Sometimes it’s time to move on from a romantic relationship, even when what you have is “good”.
Maybe you’re in a relationship that’s happy. In fact, it may be happier than most of the other relationships you see. You’ve surpassed the standards set by your family, culture and your community on what a good relationship is. You don’t fight, there’s no abuse and even the sex is good.
And yet, it’s still okay to feel complete.
Maybe you’d both be happier with different people, even if those people aren’t in the picture yet. Or maybe you’d both be happier being single.
While it’s undeniably hard to swallow, if we’re serious about happiness being the measure of a successful relationship, we must consider that a relationship may need to end, even if it’s not failing.
When Paula and I ended our relationship after four years, some people were curious what went wrong. They were surprised — because in their mind, our relationship wasn’t “bad” — which is what it would have needed to be for us to break up. Ultimately, I believe the reason we broke up wasn’t because our relationship wasn’t working, in fact it was exactly the opposite.
We broke up because our relationship worked.
We chose to honor each other instead of staying together for the sake of cultural expectations and for that reason, the relationship worked.
Is there also value in staying together and sticking it out? Absolutely. But I think we get enough of that message. Breaking up isn’t easy, so most of us would rather not do it unless we have to.
I’ll be honest here, there’s a part of me that doesn’t want to publish this piece, because I judge myself for writing “another article about how breaking up is okay”. Am I trying to justify my own feelings of guilt and projecting onto the world what I think it needs to hear? Probably. But I legitimately feel like we aren’t talking about this enough.
It’s now been a year and a few months since Paula and I broke up and I can say confidently that we’re both doing great. Not only that but there’s real love still present between us. Although a lot has changed, we haven’t become strangers, and I think a big part of that is the fact that we didn’t drag the relationship out too long.
When we continue relationships that have proved they aren’t a good idea we can’t help but resent each other, and by the time the break up finally happens (as it almost always does) we’ve turned our partner into our worst enemy, and we blame them for something that we were really responsible for ourselves.
When I talk about ending a good relationship, I’m also talking about the fact that when we allow relationships to go so long that they qualify as “bad” relationships, we’ve made a mistake. I could even go so far as to say that if we really understood the fact that it’s okay to end a good relationship, no relationship would ever get to the “bad” stage.
I’ll use another example from my dating life.
A year ago I met a woman in my community and we began dating. We had good sexual chemistry, and had a great mind connection (something that was important to both of us).
As we went on more dates and went deeper sexually, I realized it wasn’t a good fit. Although it was hard, I brought this up and we agreed that it would be best not to continue a romantic relationship. In doing so, we ended a “good” relationship, because at that point we hadn’t fought and we still enjoyed each other’s company.
Thanks to the fact that we stopped when we saw it wasn’t a good idea, we ended up becoming great friends, and I now consider her one of my closest friends. When I returned from my bike trip, I rode right to her house and she cooked me dinner to celebrate my return. Today we discussed the possibility of living in community together.
In ending a good relationship with her, I didn’t just avoid pain down the road, I gained a good friend. I believe this is what’s possible for everyone. We can hold all of our past lovers in our hearts, and as cheesy as this sounds — I believe that once someone lives in my heart, they always get a parking spot.
Maybe, just maybe — the purpose of ending a romantic relationship isn’t just about separating — it’s about choosing to do what it takes to continue loving each other.
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