In our culture, we view any breakup (whether divorce or relationship ending) as a failure. As the worst possible thing to happen. As the ultimate loss. As evidence of our, or our partner, being shitty. In fact, someone must be to blame. Its one persons fault at the least. What went wrong? We have to find out. We need to figure out with whom, and where it went bad.
The problem with all of these mindsets though, is this: we view endings as a tragedy, as the ultimate failure. As unnatural and to be avoided at all costs. As the worst possible outcome. As something to be feared and potentially later regretted. As very black and white.
Hence, why a lot of people stay in situations, relationships, jobs, etc, long past their expiration dates.
Here is the truth though: endings are a completely natural, normal, and even good aspect of human life. They are a necessary stage on the pathway to further growth. Endings help us to push through something that wasnt working so well, and to make room for the new and something which will be a far better fit (assuming we choose carefully the next venture in this vein).
Beginnings, growth, middles, and endings, all of this is a natural, normal, and positive part of life. None of it can be avoided if one is living a truly honest, authentic life that entails frequent growth. All of it, beginnings, middles, and endings, are part of living.
When we avoid pulling the trigger on an ending that we know is no longer working, isnt a good fit, is causing problems in our life, we remain stuck. Stunted. Spinning our wheels and essentially, frozen in place. Endings, while often times anxiety provoking and deeply painful, are necessary closings in order to move on to the next chapter of our lives.
So, what if, instead of thinking of a break up as the ultimate failure and an awful thing, we thought of them reframed in the ways Ive described above? A break up is a chapter closing. A painful, very sad, though crucial one. One that, if we allow it to, will pave the way and lead to things that are better for us.
And this refers to all manner of endings, from relational endings, to leaving a job, to moving to a new place, to pursuit of a particular passion. There is a time for beginnings, growth, and yes, conclusions and endings. A time for letting go and moving on. For wrapping up this particular phase and graduating on to the next one.
One separate though related point (and this one is connected with relational endings). Though our culture tells us this is how it "should be," it certainly isnt true that this is the case in all, and even the majority of circumstances. What I am referring to is when a romantic relationship ends, and how we handle that change in what the relationship looks like.
The vast majority of people have grown up to believe and hold strongly to (and I believe this is a direct result of cultural conditioning), "if someone is my ex, they need to be axed from my life. Thats it. I cannot see or be around them anymore if we are no longer lovers. So they are 100% gone from my life. Done. Nothing else is possible. Its too hard."
For some exes, I believe this is a necessary and good thing. Yes, there are many exes who cannot and should not be friends. Basically, if your ex treated you generally pretty crappy (lying, cheating, manipulation, using and taking advantage of you, etc), why is this a person with whom you would want to surround yourself? It shouldn't be. If your ex was of poor character and/or treated you badly, in that case, yes, ax contact with them. That would be the case of letting go and moving on to make room for something healthier and a better fit for you.
However. If you ex is someone with whom you generally had a great relationship, and whom you felt treated generally great by. If this is a person you like deeply in terms of their character, romantic relationship aside, all of this can be the makings and ingredients of what could grow into a rather beautiful friendship down the road. A person whom you loved, and they loved you. One of the people in your life who has probably known you quite emotionally deeply. Who has seen your greatest strengths and most challenging weaknesses and struggles. And someone with whom you greatly enjoy spending time.
I do not believe that is a person who, simply by means of no longer being romantic, needs to be or even should be axed from your life. This is still an ending. The romance is ending. The relationship though, can transition into something else.
Yes, on the initial breakup, it may take some time apart to heal. To get used to the idea of the romance having concluded and of this transitioning into something else. There may be moments when seeing one another again could be emotionally challenging. However, none of this challenge necessarily means it isnt worth it. Facing and then growing through these challenging moments and transitions could very well lead to, as I said, an incredibly beautiful connection with this particular person.
In terms of general endings though, back to that topic. There is a time in life, in fact many times, for endings. There are going to be many, many times throughout each of our lives that invite and entail necessary conclusions.
If we avoid these endings, ducking out of their way, sweeping them under the rug, and living in denial, we cannot possibly make way for the new that so needs to come in. Endings are crucial, as they make way for further growth. They make space for things that will be better matches for us going forward. Avoiding necessary endings keeps us stuck. It halts our possibilities in life, keeps us in situations and relationships that are no longer to our best advantage and growth potential.
Acknowledging, facing, and acting in accordance with necessary endings leads us to our most joy and growth inducing relationships, jobs, and life situations. We need endings. Breaking up and/or walking away from something is, at the times it becomes what is needed, an important, normal, and even good chapter ending.
I highly recommend the book Necessary Endings by Dr. Henry Cloud. I absolutely loved this book. While much of it is geared towards business, there is also much to be found within that applies to all of life. Relationships, jobs, life phases, etc. This books helps you identify when an ending might be necessary or not. Even further, it helps identify, can you reasonably have hope? Is there legitimate possibility for change in your particular situation? If yes, how might you prompt it? And if no, how to determine if an ending might be needed.
Also, if you are interested in reading a bit further on the topic, I wrote an article a few months ago titled "Necessary Leavings." Its similar to the topic of this entry, but more in depth and expanded.