When we end our relationships badly, we get stuck in a continuous rebound relationship cycle.
Tragically, the most common and destructive bad endings that plague millions of relationships is when we use infidelity as an exit strategy. Some sex therapists would argue that most affairs, especially when they occur in succession are nothing more than the continuous cycle of ineffective rebounding that takes over one’s relationship history. Certainly repeat marriage statistics bear this out. As dismal as our 50% fail rate is on first marriage, success rates for second marriage drops to 25% and the third relationships only have a success rate of 10%. Failure rates in successive relationships out of marriage are no better. When we don’t authentically and definitively end our relationships, we carry what remains unresolved into everything that follows.
Ending relationships is a hard and painful business for both partners. Things happen and sometimes, as life and feelings change, our ability and willingness to maintain our commitments also changes. However, these painful transitions can become lasting injuries on our long-term capacity for relationships when we are unwilling to take responsibility for these endings. When we don’t have the courage to communicate fully with our partner about what is not working for us, or when we refuse to show up authentically when we want out, infidelity opportunities arise. “It just happened” is what many people say about their affairs, yet clearly the opportunity of attraction grew in the fertile ground of leaving the intimacy of your previous relationship without really leaving it.
Another extremely popular and highly damaging bad ending is the digital dumping of relationships, which turns a painful conclusion into a bitter and unfinished burden. Ending real intimacy that you shared with someone with a brief email or worse still, a two line text message, is the perfect breeding ground for growing distrust of others and a continuous rumination over what is wrong with you. This kind of ending leaves people unable to connect deeply with others for years, caught in trying to piece together what happened without sufficient information. It isn’t just the person who is dumped who suffers from this kind of break up either. Not having the guts to look someone you cared for in the eye when you walk away creates an open wound in your life. It does not improve your chances for intimacy with another partner when you can’t honor who you are leaving.
Many relationship endings remain incomplete and become increasingly toxic because people refuse to make a clean break. Instead of moving on, the shifting of what was an exclusive intimate relationship into friends-with-benefits arrangement generally only serves to cheapen the original connection and leaves people feeling used. Many people go on for months or even years of being caught in a relationship that makes them feel bad about themselves and hateful about their partner.
The most tragic residue of all of these dishonorable endings is that it leaves both partners broken and unable to celebrate the growth and intimacy that they shared. When relationship history is plagued with only bitter memories, there are no grounds for moving forward. Truly our present moment grows from the integrity of our past, and nowhere more so than within our hearts. End the rebound cycle by living fully through the endings; this is where a new beginning takes shape.
Image: Mark Ingle/Flickr