A few years ago my partner of almost two decades and I decided it was time to break-up.
But this wasn’t your normal break-up.
Nobody moved houses. No bank accounts were altered.
We kept sleeping in the same bed.
But we knew some type of break-up was necessary so we decided to engage in an energetic break-up, to break-up all the habitual habits in our relationships that weren’t working anymore but had hardened into normality over so many years of doing them continuously over and over again.
And it hasn’t been easy but what it has been is worth it.
So, here are some of the things I have learned not to be afraid of:
1. Don’t be afraid to fight.
There was a time at the beginning of the energetic break-up that my partner and I were scared to get into bed each night because we knew we were going to fight. But one night I finally saw the stupidity in this fear.
What I saw was that our fights were actually hugely productive.
At the end of our nightly argument I observed that we each understood much more about each other, had more knowledge about where old resentments had come from, were able to articulate why we acted the way we did and also had some ideas about how to move forward in the relationship with this new information. Yes, it was a little loud and sometimes there were tears. But we also seemed to be getting somewhere. I started to wonder if the fights were actually the solution and not the problem.
2. Don’t be afraid to ask more than once.
In the past I was often heartbroken at having made requests from my partner for things in our relationship that seemed to go unanswered. This was a great way for me to stack up my list of resentments and harden against my partner for all the perceived ways he had wronged me. But now I am seeing how ridiculous this is.
My partner has been clear that he is willing to work as a team in this relationship but that doesn’t mean he’s perfect. He has his own baggage plus his own busy life full of work and dad commitments and sometimes he needs to be asked many times.
And am I so fragile that I can’t have the strength to speak up for myself and use my communication skills to ask for what I want? Even if it takes many times?
Of course not. I’m stronger than that. So I’ve decided this is something I can offer the relationship, asking more than once. And I bet there are issues that I need multiple asks on, too. That’s just the way it goes.
3. Don’t be afraid to laugh at yourselves.
You know the best thing about our neurosis is that they’re funny. Seeing the humor in our relationship habits is probably the best habit we can foster. It can sure take the edge off when the going gets rough.
4. Don’t be afraid to have fun together.
There are many times that a lunch date with my partner can feel more like a business meeting. We share so many responsibilities I was starting to find I dreaded seeing him because then I would have to talk about all the things that were stressing me out.
It can be hard to like somebody when all we do are the stressful things together like paying bills or raising kids.
But we are with our partners in the first place because at one point we enjoyed their company, so much so that we built a life with them. So, go do those things that you like doing together and do them often. Firstly because life is worth enjoying and secondly because it will make the hard times easier if you have a recent memory of how much you like being together.
5. Don’t be afraid to change-up the sex habits.
The bedroom seems like one of the easiest places for things to get stale in a relationship but the research is clear that couples who have sex a couple times a week are happier together. We feel closer to each other when we have sex often and getting the happy hormones flowing is also a good thing.
The sex habit change-up needs you to engage all the lessons already learned here, fighting, asking more than once, laughing at ourselves and of course having fun.
Bonus! Don’t be afraid to be lonely:
Love elephant and want to go steady?
Editor: Renée Picard
Photo: Goingslo at Flickr