Our connection to another human being does not occur instantly; when a couple comes together, falls in love, and builds a life together, the threads of their individual lives intertwine and strengthen over time, gradually creating a rich tapestry that becomes their life together. When the relationship shows signs of weakness and begins to fall apart, it often happens incrementally and the weak spots may go unnoticed for many years. When the relationship finally unravels beyond repair, it makes sense that not all threads are broken simultaneously.
Sometimes the decision to end the relationship is ours and sometimes the other party makes it unilaterally. Regardless of how the relationship ends, we still need to learn how to move on. It is not unusual to have trouble unraveling this connection; if you didn’t want the relationship to end you may hope for reconciliation by hanging on to the strongest threads. If you made the choice to end it, you may stay connected through feelings of guilt. We hold on for many reasons; each person values some threads more than others and finds those the hardest to let go of. Fear, resentment, hope and an over-developed sense of responsibility are some of the reasons we get tangled up in those last few threads.
Just a few left over threads can keep you emotionally connected even after the break up. Staying tangled in the remnants of your relationship can diminish the possibility for personal growth and new relationships. It can result in your feeling rejected over and over. It can lead to bitterness that erodes all parts of your life and all other relationships.
Certainly, there is a grieving period; one of disconnecting and healing, but when we refuse to emotionally detach, then we have to look deep within and ask ourselves what keeps us hanging on.
Some women say things like, “I wouldn’t want that creep back.” They think that because they are angry, they are moving on. However, when you are constantly taking him back to court, or thinking about what he is doing or who he is with or plotting revenge, then you haven’t moved on. You are still tangled up in the rubble of your ended relationship.
Other women lament, “I am SO done with him, but I feel sorry for him. He still relies on me for the little things and even for some big things. I feel if I don’t intervene, his (adult) children would have no relationship with him. Or, “ I took care of the money for all these years. He still needs me to help him with his monthly bill paying.” Or “ I want to be his friend.”
The following questions will help you sort out if you remain tangled in those loose threads.
- Do you think about him every day?
- Do you spend a good deal of time reminiscing?
- Do you think a lot about what he is doing now?
- Do you imagine how your future could be with him?
- Do you ask friends about him?
- Do you pump your children for information?
- Does your stomach “flip flop” when you hear his name or see him?
- Do you feel revengeful toward him?
- Do you have conversations with him in your head?
- Do you worry about him?
- Do you defend him to your friends/children/family?
- Do you feel sorry for him?
- Do you drive past his house, call him, follow him?
Each of the above represents threads that connect you to your past. Breaking them will allow you to move on to the full life that awaits you, otherwise you can stay floundering and stuck for a long time.
What does moving on really look like? Recently, a woman, divorced for many years, reflected on her long term marriage and told me. “It took a long time for me to get beyond the hurt, rejection, and anger.” But now I can see him and feel nothing; it is as is he is a stranger. I am cordial but have no interest in him at all. I am amazed. I never thought I would feel this way”. Other women echo this sentiment. It is not anger, or pity, or sadness they feel, it is-for the most part- indifference. They may wish him well as they would any acquaintance; no more energy is expended. This is freedom from the tangle of threads.
If you find yourself having trouble moving on, then take a hard look at each of the questions. If there are areas where you are still holding on, then be conscious of working on those areas. Be gentle with yourself and seek support. Remember that breaking up is a process, and with time, insight and patience, you can move forward unencumbered by those sticky threads of the past.