What if you threw out your current rulebook regarding breakups?
What would you be free to discover? What new inspirations would have space to come into your conscious awareness?
There is always an opportunity to see something you couldn't before. About yourself. About being human in general. An opportunity to rediscover that innately healthy and wise part of you that was buried so long ago in childhood…even after a breakup.
Let's explore the possibility for elevating your relationship with your ex.
To be clear: when I talk about elevating your relationship with your ex, I don't necessarily mean you have to be in contact with him or her again. I am talking about the potential you have to experience more grace and ease around your history and current reality with this person. I am essentially talking about the possibility to experience a new level of consciousness, i.e. a broader perspective, when it comes to your ex.
Why is this important? The way you think about your ex has a direct effect on your emotional wellbeing and even your physical health and longevity (1).
Here are two actions you can take that promote an elevated experience of your ex.
1. Experiencing Common Sense Forgiveness.
Forgiveness receives a lot of attention especially in spiritual or therapeutic circles. You don't have to look far to find articles that proclaim “we must forgive others in order to be forgiven for our sins.” For me, this is a fear-based exploration of forgiveness to which this article will not dive into.
What I will begin to explore is the deeper level of emotional freedom that goes beyond the act of forgiving others in order to succumb to societal or spiritual pressure to be a good person. I am most interested about you exploring for yourself the powerful effect that holding on to resentment and disappointment has on you in real-time.
I once heard someone say that resentment is like drinking poison and expecting your enemy to die.
Pause for a moment. Re-read that sentence. Can you soak in the truth of that statement?
Whether we are aware of it or not, resentment has an intense and very real effect on human beings (2).
An antidote to resentment is forgiveness. And even though it seems like a complicated thing to do, there are actually very few things that get in the way of forgiveness. One is by reliving the past and holding a grudge about it.
When a person holds a grudge about some past action, who is really suffering here?
The past doesn't exist anymore. It has already happened. I am not saying that makes what someone did ok. Far from it. People do horrific things to one another. However, it is the carrying of these hurtful memories through time that is the cause of the hurt today, in the here-and-now. Period.
This is because you can only experience the past through thought. The other person probably isn't even around when you are getting yourself worked up about how he or she wronged you.
Often, I hear people say he or she doesn't want to forgive because he or she doesn't want to forget. He or she feels like by forgiving, it will somehow make a statement that what the other person did was ok. These two things are not actually related.
Furthermore, it may seem like giving those memories importance and attention makes you feel better by giving you an ego boost or sense of righteousness, but what this is really doing is just keeping bad feelings alive.
Forgiveness does not make you a pushover. You don't even have to call it forgiveness. Just do whatever best facilitates you moving on and healing. Remember, forgiveness is something you do for yourself. You don't even have to tell anyone that you have forgiven your ex.
- Ok. I get what you are saying and why forgiveness is important, but I just can't bring myself to do it. Is there anything I can do?
- One truth to investigate for yourself that supports forgiveness is that of separate realities.
Dr. John Gray may have been onto something when he said Men Are from Mars, Women are From Venus…with one major detail being left out…
There are not only two “planets” people are living from. Every single person. All 7.4 billion human beings essentially live in their own realities…their own “planets.” Stay with me here.
From the moment we were all born, our brains started creating neural pathways (and after a couple years started pruning back those pathways) based on our usually subconscious interpretation of events in our lives (2). Thus, we have each created our own unique filters through which to experience life.
As Dr. Schaub, author of The Fear and Anxiety Solution: A Breakthrough Process for Healing and Empowerment with Your Subconscious Mind says:
“Subconscious filters consist of memories, emotions, inner conflicts, and beliefs. They delete, distort, and generalize information that passes through them and leave us with a condensed and altered version of all that surrounds us — an internal interpretation of reality. Since most people are not consciously aware of their subconscious filters, they’re also unaware that their view of the world is basically just ‘made up.' “
So, you could have 50 people in a traffic jam for instance. And there would be 50 different, unique experiences going on.
Sure, 10 people may appear what we call angry, but their experience of anger will be completely different. Their reasons for feeling angry during a traffic jam will be different.
And most important of all, the behaviors people will take to show their anger and frustration will differ greatly. One person will start flipping off other people. Another person will beep her horn. Another will do a meditation or breathing exercise to calm down. Another will start shouting at her children. See what I mean?
This points to a simple truth about being human. Human beings can only take action based on the (aware or unaware) thinking he or she has in that moment.
You've had the experience of getting into an argument before and saying something you can't believe you said right? Something so horrible, you wouldn't otherwise have said and only wish you could take it back? This is a perfect example of how the quality of thinking you had in that moment informed the action you took and the words you spoke.
How does this relate to your ex you ask?
Because no matter how many similar values you feel you once had with your ex, you two were always living in separate realities. Said another way, the way either of you think about and therefore respond to events that happen in the world can never be exactly the same. It never has been. And never can be.
When any person sees the logic and truth of separate realities, he or she becomes aware of the ignorance and dare I say…innocence in the actions of the ex. Again, this doesn't make the behavior acceptable, but when there is a separation between the person and the behavior, forgiveness becomes a natural process based on common sense.
From this place, you can release blame of your ex and of yourself in order to gain more freedom to move forward in a healthy, uplifting way.
[Mindful Moment] When you start to feel caught up, reflect on what state-of-mind your actions are coming from? Are they coming from a place of inspired thought or are they coming from insecurity, reactivity, hurt, or a need to be right?
2. Choose The Right Boundaries For You.
I mentioned in the beginning of this article that I am not suggesting that you have to re-establish contact with your ex, but on the same hand, there is no rule saying you can't.
With that, feel free to experiment with the different advices, teaching modalities, or strategies. Just realize that there is no hard-and-fast universal rule for healing or elevating your relationship with your ex (not even this article).
This is an area many experts and therapists draw a hard line on. Usually, they suggest that you cut off all contact with your ex. I see it differently. You are the best creator of your plan of action. Plus, people generally learn best from acting on their own self-generated ideas and “making their own mistakes.”
Here is an example from my own life. I went through a horrible break-up at age 21. I remember that initially, I indulged in the pain. I would check his Facebook. I would purposely listen to songs that reminded me of him. I would try to catch him in the dorm hallways. I also listened to a lot of Amy Winehouse's melancholic album Back to Black.
There was nothing wrong with this. This was a process of grieving for me. And the process of “getting over him” lasted a good four years. But I learned.
When I experienced another break-up years later, I did not take the same actions. I knew that taking those actions again would not be helpful for me personally…that they would only make me feel bad or confused. And at the end of the day, I saw that they didn't really solve or change anything anyways.
In that first break-up, I was desperately hoping I could somehow change the outcome. I was grappling with my own unmet expectations.
Unmet expectations are a catalyst for suffering for so many people. And indulging in them has a tendency to give us tunnel vision…influencing or even inhibiting our ability to set clear and appropriate boundaries for our unique situation. This theme shows up as the constant mental replaying of “what could have been.” Similar to holding on to painful memories from the past, holding on to a shattered dream or expectation only serves to create one thing: the prolongation of pain.
Now of course, you are not a robot. Neither am I. It is normal and healthy to experience a range of thoughts and emotions as previously stated. Yet, at some point, almost everyone I speak with reaches a point where he or she becomes aware that this way of grieving no longer serves him or her and new inspiration emerges.
Here are some books to explore that support the theme of elevating your relationship with your ex. Dare I say, try to have fun with this. If something doesn't resonate, you can always take action on a different inspired idea.
- Return to Love by Marianne Williamson
- The Relationship Handbook by Dr. George Pranksy
- Conscious Uncoupling by Katherine Woodward Thomas
- Coming Home by Dr. Dicken Bettinger
(Read this next: How to Create an Uplifting Family Environment)