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Relationship breakups and endings of any kind can be daunting and painful, but they also provide an opportunity to create an even greater future
With every change comes new and greater possibility. So why do we perceive endings — particularly relationship endings — as traumatic?
Breakups and divorce are often experienced as lengthy and emotionally difficult experiences, even when you know you are ending a dysfunctional or unhealthy situation. But what would it be like to truly embrace the gifts that endings bring? Finding both ease and peace in the dissolution of a relationship or marriage is possible. It’s not always going to be easy, but there are important things you can do to not lose yourself along the way:
4 Mindful Practices to Help You Navigate Breakups
1. Keep your attention on the future, not the past
The ultimate way to bounce back and move forward is to keep your attention on the future, rather than getting fixated on the past. Whether you are going through divorce proceedings or the logistical elements of a breakup, focus on what is your target and agenda? If your goal is to get revenge by blaming or hurting your ex-partner, you’ll keep re-hashing the negative stories and beliefs about your relationship. Clinging to the past will distract you from looking at the choices you can make that will create greater opportunities for you and your future.
In every conversation and negotiation with your ex-partner, focus on being present. A simple way to do this is to lower your barriers. Imagine all the expectations, judgments and attitudes you have about your past relationship as an invisible wall that you can push down until they dissolve into the floor. When you have no defences or resistance to offer, the other party can no longer feed off of it or fight against it.
2. Let it come, let it go
Holding onto emotions, especially anger or rage, is toxic. Mentally, it blinds you to other options and possibilities that would be more nurturing for you. Physically, it can create extreme stress in your body.
There is no right or wrong way to feel or be. Although it’s totally okay to have any and every emotion come up, you don’t want to let them take over or get lost in them to the point where you lose sight of yourself and your ability to choose happiness. Instead, when strong emotions come up, acknowledge them. Don’t judge them as right or wrong. Allow yourself to fully indulge in them, and — this may sound weird — enjoy them! Really go for it. Do your best Academy Award-winning performance and don’t hold back. Then, ask yourself:
Do I want to keep doing this for another minute, or choose something else?
There is a false belief that we don’t have choice with our emotions; they just happen and we have to either resist, supress, or be stuck with them. But the truth is that you always have total freedom to choose how you handle them. When you realize that, you can allow strong emotions to come up, indulge in them, then let them go and get on with your life. Doing so allows you to be the one with the power, not your emotions.
3. Eliminate expectations, good or bad
Any assumption or expectation you have about yourself, the other person, or how everything should go only creates opportunities for disappointment and judgment. If you decided to have a ‘nice’ divorce and then it doesn’t go as you pictured, or you get upset for losing your cool because you promised yourself you wouldn’t get upset, you are experiencing what can happen when you have unmet expectations.
Rather than build expectations of right and wrong, good and bad, must and must nots, realize that everything is just a reflection of a point of view. You have yours; they have theirs. When you recognize every point of view is interesting (and potentially valid), arguments get dispelled and a more conducive environment is created. If you want to take the emotional charge out of a situation, start by saying: “That’s an interesting point of view.”
4. Be aware of who and what you listen to, and what you say
Everybody has their opinion on a marriage or relationship breakup. Even the people ‘on your side’ who desire to have your best interests at heart have their own agenda and perspective based on their own beliefs and experiences that won’t necessarily be relevant to you. If you allow yourself to be influenced by them, they could end up enflaming conflict and creating more confusion. Even when dealing with expert advice, don’t assume it is correct for you. Instead, ask yourself:
What feels right to me? What is true for me that would create what I truly desire here?
Be willing to know when to speak up and when to shut up. Well placed silence is not about torturing the other person; it’s about looking at what will create the greatest benefit for now. When it comes to talking things through with your ex-partner, saying everything in your mind or what you believe they need to hear can actually have a less positive effect than being silent at the right time.
Start by asking, What can my ex hear right now?
Being silent may create a greater opportunity for your ex-partner to reflect on his/her choices and behaviours. It can also give you time to stop knee-jerk reactions so you can more thoughtfully consider how you can better deal with a certain issue or conversation. Keep looking forward, knowing that you, as the leader of your life, can choose to create happier endings, and even greater beginnings.
About Laleh Alemzadeh-Hancock
Laleh Alemzadeh-Hancock is a leadership and entrepreneurial coach, professional services consultant, personal wellness mentor, and founder and CEO of global professional services company, Belapemo. Laleh boasts 30 years’ experience in operational excellence, change management and business consulting. A highly respected executive and leadership coach, Laleh has a particular interest in supporting the leadership capabilities of women – in business, in the workplace, at home and in the wider community. She is featured in the 2019 publication, America’s Leading Ladies: Stories of courage, challenge and triumph. Follow Laleh.