bitter if the question is done in a constructive and warm-blooded way. Yes, we want their love, their warmth, and their support, but what we also need is to grow and become a more complete and self-aware person from being with them.
We often make the mistake of seeing love as a form of possession. We went to the store, picked out what wanted, and bought the only copy. Now it is ours and nobody else can have it - as if it is some inanimate object we can keep all to ourselves and off the market. This is not to support polyamory or open relationships or cheating, but it can lead to flawed ideas about sharing love and life with someone.
If we start to look at love as another form of teaching, a much more dramatic and enlightening form of discipline than any classroom can offer; we are given a very vital and powerful and personal kind of education. It is in adding this perspective, not entirely replacing our current one, that we can start to see that a relationship entails an equal effort to both learn and teach another person.
‘Everything that irritates us about others can lead us to an understanding of ourselves.’
The idea that what drives us crazy about other people, is a part of ourselves we deny, also works the other way when choosing our partners. Whether we are aware of it or not, we are drawn to our partners because we see something in them we lack or wish to grow in ourselves. We love them because they are the things we are not, but wish we were, or at the very least, we wish to better understand. In a certain sense, we are hoping they will play a role in completing us as a whole person.
The classroom of love can be one of the most difficult but effective places of learning.
Perhaps when we first met our partner, they seemed like an impossible combination of soft caring and hard courage. They managed this seemingly with ease while we felt so fragile on the outside, but ran inner dialogue of strength on the inside that went unnoticed.
Or maybe they were able to make fun of themselves in a way that we would be too self-conscious to do. Or it may be that they were very practical to our more unrealistic nature. Alternatively, we loosened their more rigid ways with an artistic spirit that they never knew existed in them.
It can be quite clear in certain cases that one of the purposes of the relationship was to teach us:
Or any other list of things where we were lacking and they were not. Some things may be much deeper lessons that involve how to simply love and be loved in a truer way.
‘The meeting of two personalities is like the contact of two chemical substances: if there is any reaction, both are transformed.’
- Carl Jung
The thing to take away from all of this is that there will be some important events and experiences that will happen together that will define the meaning of the relationship.
When we are with someone, when we share our lives:
We listen to them
We are analyzed by them
We are judged by them
We are scolded by them
These can feel like horrible things to endure. They can even feel undeserving. ‘Nobody can judge me but God.’
However, we incorporate these teachings into ourselves, perhaps much more than we think. Allowing ourselves to be so close and honest with someone, we get a reflection and critique of who we are and insight into who we could become.
As defensive and as upset as we may get from the harsh lessons of love, we should be thankful for our partners. Because of them, in some way or another, we have become more balanced and mature. We have become wiser about life and fairer in love.
They have helped us become, a least a little, the person we wished we were when we met them.
To reiterate the previously mentioned, this is not to use people cold-heartedly. It is the very fact that we shared such a remarkable, caring, profound, and loving partnership with this other person that we were able to truly hear and see the things we needed to see about ourselves and life. They helped us to uncover the horrible truths we have denied and have now been shown and taught.
It can be related to many of our experiences in life, such as work or creative pursuits. A writer will finish a novel, not because he has lost his love of writing, but because he feels that there is a resolution to the story. The hero’s journey is complete, and though he may feel he is back where he started at the beginning of the novel, he has no doubt become wiser in the process.
Perhaps something we can all relate to is our childhood. We undoubtedly love our parents for raising us, and they love us. We won’t go into all the trouble we may have caused each other here, but there does come a point when we can say the intense parent-child relationship should come to a conclusion.
We will always be their children, and we should be thankful for their commitment to trying to teach us through love. However, there comes a certain point in life when we feel we have learned enough and that in order to grow more, we must leave home.
The lessons of childhood are over.
When we see this, we can better understand that the end of this dynamic relationship isn’t something to be grieved as a failure, but as a positive consequence of loving success. Sure it is scary and difficult and a bit sad to leave home the first time, but if looked back on, we can see it is a natural and healthy part of life that came to its resolution making you a more complete person than you were before you started it.
As adults, we may not change so much physically during our lessons in the schools of life, but our internal growth is ever-present.
It can seem completely absurd to compare a relationship with a lover to that of childhood or writing a novel, but the only difference is having a goal. We don’t write a novel hoping it will last forever, nor do we truly wish to be a child forever. The story must end and the child should leave home.
But because we limit our love affairs to the very Romantic concept that ‘it should last forever’ - which is quite easy in Romantic stories since they all die young through heroic sacrifice or suicide - we limit ourselves and we take away the possibility of having a real ending. Hence, so many complain about not having ‘closure.’
Or sadly, the only purpose of being with someone is to not be alone. And if we are honest with ourselves, that is not a very good reason to dominate so much of someone else’s life.
Education with Pain
Ideally, both people involved will both feel that their relationship and what they can offer each other has naturally come to completion. However, the uncomfortable truth is that one person may be wanting to stay while the other wishes to leave.
If this is the case, it does not mean we can’t still apply this idea of education through love - even if there is a bit of pain attached along for the ride.
Perhaps, there is still more we could teach them. Unfortunately, we are just not the right teacher for them. Perhaps it is our level of patience. Or maybe it is our lack of skill or clever anecdotes or confidence that fails to deliver the wisdom that they could use.
We Have Done All We Can
Though we didn’t choose the ending, our mission is accomplished. Of course, they still have room for improvement - as do we. Perfection is stagnation. We can all grow a bit more, we just may not know where yet until we discover the right teacher.
‘Jack: You're quite perfect, Miss Fairfax.
Gwendolen: Oh! I hope I am not that. It would leave no room for developments, and I intend to develop in many directions.’
- Oscar Wilde, The Importance of Being Earnest
If we can see that there is nothing more for either partner to offer each other, it should not be seen as abandonment, but rather completion. It is heartbreaking to lose someone we love, but putting this love into perspective as a necessary learning experience can help ease some of the pain we don’t feel we deserve.
There are still many lessons to learn in life. Perhaps from a new person, or perhaps in the most intense and thoughtful way - the experience of being just with yourself.
‘We have stopped for a moment to encounter each other, to meet, to love, to share. This is a precious moment, but it is transient. It is a little parenthesis in eternity. If we share with caring, lightheartedness, and love, we will create abundance and joy for each other. And then this moment will have been worthwhile.’
- Deepak Chopra