3 Ways to Treat Break-Ups As Acts of Love
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You’re in a relationship that you know is over. You know it needs to end. All the indicators are there, yet you’re still hanging on. You can give every reason under the sun for why you are still in it. Maybe you don’t want to be a quitter. Or you feel you owe it to your kids, your parents, or your God, to stay together. Or maybe you’re just having a head vs. heart fight and your heart is winning. Well, that’s an internal fight that it’s time your head wins, once and for all. No one expects you to enjoy break-ups. But to be Grown is to appreciate them for what they are–opportunities to learn and do better.
“Follow your heart,” they say. ”Trust your feelings. Let your heart be your guide. Love conquers all.” Isn’t that romantic? Well, maybe. But open your eyes and be honest: Unless applied with common sense and a standard of self-love, most romantic notions lead to foolery—people tolerating ridiculous levels of neglect, disrespect, abuse and mistreatment, all in futile pursuit of loving feelings that were likely about fleeting infatuation, if they were real at all. Too much of what we call “love” is anything but.
In the Grown Zone, we say: Time out for staying in relationships just because, and time in for making smart, healthy relationship decisions, based on truth and reality, not romantic fairy tales. We reject the assumption that love requires you to suffer, or to trade your brains in for a box of rocks. It’s time to approach new relationships with a cautious curiosity for the purpose of collecting information and learning each other, rather than filling voids and casting roles. It’s time to put self-love above any other desires, to place happy, healthy relationships above the goal of just securing a spouse or partner. It’s time to approach every relationship with realistic expectations, which means being at least as willing to end a relationship and move on, as you are eager to initiate one. And, of course, moving on is much easier if you remember the things you should never give premature access to for a relationship: your heart, money, home and your body. Break-ups can be hard, but they are not the end of your world (and if it is, a relationship is the last thing you need). Sure, break-ups can bring sadness, disappointment and even regret and bitterness. But if a relationship is unhealthy, it needs to end—period.
Grown people know that loving feelings do not justify turning off your brain. The fact that you feel love for someone does not necessarily mean that they are ready, willing and able—i.e. qualified—for a relationship with you (or vice versa). Being Grown also means that your love does not give you the power to make them so. In the Grown Zone, we measure the quality of a relationship not by “feelings,” which are often wrong and notoriously unreliable, but by outcomes. Either they are healthy for both parties—sexually, emotionally, physically and financially—or they’re not. Once relationship outcomes are deemed to be unhealthy, the relationship should immediately and permanently change, or it should end. That’s what break ups are for. Here’s how to enter, engage and end relationships in the Grown Zone:
1. Accept going in that a new relationship probably won’t last. Why? Because the evidence is slapping us all in the face: most romantic relationships, including half of marriages, end. Also, at least one partner in most relationships is dissatisfied. Instead of focusing on identifying or trying to create a lifelong relationship, it’s far more important to pursue healthy relationships—as defined by your own standard of self-love and good treatment. It’s also time we get smarter about what it takes to have healthy relationships, so that we can do a better job of recognizing healthy relationship prospects, and begin to have more successful relationship experiences, regardless of how long they last.
Finally, when they choose to end the relationship, Grown folks do so with minimal drama. Allowing break-ups to become adversarial—with a winner and a loser—or placing blame, is both counterproductive and unnecessary. Approach every possible romantic relationship with a “reason, season, lifetime mentality,” knowing that most of the people you meet will be for a reason, even fewer for a season, and less than you ever imagined, for a lifetime. Counting on every relationship candidate to be a permanent partner—or worse, treating them as such prematurely—is a recipe for disaster.
2. When a relationship does not meet your highest standards of healthy self-love, end it—swiftly, cleanly and permanently. Once you know it’s over, you owe it to yourself and the other person to make a quick and clean break. There’s no use in dragging out a relationship in hopes that one or both parties will change who they are, drop or begin new lifestyles, or “learn” to love each other. Grown folks know how valuable the time following a break-up is and they get on with it. They understand that there is no room for a healthy romantic relationship as long as an unhealthy one is filling the space.
3. Do not circle back. Repeatedly breaking up and making up is not evidence that you “belong together” (another destructive—and false—romantic notion), but graphic evidence that the relationship is unhealthy. The moment you feel like you can’t live without a person is when you least need to contact him or her. Healthy relationships are never “complicated,” and it can only be complicated if you’re not decisive. Grown people expect old feelings to resurface, but they recognize that is no excuse to surrender self-control and give into those urges. Grown folks know how to sever ties.
And Grown people don’t do break-up sex. That’s adult and messy behavior, not Grown and sexy. And if your ex circles back to you and you give in to the temptation to let him or her back in, you’ll interrupt the recovery process, making your inevitable break up even more complicated. You’ll only prolong your misery—as well as increase the potential for bitterness, resentment, drama and violence. You broke up for a reason—likely more than a few. Write them down and refer back to them if you need to, but do not allow revolving-door syndrome. It won’t end well! And whatevah you do, do not follow the foolish advice of many who say the best way to get over one is to get under another. The worst time to engage in PooNannie foolery (not that anytime is a good time) is when you’re emotionally exposed!
Like everything else, break-ups are purposeful. The time between them is for self-care, healing and strengthening the foundation of all relationships—the one we have with ourselves. This time is also meant to reflect on what went wrong and what went well. Relationships—family, business and platonic, as well as romantic—are meant to teach us more about ourselves and what’s good and healthy for us. It’s easy to point fingers at others for what goes wrong, but what’s more important than what happened in a relationship that ends is how you respond, and that you are learning more about you so that you can do better.
We invite you to Enter and Live In The Grown Zone.
For a FREE copy of, 9 Keys To Living In The Grown Zone, click here.
Zara Green and Alfred Edmond Jr. are co-principals of A2Z Personal Growth Enterprises, producer of The Grown Zone. Zara is a speaker/trainer & author. Alfred is an award-winning journalist and expert on business and personal finance. The couple, both “Do-Better Fanatics”, lead sessions on personal growth, self-love and resiliency, healthy relationships and “grown” decision-making at live events across the country.
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