What stops us from breaking up in a civilized way?

Everything has a start, a course of action and an end. The way something ends it’s up to the course of action.

When talking about couple relationships, the way they end is a reflection of what happened between the two partners during the relationship. Couples that are based on the fear of being alone, dependency, self-renunciation, manipulation and emotional blackmail are always fighting and being at war and this drain the partners, make them sick and often make them feel despair. Because no matter how much they compromise, the joy of being together doesn’t arise. Because no matter how much they pressure their partner, they don’t feel loved.

Very few couples end up breaking up in a civilized manner, most of them ending in suffering, threats, manipulation and emotional blackmail. Why does this happen?

One of the main reasons is that we manage our relationships in a defective manner. We have expectations, claims, we want to change our partner, we believe we have control over their life, and that’s why we end the relationship quarreling and fighting. Sometimes we lose ourselves in a spiral of mutual revenge as on a battlefield. One of the two exhausts first their resources and no longer wants to continue the relationship that has become toxic for a long time now and wants to leave. But for the other one, because they gained so much hatred and resentment in the meantime, they invested a lot of energy in the quarrel-reconciliation cycle, separation would be a loss. An investment that can no longer be recovered.

So, in the face of an imminent separation, they don’t want to give up, so they use different methods to try to prevent that. They make various promises telling you that they will change. These promises come from fear or despair, but they are not authentic. Their purpose is to make you change your mind, to turn back, but they can’t be sustained in the long run, but until the person feels that the danger of separation has passed. Then the relationship returns to what it was before or becomes worse. Once a person sees that they have managed to make you change your mind, they’ll know they can manipulate and emotionally blackmail you, so they can control you.

They’ll use tears, victimization, requests and statements like "I’ll do anything, just give me another chance," "Now I know where I was wrong, I won’t do that again." In 99% of the cases these come from the fear of not losing some advantages. People say and do everything until they see they are safe again, that they have achieved what they wanted and then slip back into their usual way of being. Especially if the history repeats itself and you've already given "n" chances.

If these strategies don’t work, the person starts to threat: that they’ll take their life or they’ll not allow their partner to be with someone else. If we’re talking about a marriage, they’ll turn to lawyers to make sure they'll harm the former partner as much as possible.

"If you didn’t want to make me happy, if you didn’t want to obey me, I will not let you be or make someone else happy." It’s certainly a great deal of selfishness involved here, and surprisingly, although the abandoned partner didn’t feel good in the relationship, they don’t want to give them another chance and free them.

People don’t like to give up or lose even what they no longer use. They prefer to struggle than to go through a change that brings them something new in their life. Even if they suffer more than they are happy, they prefer to stay. Even if they feel that they are fighting the windmills, that whatever they do or say nothing changes, they prefer to stay. Even if they feed on illusions and deceive themselves, they prefer to stay. Even if the joy of living has disappeared, they prefer to stay. They continue a relationship just because it was beautiful sometime and, although it’s not anymore, they still hope to return to what it was before, even if they know it’s impossible.

Much unnecessary suffering would be avoided if during the relationship we didn’t feel entitled to behave in anyway with our partner, if we paid attention to the signals we received, if we learned to communicate and respect our partner. If we understood some elementary issues like:

- no one owes us anything;

- a person has the right to stay in a relationship as long as they feel good;

- if we always keep our autonomy and we don’t become dependent on someone, we can separate in a civilized way when the relationship has no reason to go on;

- it makes no sense to put a relationship above ourselves, especially when it means giving up our authenticity or making compromises and sacrifices.

Thus, if the relationship consumes its resources and one or both partners wish to end it, they will do it in a civilized manner.

Ursula Sandner


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