Healthy Breakups are Possible

Healthy Breakups are Possible

By Dr. Elizabeth Fedrick, PhD, LPC

“Evaluating the benefits and drawbacks of any relationship is your responsibility. You do not have to passively accept what is brought to you. You can choose.” ― Deborah Day

“But, you guys don’t even fight! These words being the most common response my ex and I received when we started sharing with others the decision we had made to no longer navigate life together as a married couple. And what could we say back? They were right; we don’t fight, we enjoy each other’s company, and we do a wonderful job at parenting our son together. Then how in the world could we separate, especially when so many of our married friends are so unhappy with each other, and yet are staying together?! How dare we go against the societal expectations that: A) You don’t get divorced B) If you do get divorced, you must hate each other in order to do so C) Refer back to “A”.

The decision to end a relationship is never easy regardless of how much the couple gets along or otherwise. All the various factors that must be considered (children, financials, splitting assets, embarrassment, shame, etc.) are often incredibly daunting and overwhelming for most people, and rightfully so. People often stay in relationships, even when they no longer want to, for a plethora of very convincing reasons. Maybe the financial freedom doesn’t exist to separate, or maybe childcare would feel impossible, maybe religion or culture has made it clear that divorce is not an option, or maybe there is not “enough” conflict to make this decision feel acceptable. While some of the aforementioned concerns feel valid and reasonable, others simply are not. Deciding to stay in a relationship based on what society tells us we “should” do, often leads to living a life of obligation, inauthenticity, and feeling trapped. So, while many people believe they are making the “right choice” by choosing to stay, it is important to note that none of the above feelings do anything to better the relationship, but rather often result in resentment, disconnect, and hurtful behaviors.

In my work as a mental health therapist, I sit with clients day after day who struggle with the decision of how to best navigate decisions of their relationship in ways that are best for their mental health and happiness, while at the same time doing what is best for their family unit. Finding the solution in which everybody “wins” is not usually possible when it comes to breakups; however, finding the solution in which everybody (each partner and the children) can feel loved and respected, in spite of a breakup, is absolutely possible. Life is about choices. That means we are empowered to make a choice to leave a situation that no longer works for us, but that also means we are equally empowered to make the choice to do this in the least damaging and most respectful way possible. I often assert that we chose to love and esteem our partner at the beginning of our relationship for a reason. This person was special to us and was worthy of our love and respect then, and thus is worthy of the same love and respect now, just in a different way. This means choosing to compromise, choosing to be kind and considerate in communication, and choosing to recognize that your ex is still a person, with feelings, who deserves to be respected, even after a breakup.

We are so grateful for Dr. Elizabeth Fedrick for writing this great article for our website! Please check her out, she does a lot of awesome and helpful stuff!

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