By now, you’ve likely heard the term “conscious uncoupling” from famous celebrities like Gwen Paltrow and ex-husband Chris Martin. Maybe that term sounds a little too woo-woo for your liking, but the essence is that your relationship evolves into a new relationship post-divorce. (Gwen calls Chris her ‘brother’ now.) To put it simply, conscious uncoupling isn’t just two people ending a relationship, it’s a spiritual process.
As a breakup coach, I work with clients who have felt tremendous shame around wanting to end a relationship that, on the outside, seems pretty great; on the inside, one or more partners are filled with a cocktail of anxiety and fear. Throughout our work together, I discover a narrative that my clients bring with them, and it’s been a gift to hear their honest thoughts. This narrative is what holds them back from making a decision to end their relationships. A narrative that stops them from speaking their truth.
So what does this narrative look like?
“I’ll feel like a bad guy if I tell her how I’m feeling.”
“I won’t find love again.”
“If I end my relationship, I’ll just end up lonely.”
“If I tell him how I feel, he’ll be so crushed.”
This narrative that goes through our minds often paralyzes us from ending a relationship. Deep down, we are so aware that staying in the relationship will not bring us joy. With millions of years of insight, our brains are designed on human survival; it’s no surprise that the moment we want to end a relationship, those instincts kick in to tell us that what we are about to do is dangerous.
But what if there was a way to look at the breakup in a way that doesn’t just center around fear? What if there was a way to end a relationship in a conscious, intentional manner?
To be conscious and intentional, is to live in a way according to your values and beliefs, and to do things out of love (and not fear of loneliness, etc).
So with that in mind, here are my 4 key elements to a conscious breakup:
Letting them go because you love them. My clients tell me they’re terrified of letting their great partners go because they’re worried their partners will quickly find love after, or they themselves will not find love after. What they don’t know on the onset of our conversations is that they can let their partners go out of love for them. Breakups don’t happen because you stop loving or appreciating your partner; with a conscious breakup, you’re ending the relationship out of love for both yourself and your partner. You might feel fear around your partner finding a new love, but that’s ultimately what is best for them, isn’t it? A partner who can cherish them in a way they deserve? Holding onto the relationship in fear they’ll be happy with someone else is serving neither of you in the relationship. Fortunately, changing the narrative slightly can help ease the tension about making the decision to end the relationship.
Appreciating where you are today. Part of breaking up is about becoming so aware of where you are today; many couples stay together in hopes to rewrite the first year of their relationship, or they stay together in fear that the future will not be as good without them (even if it’s not all that good right now). With a conscious breakup, it’s important to recognize where your life is today, and what you want for your life today. Staying present in the process, instead of visiting the past or fearing the future, can help you make decisions that will support you and your feelings in this moment. It’s okay that when you first met years ago, you were in a completely different place emotionally, physically, spiritually, and intellectually. It’s okay that you’ve transitioned and transformed, and the relationship no longer suits your life and your needs today. Awareness of who and where you are right now is a big part of a conscious breakup as it helps you build an understanding of your needs in this chapter of your life.
Your relationship will evolve, not end. Many couples are terrified of ending a relationship because they think it will be a cut-and-dry process—that’s a choice that people make, but it doesn’t have to be the one you make. The truth is, relationships evolve, they don’t disappear or terminate. You will not only have great memories with your partner, but you will appreciate them in a new light that resonates with where you are today. For me personally, my past relationship has evolved tremendously with my ex, and we stay in touch and support each other at a distance as friends; being able to share our joy separately has been fulfilling and joyful for the both of us. A conscious breakup still requires that you still work through the traditional grieving process, but what comes after is an evolved, high vibration with your ex-partner and new friend (or family member). Bitterness and resentment are choices, not fate.
It’s okay to share difficult emotions with your partner. As young children, we are taught not to do or say certain things because it might hurt someone; then we grow up unconsciously and learn that when we say things that might channel sadness or anger in a partner, we learn to stay clear and avoid that at all costs. The truth is that we are never responsible for how people feel; our job is to fully express ourselves without judgment or blame, and what our partners hear is what they…hear. It sounds impossible, I realize. I’ve worked with clients who have spent years holding in their feelings in fear they will upset their partners. What’s more upsetting is how they think their only option is to hold in their feelings to make their partner’s “happy.” They don’t know that withholding their emotions from their partners affects both their overall levels of happiness. Showing up is part of this process, and it’s not easy. Conscious breakups involve a level of vulnerability that will set you free from the guilt that you’ve been experiencing in this process. Most of all, your partner deserves to hear your feelings. Don’t forget that.
Ending a relationship is a difficult decision; with the right mindset, you’re putting both your needs at the centre, and making space for your relationship to evolve into a beautiful one.
If you’ve been struggling to end your relationship and find yourself carrying, guilt, share, fear, or any other uncomfortable feeling, let’s connect for a 30-minute intro coaching session here.