Ever looked at your EX and wondered .. “Was I drunk the entire relationship?”
I have, and yes I was. Drunk and/or off my trolley on drugs throughout many of my past relationships. I look back at photos of those chapters in my life and wonder who that woman was. She was me. Heartless in some situations. Not at home emotionally with myself, so no wonder I couldn’t make my home life work with anyone else.
So when it comes to EXs can we be friends afterwards?
In my experience when clients ask me this first suggested starting point with this next phase of their life is that …
“You need to break up first in order to shut down loversville status and reboot a friendship status”
Sometimes they protest and reassure me that they have broken up. Weeks ago. But they still speak to each other daily on the phone or have a shag for old time’s sake from time if they are lonely or pissed. Oh, and they text each other a few times a day just to check in to see how the other is doing.
Ah, that’s not a break-up in my view. They have physically separated sure, but not emotionally broken up yet.
I know the television series Sex In The City is not high on everyone’s list of an accurate portrayal of relationships and life. However, I do often draw as a writer and Emotional Fitness personal trainer on stories, movies, television characters, fables as well as psychological fact. All are important in helping us understand our emotional options and possible paths to choose or avoid.
When a relationship ends, sometimes it is completely over. Forever. Sometimes it is not, it is just that the model of the relationship needs to be shut down so a renovation can occur. Sometimes couples separate so they can put some space between them, step back, untangle themselves and then later reunite.
So may I offer some tips that might be helpful to help establish boundaries between breakups where lovers officially become THE EX. Because they are different from separations where lovers are undergoing repairs and place their relationship in a renovation mode, remaining willingly in “the transit lounge” for a while.
Some might remember the episode in the old television series Friends when characters Ross and Rachel parted ways. Ross thought of it as a break-up. Rachel saw it as only a separation to undergo some emotional renovations. They were unclear with each other on what they both needed to respect each other moving forward. So consequently, Ross slept with someone else. Rachel found out and became furious.
Ross’s justification was ..
“But we were on a break!”
In Rachel’s heart she had not emotionally broken up with him, just geographically separated. These two had not clarified boundaries. They had physically separated as lovers, but not emotionally.
In order to officially break up it is suggested that a minimum of 12 weeks (a season) needs to pass without any contact. No texting, no speaking, no contact at all. This completely shuts down the old model of relationship that caused the upset. I have written in the pages of this quartet of books about the healing magic time of a full season of life (90 days or 12 weeks). Us humans are programmed to psychologically welcome change year in year out, each season, as our brain prepares for the next chapter of weather. If we give ourselves a proper break, the full season to reconnect with our truth, and ourselves, clarity will replace any confusion we had about our feelings on the relationship. Ninety days or 12 weeks gives us time and breathing space to emotionally calm down and change gears.
If couples are in doubt of the relationship future, not sure if they are ready to end it for good, a separation can be a helpful and healthy move. To physically separate but emotionally commit to working on change with a therapist, healer or trusted professional (not a friend or family member as this is a conflict of interest) time out can be a viable, healthy option. When we renovate a house the job can often be done quicker if we move out entirely rather than trying to live in a corner without plumbing and electricity. The same goes for relationship renovations. If the spark has gone in our relationship it might be time to move out and call in a specialist (an emotional electrician) who can help turn our heart’s lights back on.
In the television series Sex And The City lovers Miranda and Steve are going through problems so their therapist suggests they officially break up. They remain out of contact for a substantial period of time and then make a date in the future to meet on the Brooklyn Bridge. The deal they decide on is that if they want to reboot a new chapter of their relationship as either friends or reconnect again as lovers after time apart they meet on the Bridge on the designated date. If the other party does not show, they take that as a clear message it’s over. For ever. If they do show up they must agree to not drag up the past, and start a new page leaving all resentments in the past.
When I walked the Brooklyn Bridge on our last trip to NYC with my hubby Mr Delicious we stopped and had a kiss (corny I know) on that Bridge. As uncool as I am, the writer in me appreciated this bridge as a visual metaphor in that episode, as it was a powerful and useful message for my work and me.
Ironically as I was typing this piece just now, my ex-husband phoned me to tell me he was unwell and unable to attend a family dinner. Family gatherings these days often include my two sons, their dad and their stepdad (Mr Delicious) and are happy times for us all. I noticed my compassion swell as I heard the father of my children’s voice sound frail. This man has always been a fit and impressive character and a beautiful father to my sons, now men.
We broke up when they were just seven and nine years old. I initiated our break-up in 1995, but when children are involved there has to be some form of EX-lovers contact, so that is a completely new challenge. But we did well. We never ended up in court; we both cleaned up our own side of the street and made our peace with each other. We had spent 14 years together and created two amazing sons, that relationship was no mistake; it was a gift and a blessing for me at least, without a doubt.
So I would like to offer you the perspective that all of THE EXS in our lives can be seen as gifts, if we’re willing to shift our perspective. Yes there was pain and it is said that pain is the gift that nobody wants, however, we all want to birth the best versions of ourselves as the years pass. Births are messy and painful and sometimes THE EX is the perfect person who was the motivator for great changes that would never have occurred unless they crossed our paths.
Pain does take time to heal, so if the thought of THE EX still brings up anger, sadness and grief your heart is still healing. If you are still in the first 18 months of the break-up very few of us are through processing all of our anger and sadness in the first 18 months. However, if you are now past the two-year mark and still in a great deal of pain with THE EX you may need an emotional electrician to help turn on your heart’s fairy lights so you can get back to the delight of believing in love and life again. Can I suggest kindness and patience as the best cure? Clear boundaries around break-ups, and separations are vital. If you have children, ensuring that the only dialogue entered into after the break-up is about what is best for the children with respect for all parties is the healthiest approach.
If we have toxic anger and our heart is still weeping in pain we deserve support. Therapists and healers are emotional midwifes there to help us birth the best versions of ourselves we are able.
We cannot start the next wonderful chapter of our lives if we keep re-reading the old ones. May the chapters you are yet to write be your best!
Lotsa love Cynthia xxx
© Copyright 2016 Cynthia J. Morton Emotional Fitness™