Breaking up is never easy. It can feel as though you’re being pummeled by a veritable onslaught of emotion, inconvenience and hurt. Whether it is a mutual resolution to go your separate ways or one of you was completely blindsided by the affliction, it’s difficult. Being on either side of the equation has its own challenges. If your partner was the one who ended things then you likely feel anger, resentment and embarrassment. All of this can feel like a personal attack on your ego which can result in reactive defense mechanisms, which are hardly productive. If you made the decision to leave on the other hand, you might feel some relief to get out of an unhappy situation, but there’s also the deep sadness and concern for the hurt you are inflicting on someone you have loved deeply.
Taking some time to center yourself and approach the situation mindfully can greatly improve your communication, understanding and compassion. Mindfulness simply means paying attention to what you feel, see, hear and think while putting aside any judgments such as good or bad. It is possible to remain friends after a breakup and following these few simple steps can mean the difference between an amicable resolution and your favorite vinyl’s being tossed out of the window in a flight of dismay.
Take the time necessary to manage your own emotions, feelings or any anger before attempting to hash things out. After the initial conversation has taken place about the need or desire to separate, go for a walk by yourself to allow the thoughts and feelings to surface. Observe all the thoughts and emotions without judgment or attachment. If you’re angry then take a moment to ask yourself what’s actually causing the anger. Is it really towards the other person, or is it a defense mechanism for the damage that has been inflicted onto your ego.
2. Don’t be the victim
Even if you were blindsided by the news of the breakup, it is still an enormous opportunity for personal growth. Tell yourself that things will be ok and that suffering goes hand in hand with loving. Don’t feel sorry for yourself. Be compassionate towards your partner because they are going through this separation as well and are likely experiencing very similar emotions. Be honest about how you’re feeling and avoid placing blame on yourself or your partner.
3. Change is inevitable
Acknowledge that everything in life has an expiration date, even life itself. There was never a guarantee that your paths would always stay in alignment. Work towards feeling grateful for the fact that they aligned at all. Remind yourself that people change, that you’ve changed and that change equals growth.
4. Remember the love
Continue to see the person with the same love and admiration that filled your eyes during the honeymoon stage of the relationship. This step is often the most difficult but is also the most important. Remember all the aspects of your partner that you were initially attracted to and allow that adoration to manifest in a compassionate softness.
5. Be respectful
If you are on the receiving end of the bad news then respect that your partner is about to make a change that is essential to their own personal development and growth, and respect them for following their path. Ask yourself if you would really want someone to stay with you even though they weren’t happy and are not following their dreams. Would that be fair to either of you? If you’ve made the decision to separate then respect your partner with your honesty and probity. Express yourself openly and honestly so that a clear understanding can exist.
6. Be grateful
Be grateful for the experience shared and the newfound opportunity for your own personal growth. Share your gratitude with your partner and acknowledge all that they have done for you. An intimate connection was shared with another person and that deserves recognition and gratitude.
7. Don’t get drunk
Despite the advice appointed by decades of country music, whiskey and sorrow are not helpful. It’s better to manage, acknowledge and accept your emotions than it is to heighten them. Instead of weeping along with a despondent jukebox go do something good for yourself. Make a smoothie. Take a yoga class. Remind yourself of how special you are by being mindful of your situation. The time to raise a glass is after the turbulent tides have subsided and you and your partner can uncork that good bottle you’ve been saving in celebration of the good times and a toast to your new paths of singledom.
Your experience is unique and these suggestions are simply intended to reduce the pain and ease the transition through your decoupling. They are not relevant for everyone or every situation, but they have worked well for me personally. Being mindful with our actions, intentions and behaviors is the catalyst to mutual understanding and self-realization. Applied to decoupling, mindfulness alone can forge an affinity for your partner that would otherwise be lost with the rising tide.
Ryan Jannenga is a yoga instructor, travel writer and boat captain currently based in Amsterdam. He has written for the Virgin Islands Daily News and maintains a travel blog called The Mindful Ride.
If you are looking to deepen your relationships and learn the basics of authentic communication (with yourself and others) take a look at this online course – Transformative Communication – an easy and life-enhancing approach for better relationships.