When Love Isn’t Enough: Three Rules of a Good Breakup
Drama. Deceit. Devastation. It’s not just reality TV; it’s the reality that most of us experience when we end a relationship, because we don’t and won’t leave our men until we reach the point of hating, hurting and hardly speaking. Like a pit bull gripping its most beloved doggie toy, we believe that if we feel any ‘love’ at all for our man, we must stay, fight and make the relationship work. And only when we think that love is gone, do we concede and dive head first into the despair of the “bad breakup.”
Women have been doing it for centuries. Walking on coals, swallowing swords, whatever it takes, because love is supposed to conquer all. No matter if you are happy or this guy is the best partner for your life, if you love each other you must stay and make it work, or keep trying until things get so bad that you can justify the ending, right? Wrong!
The crazy line of thinking has kept women in stuck in relationships and suffering through bad breakups for way too long, telling ourselves, “If I love this man, and he loves me, that’s enough, no matter how exhausted, unhappy or lonely I feel.” Even if we know our guy will never be a true partner, we hang around because we “love him.” But love should never require sacrificing one’s self or forfeiting our joy or life dreams.
You can love a man and choose not to be with him.
Like most women, I figured this out the hard way, after my epic bad breakup, which took the storyline of my fiancé announcing on the car ride to our engagement party, “I don’t love you anymore. I don’t want to marry you anymore. And, oh by the way, I’ve been cheating on you for six months.” Drama. Devastation. And ouch!
After the sting of having my heart broken and with enough distance to clearly see what had actually happened, I realized that my bad breakup would have been totally avoidable if someone had clued me into the truth that even though you love a guy, it doesn’t mean you should marry him. Alas, the women in my life had failed to teach me this, along with other key facts of love and relationships (mostly because they didn’t know either.) If I had known the truth instead of bought into the fairy tales, I would have been the one to end my relationship and leave my former fiancé way before the situation ever got to the point of drama and devastation. We could have had a good breakup, and I could have avoided a lot of the hate, confusion, and suffering that sent my life reeling for months and months afterwards.
As a twenty-first-century woman, you can trade the love lies in for the real relationship truths. Because when you find yourself in a relationship that has run its course, it’s far better to be able to make an empowered and healthy choice, than to end up a victim to the drama, deceit, and devastation of a bad breakup.
Lie: You shouldn’t break up until you’ve fallen out of love.
Truth: Once you love someone, you love him or her forever. People fall out of trust, intimacy, and respect—not love.
“I love you, but I’m not in love with you.” How many of us have either heard or uttered those words as we walked head first into a bad breakup? Those words are such a cop out. People don’t fall in and out of love, as if love can be measured. What they do fall out of is trust, intimacy and respect—and usually for good reasons. The problem is that those reasons are never communicated to our partner because we use cop out phrases like, “I’m just not in love with you any more.” And when someone tells you they just aren’t in love with you anymore, there is really nothing you can do about it. It leaves the receiver feeling confused and awful, and it lets the person doing the breaking up feel somehow better about what they are doing.
Good Breakup Rule:
During a breakup, take love out of the equation. Be honest about the real issues why the relationship is no longer working, which have nothing to do with love. It’s okay to love each other and still choose to end your relationship; in fact, it’s the best way. And, while the breakup will still be sad, it won’t be dramatic or deceitful.
Lie: If we loved each other more, we would be able to make this relationship work.
Truth: Love is only a prerequisite. Great relationships take authentic partnerships and they require much more than love.
When we are asked why we want to marry or be with “this guy,” most of us retort almost automatically, “Because I love him.” While it sounds like the right answer, it’s a danger signal that you’ve created a relationship based on ideal love versus the authentic partnership actually required for long-term happiness and relationship success. Authentic partnerships are full of respect, trust, truth, friendship, intimacy, and unconditional love. And you’ve got to put energy into each of those to keep your relationship working for you.
Good Breakup Rule:
Be honest about your what your relationship lacks, and what each of you are capable of creating together, before the breakup even happens. Assess on a scale of 1-10 how well your relationship scores on each of the six indicators of an authentic partnership: respect, trust, truth, friendship, intimacy, and unconditional love. If you score less than an 8 any individual indicator, you have some work to do. Get real and ask yourself, “Can this relationship and the people in it create a deep level of (insert indicator0?” If the answer is no, it could be time to start a good breakup. If the answer is yes, it’s time to talk with your partner and start creating the relationship you really want, together.
Lie: If the relationship ends, we have failed.
Truth: The failure is overstaying in a relationship.
Good Breakup Rule:
Be honest with yourself and each other when it’s time to end your romantic relationship. Talk to each other instead of resorting to behaviors that cause drama, deceit, and devastation. Your goal is not to become the next reality TV show, but to use the power of unconditional love and respect (that hopefully started the relationship) to gracefully transition out of the romantic relationship. Remember, you both want the best for each other.