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You've Gotta Get Back in to Get Back Out: Leaving a Relationship Is Hard To Do
By Sharon Rivkin, www.sharonrivkin.com
One of the hardest tasks we face in a relationship is leaving. A more difficult undertaking is staying out. "Maybe it wasn't so bad," "Maybe I didn't try hard enough," "Maybe he/she could change after all," "Maybe I could put up with more than I thought, after all I do love him/her!"
When we leave our partner, we're relieved (at first, that is) because it's usually been a long time coming, and we're just glad it's over and done with. However, after some time passes, our doubts and loneliness creep in, and we start to think differently about the love we left behind. "After all, even though there were bad times, there were also good times." And "when we were together, it was - at one time - loving, comfortable, and warm."
But now that we're away from our partners, we often paint an unrealistic picture of how it used to be. Anything seems better than the scary, lonely, and helpless feelings that are often times experienced after a relationship ends. So back in we go to try again, usually against our better judgment and against the advice of our close friends. But take heart in knowing that each time we go back in and find ourselves in the same stuck place (which is usually inevitable), we have still learned something. Although this can be a painful realization, what we've experienced is more clarity about the relationship than we had before, and what we've learned is why it still doesn't work.
Each time we go back in and get back out, we are stronger in our conviction to leave once and for all. We've seen - one more time - the impossibility of the relationship and the necessity for it to end. Each time, the aftermath of doubt and fear can lessen by remembering the reality of why we're leaving and why the relationship doesn't work. It takes a long time to convince the heart and emotions that something really doesn't work, even though our head is telling us to leave and stay out. Repeated pain seems to get the message to our hearts that "I just can't do this anymore." It's when we slip into our fantasy about the relationship that we have our doubts. The more reality-based we are, the less we doubt our decision, and the stronger we get. We may need to go back in several times to hold onto the reality that it's over when we leave. One day it just happens that we're done.
Sometimes we leave the relationship when we're not really done, and not allowing ourselves to go back in makes us hold onto the partnership much longer. You can't will yourself to be done. It's a process and it takes as long as it's going to take.
There are no rules or time lines for ending a relationship. It is by staying with your truth that the end will naturally come, without force or will. So if you've gotta go back in to get back out, do it with consciousness and choice, and to become clear about your decision. When you know deep inside it is time to leave for good, you will.
Below are five things to remember about going back in to get back out:
- You are not stupid or crazy to go back in - just human.
- Don't be hard on yourself - that just weakens you.
- Go back in with consciousness, observing and learning again what doesn't work.
- There are no time lines about when you should be done
- Sometimes if you don't go back in, it can take even longer to really let go.
Please note that the opinions expressed in this article relate only to individuals in non-abusive relationships, and DO NOT apply to individuals in abusive relationships. I strongly advise that any individual, who is currently involved in an abusive relationship, or is contemplating leaving or returning to an abusive relationship, seek professional help immediately. Please check the internet to locate domestic violence services available to you in your community.
About the Author:
Sharon M. Rivkin, Marriage and Family Therapist, has worked with couples for 27 years. Her unique insight into the first argument was featured in O: The Oprah Magazine and Reader's Digest, and has attracted people throughout the United States and abroad for consultation, workshops, and courses. For more information on Sharon Rivkin or to contact her, visit www.sharonrivkin.com.