It is difficult letting go of relationships. Sometimes we realize that the path we have shared with someone no longer serves us, or the person we are with. There are times when there is still love and mutual respect between people, but their purpose in life, their desire for growth and emotional connection are just not met. I think these are the most difficult separations.
In our society there is a belief that things need to be drastically wrong in a relationship for two people to decide to split up. Most relationships end long after they should have because of this. When one person is no longer emotionally nourished by a relationship, there is no balance, and the relationship starts to spiral increasingly out of control.
The thing is that this is never a one-way street. If one person is not feeling nourished by the relationship, than there is something the other person is missing as well. But relationships take work. They are our most powerful teachers on the path to becoming whole human beings. Relationships give us the opportunity to learn compassion, forgiveness, and understanding. They give us a chance to start seeing and integrating the lost and abandoned parts of ourselves.
One of those lessons is honorable closure. More often than not, clients I have worked with wait until the situation is so bad they absolutely MUST leave. This comes long after they have realized that their relationship was not healthy. But it is common to feel strong anxiety about leaving the person you are with. This is especially true when the relationship includes children, mortgages, and shared finances. But it can be equally devastating without those things.
This is why we must learn to practice honorable closure in all areas of our life. What is honorable closure? It is a skill that allows us to bring one cycle of our life to an end while maintaining our highest level of integrity. It takes into consideration our wellbeing, the wellbeing of who or what we are releasing, and the general good for all people, places, and things that frame the relationship.
Angeles Arrien taught that honorable closure has four parts to it. These parts are:
Gratitude – every relationship we have been in has its gifts. In the time of parting paths it is important to acknowledge these gifts and express our gratitude for them. Angeles Arrien reminds us that gratitude keeps the heart open. Without an open heart it is easy for us to fall into the anger and resentfulness that comes from being wounded. So, gratitude is an integral part of allowing ourselves to grieve for the relationship. This allows the energy to flow from us so that it does not stagnate and poison our future relationships.
Positive Impact – by focusing on the positive impact that a relationship has had on us we reap the gifts of the relationship and carry them forward in our lives. Too often people view an ending relationship as a failure. It is anything but that. A relationship always provides the opportunity for a deeper understanding of who we are and how we can show up in the world to positively contribute to the lives of others. When we acknowledge these gifts we invite them to grow in our lives.
Challenge – the end of any relationship is challenging. This challenge is emotional, psychological, social and even spiritual. The challenge is to acknowledge our woundedness through proper grieving while releasing the anger, blame, and resentment that will ultimately be a poison to us. It is the process of separating the “wheat from the chaff,” so to speak. In other words, we must separate what nourishes us from what harms us. The blame game is the antithesis of this. It can become a cycle of self-destruction that some people never emerge from.
Reparation – we have to take full responsibility for the role we played in the relationship. This is just as important for our healing, and that of our partner, as acknowledging and forgiving their harmful actions. Through questions like:
“How have I caused harm to my partner through my own fear and confusion?”
“Where did I demand what I wasn’t willing to give my partner in return?”
“How did I project my insecurities onto my partner?”
“What will I regret not saying to my partner?”
“What reparation will I commit to making so that I have taken full responsibility for my actions in the relationship?”
The grief of letting go of a relationship cannot be avoided. However, it can be a beautiful offering to the time we spent with someone we loved. It is through the full experience of this process that we learn to love wholeheartedly, again and again. Honorable closure is a process of healing, for everyone involved.
While these transitions are painful they are an integral part to the cycles of life. When we approach them as opportunities for healing we prepare ourselves to grow into the next cycle life has to offer us. This is one way we bring the sacred into our life. This is one way we become healers.