Is it time to end your relationship?

Not all break-ups are sad events, says Dorothy Black. Sometimes we need to see them as the opportunity for a new beginning.

I always thought of break-ups as sad events that leave everyone in pain or denial or both. Luckily, life lets you learn through other people’s experiences.

Over the past three years, six of my mates have ended their long-term relationships. Some were married, some were co-habiting, some were muddling along trying to find reasons to stay together. But when they closed the book on their togetherness foreverness, they all had one big thing in common: they weren’t grief-stricken by it.

While some shed a tear for the passing of the relationship that used to be, ‘broken’ wasn’t how they felt about their break-up. ‘Relieved’, ‘free’, ‘honest’, ‘curious’, ‘calm’ and ‘excited’ seemed the more appropriate feelings words.

An unhealthy relationship is a bad thing that needs to come to an end.

And they were all very confused about how to deal with this, since feeling good about their decision also made them feel guilty about it.

Because this isn’t how a broken-up or divorced woman is supposed to look or feel. Society’s script for a relationship that ends involves you crying into your ice cream while watching ‘Me Before You’ or some other such emo snot-fest.

In fact, you’re expected to be ‘working through the pain’ for quite a long time.

I’ve always followed this ‘big emo breakdown’ script. Probably because I bail on a sinking ship very quickly, which leaves a lot of ‘what ifs’ to sob regretfully over. And there’s nothing wrong with this.

But it does mean that while I was thrashing around in despair, I wasn’t able to see that while all good things come to an end, so do all bad things. And an unhealthy relationship is a bad thing that needs to come to an end.

My mates had a lot of time to figure this out before they dropped the curtain on their particular relationship performance.

After years of being in unsatisfying relationships with partners who felt more like siblings, friends or children, they knew it was over long before they broke it off, and had checked out years before they’d packed their bags to leave.

In the space between those two points, they’d worked through the bulk of their sadness and regret.

Cool for them; not so awesome a reality check for the other.

What if we could shift the script to one where we can accept that relationships sometimes come to an end, and it’s not the end of the world?

Wouldn’t it be great if we didn’t need to sacrifice years while we try to muster the courage to say ‘it’s over’? Or if we didn’t feel the need to rage and cling, trying to glue together the pieces of a shattered connection instead of sweeping it away and starting again?

What if we could shift the script to one where we can accept that relationships sometimes come to an end, and it’s not the end of the world?

After all, if we free each other up from a relationship that isn’t working, we free ourselves to find the love that will work for us.

If it’s time to make that call, make it for the new beginnings that wait for you. Don’t delay it for a past that no longer serves you.

This column was first published on W24.co.za…