Why do we cling so desperately to a relationship that’s died? Because we’ve been told it’s the right choice to make.
Leaving a dead relationship takes courage. Staying in a dead relationship takes self-sacrifice. We agonize over this decision; worrying about our future and the repercussions for those we love. Adding to our emotional struggle is the premium our culture places on sustaining a relationship. The underlying message insists that suffering is better than leaving, which makes the correct choice even harder.
I marvel at how our society values the length of a relationship over the quality of its content. Longevity rarely justifies a relationship’s worth when both parties have lost the ability to enjoy being together. It seems an odd choice to remain tethered to a partnership that’s dead just to get the badge of social approval.
Intuitively, we know that relationship longevity isn’t the real measure of a partnership’s value. Yet many couples still limp toward the finish line of “till death do us part.” Reasons cited for the bleak continuance often include financial compromise, social backlash, or being of an age “too cumbersome” to change partners.
If longevity is the criteria by which we hold a relationship in esteem, what happens when a long-standing relationship ends? Does all the value it was formerly given become negated upon its termination? Evidentially so… as uttered by countless individuals I know who proclaim, “I don’t want to throw away 20 years of a marriage.”
This statement is a double bind. The longevity that was seen as its merit now has no merit if it ends. The idea that an ending is to “throw away” what existed is a warped form of analysis. Within this mental construct, no praise is given in either case. It’s a lose/lose scenario.
Whether a relationship lasted one year or 20, the point is to have been committed to what existed in that time and space. The value of an authentic relationship lies in having allowed love to enter our hearts and to have formed a bond with our beloved.
If an honest attempt at partnership was made and the love shared ran its course, it did what it was meant to do. The relationship fulfilled its purpose. No matter how brief or lengthy, that relationship warrants validation. Two people took a shot at love and what they created should be honored in its death as well as birth.
There are times when a couple cannot move forward, together. They’ve changed. The growth needed for a connection cannot be met via the current partner. Choices were made that resulted in actions that cannot be reversed. There is a disconnect. No amount of will power can alter the fact that one or both partners cannot find their way back to love.
It’s hard enough to end a union. The pain and upheaval are tremendous. New pathways must be created within ourselves to replace the foundational grounding of a connection that’s been broken. To add the insult of invalidation to an emotional injury is something not to be wished upon anyone.
If this is your current journey, here are steps to guide you through the transition of your relationship’s death to your own rebirth:
• Ignore the societal messages you’ve absorbed and remember the truth as you know it to be. You tried. You loved. The relationship fulfilled its purpose.
• Allow what you had to remain beautiful in its own right. Don’t accept the myth that an ending negates the validity of what you once had.
• See the big picture. Widen the lens of your mental camera to include the broader perspective. Capture the entire scene (the good that existed besides the bad) when remembering all that occurred.
• Honor the authenticity of what was shared. It will enable you to embrace your past in preparation for a better future.
Every living thing has a life cycle, including love. This is a natural law. You’re not faulty or defective. You haven’t failed. Relationships are born. Relationships end. To negate love’s value due to an ending is to see only a small slice of the grand design and to ignore the circle of life. To see our past love’s worth is the action that starts the cycle of new love, again.