the good news in a bad breakup …
i don’t mean this in the “every cloud has a silver lining” way.
a bad breakup leaves us in a really dark place. which feels bad. and wrong. and like we’ve done something wrong. but even so, inside all that intensity is some really good news.
about five years ago, i sat at a table with my then-partner, trying to make sense of a big relationship rupture. it was a really nice japanese restaurant and i was so upset and crying so hard i couldn’t even taste the five-star rated food.
then an odd thing happened. a moment of grace really.
i was simultaneously in my body and my experience as well as able to see the whole scene from outside my body and my experience.
the whole scene slowed down and i was able to watch my internal motivations and impulses, aware of what was going on inside me, in this moment of big distress, in a way i’d never been able to be aware of before.
i was upset, the feeling of fear of possible abandonment, of being found lacking in some serious and fundamental way and the terror of being left, suddenly, without being able to do anything about it. my heart rate was up, i was sweating a little bit, my breathing was shallow, my energy urgent and intensified.
i listened and felt into what my partner was saying, and then responded with some words i thought would work to calm him down, warm up the cold wall between us, make him less likely to be upset with me and perhaps leave me.
but my words didn’t work. they didn’t influence my partner at all. he was still upset and i could feel the cold wall, strong between us, immovable.
i tried different words. they didn’t work either. i tried again. but nothing worked. it usually worked! why wasn’t it working now?!?
from my out-of-body vantage point, i saw in a flash my whole remarkably dysfunctional strategy, as i tried and tried again, but failed.
my strategy was revealed to me to be something like this:
1. sense conflict, distress, distance, and coldness. danger, danger! go into “fix it” mode.
2. “fix it” mode: leave my body, my feelings and my needs, and go merge with the other person to sense their feelings and needs.
3. say things that will attend to their feelings and needs.
4. watch as the other person becomes less distressed, distant, and cold.
5. once they are “ok” breathe a sigh of relief and then let myself be “ok.”
6. “fix it” mode complete.
at this point, i’m wondering if you can relate, my fellow empath-merger types. 🙂
back at the restaurant table, it was actually good news for me that my “fix it” strategy didn’t work in this intense moment of relationship rupture. it was good news because i got to see it in action.
it was good news because i got to see how i literally abandoned myself and my feelings and my needs. i got to see how i gave away my sense of safety to someone else. i got to see how i had been sourcing my “ok-ness” by way of someone else’s “ok-ness.” i got to see how i disconnected from myself, in hopes to repairing the connection with someone else.
it is a work-around that has beautiful intentions: for repair and reconnection and warmth and ok-ness.
but it is a work-around that requires me to totally throw myself under the bus in the process. and also, the weird stuff i was doing probably landed in very weird ways on my partner.
that evening in the japanese restaurant i got my first peice of good news from that bad break-up: i got to see lucidly and clearly my life-long, work-around pattern of abandoning my own feelings to attend to someone else’s feelings, of trying to source my ok-ness based on someone else’s ok-ness.
i also go to see that the side-effects of my work-arounds and patterns were that i was self-abandoning, disappearing my needs, and collapsing into a small, mushy version of myself.
a break-up can put us in a really dark and intense place. and yet, there can be such good news in this:
we can begin to see the “reasons” for the break-up. by “reasons” i don’t mean whose fault it was. we mustn’t go down that path, it’s madness. by “reasons” i mean, we get to see the “patterns” that have been at play in the relationship.
seen from one perspective, the relationship tumbles down when our patterns and work-arounds that were holding it in place, no longer work for us. and when we no longer want the side-effects of our work-arounds and patterns.
it feels like shit for a relationship to tumble down. it’s a pain and disorientation like nothing else.
but the greater wisdom at work in that tumbling-down process is that there is a massive re-build possible, if only we can see our patterns that no longer work, and screw up our courage to let them go or upgrade them.
that evening at the table in the japanese restaurant was over five years ago. i have been through and emerged from a deep, dark night of the soul, in that time, in which i got to see clearly pattern after pattern after work-around after work-around of mine that no longer work. i now consider this very, very good news.
and still, if you are in this dark and confusing place in a relationship rupture or bad break-up, please feel my heart beating with you. even if it feels like the absolute opposite of good news, i hope you will feel me with you, giving your hand a warm, good squeeze.
come on down to the discussion and let me know if you can relate. see you there!