How to Break Up Without Breaking Anything

“So when we found that we could not make sense

Well you said that we would still be friends

But I'll admit that I was glad that it was over

But you didn't have to cut me off

Make out like it never happened and that we were nothing"

              - Gotye

Do you folks remember that song? While not the most conscious in its use of blaming language, It was kind of brilliant, in that someone was finally using the institution of the break up song not to get the world on their side and in support of their victim story, but more to acknowledge the co-creative nature of fulfillment or lack there of in a relationship- that it’s a two way street, and there’s always another side to the story. 

We all kind of agree that breaking up in a text message is not cool, but we don’t see movies, TV shows, or classes helping people get on the same page about what constitutes respectful communication when close relating stops feeling good. Add to that equation legally binding contracts, shared bank accounts, or children, and we have created a recipe for feeling stuck in situations with others that feel both impossible to enjoy and impossible to change. 

I am a student of relationship and communication, with my personal relationships, private coaching sessions, and women’s circles being the various places where those lessons show up. What I am seeing is that we are actually doing an amazing job at structuring our lives in such a way that we are free to explore really deep connections with as many people as we please. This is such a huge accomplishment for womankind. We are shrugging off cultural programs and habitual ways of relating, more rapidly shedding identities we have outgrown, and having the courage to express our genuine desires. We are creating agreements with others that allow for the freedom to connect with whoever we connect with and go as deep as we want to go. Amazing- Good job us! We seem to be, as a group, generally speaking, quite good at getting into relationship. 

I am also seeing a lot of situations coming up where our communication has not quite caught up with the level of freedom that it is now possible to enjoy, and we find ourselves in really deep places after sharing psychic space or physical intimacy, without having had any conversations about our expectations or needs, without having made any agreements about our willingness or even ability to meet said needs. We are often not aware that we even have a need until someone doesn't meet it, and sadly often blame them for not delivering something that we ourselves did not know to ask for. We are, again, very generally speaking, not as good at negotiating getting our needs met within relationship, or moving out of relationship if it is determined that someone is unwilling or unable to meet our needs.  It seems the collective is desiring a shared language for how to moderate, steer, and navigate the waters of intimate connection, and also how to transition out of a relationship when the time comes to do so. I certainly am! Most of us don't live in a village and everyone ends up with a different rulebook, wondering how another could possibly behave as they have or how we could possibly be so misunderstood. It's because we are literally speaking different languages! I’m hearing that we would be more stoked about playing in the realms of the heart with more people if disentangling from a person felt as graceful and good as engaging with them in the first place, and I absolutely believe this is possible. 

There is increased cultural awareness about the idea of “the ceremony of everyday life” and we can look to ceremony for clues for how to do this. The ceremony could be amazingly revealing, powerful experience, but if you don’t do a closing prayer, those energies can play out in a really messy, chaotic way in your life. You call in support of the ancestors and ally’s in the beginning, and then you thank them at the end. What if every relationship ended with a genuine Thank You, and a listing of all you still love about the person and all you learned? It seems like it would go a long way to have a shared toolbox for saying “ Hey- something’s not feeling good to me- can we talk about it?” Or-  I honor and cherish the time that we have shared, and because of that, want to communicate that I’m feeling really called to explore other things right now. I love you. Thank you.” 

I love to play in the deep realms of interpersonal relationship, and so am out there asking for what I want (To play! To transgress norms! To dive in deep!) and getting yeses and no’s with great regularity. Yes, asking more people to play means hearing no more, and I have had some very confusing and painful experiences around this recently. I have also recently been on the receiving end of some extremely honoring and respectful declines of my company. This lead me to believe that there are a surprising number of human beings who have done the work to figure this navigation through communication thing out, and that some of you might be reading this right now and may even be willing to share your best practices so we can learn from each other. It’s simply too big of a subject for anyone to address for the collective, but I thought we might be able to come up with some good possible solutions as a collective…I think if we can take heartbreak, and break ups, and the whole language of breaking things out of the equation, we could dive into loving with our full enthusiasm and childlike, innocent love of adventure, trusting that we have the tools to navigate the terrain, and if it doesn’t end up “working out” (whatever that means to you), we could take pleasure in knowing that we tried- we explored, we danced together in these human forms for a moment or a decade. This has been my question, my intention for the past year and a half- “I don’t want to break anything” For me, what that looks like is thinking of a relationship in it’s current form and flavor as one of a million possible combinations of you + me. If it’s not feeling good, I like to have a conversation to see if communication can restore the enjoyment. ( Full disclosure- I need to have that conversation, and if it is denied, well, that's when things get weird/ sticky  with me) If less than awesome feelings persist,  then I like to have another conversation about shifting the direction. And maybe that new direction doesn’t feel good either. So we try something different. One reason why I think open relationships work so well (when done right) is that  you don't need to entirely cut someone out of your life just because they are not meeting all of your needs. You can have a vast, supportive web of relations that all look different and support you in different ways and different, self selected, clearly agreed to amounts. ( If you are also a geek for this kind of stuff, my friend Arden wrote a great blog post this week about the notion of care and support in relationships, that you may find especially interesting if you have attained awareness of that sneaky demon called co-dependance that tries to pass itself off as love, and causes us to try to get people to show up for us who are for whatever reason just not interested in doing that) 

I’m pretty into this experiment (that you don't have to break it), and so have quite a bit of willingness to try a lot of different configurations of boundaries, agreements, and ways of interacting before concluding that the best configuration is to love someone unconditionally but from a distance. I would love to hear all of your experiences with conscious, loving alternatives to what so many of us have experienced, or have participated in on our way to learning a better way. What’s your favorite way to let someone know that something’s not feeling good to you, that you have a need that’s not being met, a value that’s not being honored, to say you have changed your mind, are needing to change the way you are relating, or are wanting space to explore other things? OR what’s your favorite way that you have been told “No”, had someone end a relationship with you, your preferred way to be communicated with about a difference in values, or have someone end a friendship or love affair with you?