I work with complex relationships. Clinically this refers to relationships that have trauma associated with them. This might be a fresh trauma, like death, an accident, a job loss or discovery of infidelity. Or it could be a childhood trauma that lingers into adulthood and messes with one's intimacy and sexuality.
Feelings of guilt, shame and pain can overwhelm one's life. Instinctively one wants to run away or fight back to rid oneself of terribly painful feelings. Or one freezes up and denies pain. Taking action feels overwhelming. Nowhere is this more abundantly felt than when ending a significant relationship.
Join me in the journey of untangling from an intimate situation.
The feelings are there long before you take action. Your body experiences an initial vague sense of physical discomfort, which grows heavier over time. You feel less happy and then decidedly unhappy. You begin a slow detachment, choosing to do activities with others or alone. Sexually you shut down. You are no longer available for discussions about the relationship. You go into acceptance until one day you wake up and acknowledge that you're done. You know it's time to move on. You're ready to break free.
1. Are you feeling your relationship has reached its sell-by date?
2. Have you begun to show signs of withdrawal?
3. What are your reasons for ending your situation?
4. For how long have you been lingering in this mode of detached inaction?
5. What stops you from moving on?
6. Are you caught in a situation that is non-traditional, but feels significant to you and leaves you constantly uncertain as to whether or not you are together? For example, friends with benefits.
Sadness, self-doubt, fear, anger, relief and ambivalence, huge ambivalence creeps into your heart and mind. You want to avoid feeling this bad so you may delay, bargain with yourself, try harder until you feel emotionally collapsed - or you cheat.
I have created this guide to assist you to move on from your current situation. A situation may be a marriage, a hookup or a casual fling. Please note my language - "move on" and "situation". Using words like "termination " and "break up" feel devastating and untrue, as one always holds this person in one's heart, perhaps in an inactive manner but they will be there for life. Imagining terminating gets you to linger longer in an unhealthy situation.
Before committing to a situation, ask yourself what your intentions are right now: Are you seeking a traditional "relationship"? That which includes commitment, monogamy and sexual fidelity? Or are you seeking a hookup (same or opposite sex), friends with benefits, online lover only? Avoid pain by choosing correctly from the get go.
Be honest about your intentions upfront and sober. Attachments form quickly, especially if there is sex involved, and partings are painful so do not mislead someone. Choose a person mindfully. Distance, marital status, economic and cultural constructs matter over the long term. Be sure to assess common values and interests. This person cannot be rescued or changed. If you begin undermining and abasing your own best interests, expect an ending and painful self-berating. A commitment is mutually made.
At some time you begin to disconnect. Your situation has reached its sell-by date. Or your partner has reached his/her expiry date with you. Look out for signs that your partner is disappearing: lack of contact, no future talk, lack of effort, increasing conflict and personalised conflict; public conflict; sudden yearning for independence; keeping secrets; and a drop in sexual frequency. Accept that ending any situation feels so awful that you want to throw up, whether you are ending it or your partner is, the feelings of illness afflict you both.
Guidelines To Manage Endings
- No way do situations end without leaving trails of feelings and a different form of attachment lingers.
- Accept that this person will always be present in your heart, so make space to carry him/her there. Trying to deny this person for life leaves you feeling sad and filled with longing.
- When any form of intimate contact disappears, expect to feel empty, sad and shredded. For example, do not judge yourself when you feel bereft when an online lover disappears.
- Due to the uncertainty and amorphous nature of modern dating, you may feel a "breakup" happens after each encounter as you're never sure when you'll see each other again and, as such, singledom may feel extremely appealing.
- Never ghost someone or do "the Fade" or leave "breadcrumbs".
- Do not accept sporadic, non-committal or repeated messages that are just enough to keep you, but never seal the deal.
- Do not offer the "friend zone" as a solution to moving on. WTF are "friends"?
- Do not send a bitmoji as a way of maintaining contact when you've actually disappeared.
- Face-to-face conversations are difficult but it is worth enduring the pain so that an elegant and respectful new boundary is created.
- Expect "makeup" sex or "friend zone" sex to happen for a while. Try to limit this as it creates confusion and merely delays the process of moving forward.
- Allow a new partner to talk about their ex as he/she forms a part of their lives, even if it is an inactive part.
In summary, both wanted and unwanted endings are traumatic. Accept this pain and allow the pain to progress through your body. Get body work done, such as massage or Reiki. Through the trauma comes growth and I want you to endure the discomfort rather than trying to squeeze yourself back into a situation that you know is no good and done for you.