Break-Up Goodbyes Don't Need To Be Nasty!!!

                                  Gregory Woodhill, MFT, CSAT

                                Gregory Woodhill, MFT, CSAT

       Many years ago, a thought popped into my head as I was going through a romantic breakup.

       I was just about to say goodbye to the woman who had suddenly become my “ex-girlfriend,” and the thought that popped into my head sounded something like this… “What if…instead of pretending that I don’t care and that I’m better off without her, I actually told her how much I’m going to miss her? What if I told her how much I love and appreciate her, and thanked her for all of the amazing times we had shared? What if I was loving instead of shut-down, cold, and passive-aggressive?”

                That conversation ended up being open, loving, and fantastic, and I’ve done it the same way ever since. We cried, we thanked each other, and we wished each other well, without resorting to trying to hurt the other person or “win” in any way. These types of loving goodbyes at the end of a romantic relationship can leave both people with much more love in their hearts and much less suffering. I call these “completion conversations.”

       There are, however, guidelines that must be followed…

1)      You are there to say GOODBYE to each other

       These loving goodbyes are not to be confused with trying to keep the relationship going! If you are having a completion conversation, understand that you have both already agreed that the relationship is ending. This doesn’t necessarily mean that you both WANT it to end, but rather that it is understood that the relationship is over. Regardless of whether you or the other person has decided to end the relationship, you can participate fully in a loving goodbye. If you’re the one who got “dumped,” use this time to officially say goodbye and walk away with your head held high.

2)      Share your gratitude

       Come up with a list of things that you are thankful for that the relationship provided. You can write this list out, or you can do it in your head. The point is that you are acknowledging WITHIN YOURSELF (and then to the other person) that some good things happened during the relationship, and the whole thing doesn’t need to be labeled a “failure,” just because it’s ending. Tell the other person what they brought into your life that you appreciate, and thank them for it. I’ve even shared some of my “favorite moments” of the relationship with the woman.

3)      Make the conversation time-limited

       Decide ahead of time how long you want the conversation to be, and hold yourself to that amount of time. An open-ended conversation has the potential to devolve into processing all of the things that you are unhappy about, or even into the conversation evolving into a sexual interaction for a “one-last-time” type of scenario (see Rule #1!!!).

4)      Share YOUR feelings openly and honestly, without going into blame

       It is perfectly reasonable to feel sad at the end of a relationship, and this is the main feeling that I recommend you share with your ex. I’ve been very honest with women that I’ve had these conversations with, and have told them: 1) that I will miss them, 2) that I am sad to be saying goodbye, 3) that it will be difficult not talking to them “tomorrow,” and 4) that I am grateful to them and that I wish them well. Then, I went to my friends and supporters to cry and express everything that I’m still angry about. This does not mean that you are supposed to pretend that you’re not upset!!! You don’t have to fake any of this. Rather, it means that you are relying on more suitable people to help you through any remaining anger/hurt/betrayal/confusion.

5)      If your relationship was abusive or ended it severe betrayal, DISREGARD THIS ENTIRE ARTICLE!!!

       Safety and self-care come first, and you cannot put yourself in a position where you are approaching someone who may abuse you physically or emotionally, or if you are so traumatized by the way a relationship ended that you can’t help but scream at the person. Take care of yourself up front and avoid the almost assuredly horrendous outcome of a conversation like this. Take your feelings to your friends, family, therapist, etc.

Breakups suck!!!

       Plain and simple, breakups hurt and they suck. But if you are able to bring forward the most loving and appreciative part of yourself as you say goodbye to your recent ex, you are actually taking care of YOURSELF more than anyone else, because you are walking away with dignity and an open heart. This will help you in your healing process, and allow your heart to be more open and loving in your next relationship. Having a completion conversation like the one outlined above is the best way to close the door on the past and open the door to whatever beautiful relationships await you in your future.

                I believe that the best thing to do after a break-up is to cut off all communication with the ex, at least for a while. I tell this to all of my clients, friends, myself, and anyone else that will listen to me. This communication cutoff (yes, this includes Facebook, Instagram, etc.!!!) gives your brain the opportunity to rewire itself around a new way of life that is not connected to the person who you are no longer dating.

                Give yourself the gift of saying a proper goodbye, and know that you have grown as a person and are taking care of yourself by opening your heart to your own inherent love and goodness. Then, look forward and know wholeheartedly that you are inviting in someone else who deserves an amazing catch like you!!!