Breakups Are Not Failures
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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