Breakups Are Not Failures

May 23, 2017

Do you ever feel like you suck at relationships? 


I often hear people talk about "failed relationships".  Sometimes they use the word "failure," other times failure is implicit in how they talk about the relationships that didn't work out.  I have heard people talk about the feeling of being "broken" because they could not "make a relationship work."


I have felt like a failure after a break up.


"Again, Galen? I can't make anything work!  I am a total fucking loser."  My mind will use a variety of tactics to tell this story. 


My coach helped me work through some of this. Using Byron Katie's "the work" he asked me a few questions.


"Is that story true?" he asked.


"Yes."  I responded.  It felt true and I had all kinds of rationalizations.


"Can you absolutely know it's true?"  He continued.


"Well… I guess it's a matter of perspective."  I could feel my ego's hold loosening.


"How do you react, what happens when you believe the thought?" He asked.


Taking a breath and checking in with my body, I responded, "I feel like shit.  I feel ashamed." 


"Who would you be without the thought?" He continued.


With this last question, my mind began to race. I felt like it was a stupid question.  But I played along and tried to imagine what it would be like.  I felt my body relax as I pretended the story wasn't true.  The image of being a small boy, held in my mother's arms came to mind.   "I would be more compassionate with myself."  I responded.


My answer to the last question was the breakthrough for me. 


In order to be compassionate with myself, I have to tell a different story.  So I wrote a new story.  It's a true story.  I offer it here in hopes that it can help you be compassionate with yourself. Maybe you too can tell a better, more truthful story.


My break-up is not a failure.  I created the relationship that provided exactly what I needed to learn and grow at that time in my life.  It brought me the perfect amount of joy and suffering that I needed to walk my path of self-actualization. 


Did I have "failures" in the relationship?  Fuck yes.  I failed to speak my truth.  I failed to fully love my partner.  I failed to keep my cool.  I failed to communicate my boundaries clearly.  I failed to fully honor my partner's boundaries. I can see that now.  I can learn from these things.  I can do the shadow work to uncover my subconscious stories that sabotage my conscious intentions.


I look back on the relationship and I see a wealth of information that helps me understand myself better, helps me be the person that I want to be.


In this space, my perspective on my ex-partner changes.  Instead of someone who is "better" than me, or a perpetrator of injury, she is a powerful teacher who helped me see myself. 


My heart opens.  I am able to let go of my anger towards my ex.  I am able to be present with the love that will always exist for her.  I feel a rush of sadness, missing her.  I feel gratitude for having spent the time with her. 


Out of this gratitude I can appreciate the beautiful times we shared in a space of unattached appreciation.  I see how amazing and beautiful she is.  And the sadness comes back.  But the sadness is beautiful.  It's honest.  It exists in a space of compassion for both of us.  It's a sadness that honors the beauty of our shared intentions, our individual efforts, our vulnerable hopes and dreams.


I have had beautiful relationships end. I have cried uncontrollably. I have felt overcome with shame and sadness. But, an end is not a failure.  My pain is not a failure.  These are facts of life.  As I endure and learn I am given the opportunity to grow, and become the person that I want to become.


My breakups are not failures.  They are beautiful endings to life changing relationships. 


With this new story, I feel more alive.  I feel free to love again.


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