Charlotte Friedman in her helpful and practical book “Breaking Upwards” points out that feelings at the end of a relationship are sometimes grieving for how you would have liked the relationship to be. “We could have lived our dream if only ..”
A lost wish is like the momentum of a giant ship; its takes time to turn around and face up to the storms of reality in a new and different life.
As Friedman says “We can’t simply turn hope off like a tap.” The hoped-for relationship is so deeply seated inside that we may trick ourselves about being re-united. “He will eventually see how shallow his new partner is.” “In the end she will remember the deep love we had and want to come back.”
We have unconscious strategies for psychologically staying in a nonexistent relationship:
- Denial: This is not happening, I will just carry on.
- Anger: While I remain obsessively focused and angry, at least something of the relationship stays in my life; I am not so abandoned.
- Imagined Bargaining: There must be something I could do or say that will get my partner back.
The relationship continues in these ways, but only in the head.
All these are underlying forms of grief. We are shocked and our unconscious takes care of us by excluding reality. We cannot let our partner depart from our psyche; it would be too much to bare, and overwhelm us. So it is useful to deny reality sometimes in order to temporarily care for ourselves.
It may take a year or more. It may be more painful if you are the one who was left. But if you are troubled and feel stuck in repeated cycles of denial, anger or imagined bargaining, try some therapy sessions. With a therapist you may be able to work through the rough seas of sadness, vulnerability and grief to find some joy again.
In fact, your relationship was not perfect, no relationship is. If you sail high above it and look down you may see the problems more objectively and from both sides. People who do this often see more clearly how they both contributed to those problems.
With thanks to:
Breaking Upwards by C Friedman,
Lost and Then Found by T Griffiths,
E Kubler Ross
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