You may have read about my last partnership. The one with the neighbor-from-hell who left me for another female: Mother Nature. Seriously. You can read the details here. (You can also find the story in my new book, coming soon-ish, hopefully this month but probably July! I went indy so no pre-orders.)
Because I have acquired expertise in partnership endings (I’ve only had two of significance, but still), I have some opinions to share. These opinions are not just based on my personal experience, of course. I am a psychotherapist, after all. I’ve heard many stories about relationship endings and beginnings. I’ve read Esther Perel and Alain de Botton. John Welwood, too. So, I know a little something about this.
But what I am here to tell you today is how to rethink the ending, particularly if you label it a failure. (Parts of the following are excerpted from that guided journal I keep telling you about! Very tricky of me.)
Just because a relationship ends doesn’t mean it’s a failure. Or that you are a failure!
Why? Because maybe it was a good decision to end it. Maybe you both received what you needed and it was time to move on. Perhaps your partner was unwilling to do deep inner work, so the relationship could not evolve.
In any case, it’s likely that unhealthy patterns were being replayed. Maybe you were afraid of getting too close for fear of abandonment. Perhaps the relationship reminded you or your partner of experiences in your family of origin that you or they did not want to see. We often unconsciously select partners who reflect unresolved issues from our past. In the best case, this gives us the opportunity to heal those issues when you and the partner are willing to examine the patterns that come up. In the next best case, the end of the relationship leads you to therapy! The more you examine what happened, the more clarity you will find, and this will inform future relationships. So, one way to think about it is, it’s not a failure if you learn from it. Another idea: it’s an ending, not a failure. It’s a loss, not a failure.
See what I’m saying? I wonder if we need to redefine failure.
In my personal experience, I have partnered with men who, no surprise, joined me in repeating some of the dynamics in my family of origin. I found passive-aggressive, intelligent nice guys who were in denial about the deep wounds they carried from critical, abusive fathers and depressed mothers. The men carried a good amount of repressed rage and grief that showed up in physical ailments, anxiety, depression, and addictions. They, then, needed to abandon the relationship when we came too close to opening up access to their buried losses. I grew up with similar family dynamics. Abusive father, depressed, passive-aggressive mother. (Often the themes are similar for both partners.) The difference has been, I am not in denial about the resulting rage and grief and have worked over the years in various therapies to find healing and growth. The abandonment I experienced when the two relationships ended, facilitated my expression of deep grief that was not safe to express in childhood. It made me aware of my coping strategies: extreme independence and need to control born out of a belief that there is no safety or nourishment for me on Planet Earth. And, so, no surprise, that belief was reinforced as the relationships played out.
Over the years, then, I finally rescued my abandoned, lonely child self and I continue to give her the love, safety, and nourishment she needs. I have discovered a clearer picture of who I actually am versus who my family thought I was. I am experiencing exuberant interdependence, intimacy, safety, and nourishment with my fellow humans here on planet Earth.
I didn’t expect to be telling you all this. I hope you don’t mind my vulnerability. But having to articulate and clarify my own relationship patterns for you has been useful, even after all these years. The healing process is on-going, in case you were wondering. Writing about it is a powerful tool. (Ahem, another reason to get my guided journal!)
And so, my dearest chickadees, thanks for listening! I hope this helps you rethink your own relationship endings and gives you the nudge to redefine failure. And, also, I hope you, too, find your path to exuberantly experience interdependence, intimacy, safety, and nourishment with your fellow humans here on planet Earth.
To my bloggEEs: Well, that turned into something I didn’t expect! Thank you, as always, for being here. Let us know your thoughts on partnerships, endings, and failure. Love to you all!!