It’s raining today. Has been for several hours. No sign of stopping.
For those of you who don’t live in Colorado, that’s pretty unusual. That joke, “don’t like the weather? Just wait five minutes!” is definitely true.
Usually I harbor a strong hatred for rain, preferring warm, clear, radiant sunshine instead. I lived in Oregon for a year, and one of the many reasons I came back to Colorado was the rain. I always felt wet, damp, gray, blah, blah, blah. Today, the rain feels good. It suits my mood, my emotional state. It’s good weather to wallow in.
What am I wallowing? The end of a relationship. It’s not really the end; communication, love, and friendship will certainly continue. But, it’s the end of what has been for the last six months. So I’m luxuriating, reveling in, and embracing the sadness I feel at this change. Animals wallow – literally roll around in – dust, mud, dirt, water, for many reasons: refreshment, to keep bugs away, to keep cool, or to spread a scent. I’m rolling around in the substance of my heart ache. Covering my body in it, spreading its scent from my toes all the way to my hair, filling all of my organs, tissues, and cells with it. I have a sense that if I distribute and diffuse this heartache into all of my being rather than leaving it concentrated in my heart I will be able to better metabolize and integrate it. Rather than pushing it aside, trying to keep the pain and conflict at bay, allowing it to take over will allow it to move through. It won’t stay stuck in my heart, hardening into a false fortification that only makes my heart more brittle. No. It will work my heart. Strengthening it and its capacity to open, to feel, to contact and connect.
I find myself in liminal space, yet again. The disorienting and confusing space that provides room for change, transformation, and new possibilities. I feel some fear and uncertainty here. I’m finding it difficult to take a full breath. The air keeps getting caught in my throat. But there’s so much excitement too! My body is lit up and turned on, receptive and ready.
I started this relationship with the intention of practicing intimacy. My previous relationships had always left me wanting more depth, but I found myself ill-equipped to find it or go about creating it. As luck would have it, I landed in the lap of a man who was not only interested in exploring the same thing, he was producing a course* with an intimacy coach to give people structures and tools to do just that. Ask and you shall receive, right?!
We did intimacy. That word definitely needs to be a verb instead of a noun. It’s an action, an activity, a practice. To add fuel to the fire, our relationship was an open one – non-monogamous, polyamorous, whatever you want to call it. When I met him, he was already involved with another woman, but both of them, for various reasons, were interested in keeping the container of their relationship open. I was curious. I’d never dated more than one person at a time. Actually, I’d never dated; I’d had relationships, but dating, that slower get to know you way to build a relationship instead of jumping right into commitment and monogamy was new for me. I agreed on commitments to integrity and honesty, and jumped in.
Let me tell you, at first it’s really strange to tell a partner, someone you care deeply about, that you are going on a date with someone in a few days, and you’re really excited about it. It’s bizarre to tell him how the date was, what you did, what physical intimacy you shared with someone else.
You see, nothing was off the table. Thoughts, feelings, emotions, experiences, love, jealousy, comfort, discomfort, pain, pleasure, excitement… we shared it all. It was hard, and sometimes I failed miserably. It is uncomfortable to share an experience you know has the potential to upset or hurt your partner, and terrifying to share something that could push him away. But once it’s out, it feels good.
Sharing it all, standing there bare, naked, and honest, withholding nothing, god that feels good. That allows for real connection and intimacy. Every time I shared something that I thought would push us apart I was surprised to find that instead our connection was deepened. Even the painful things – maybe especially the painful things – brought more intimacy, not less. That once felt counter-intuitive to me, but now it makes perfect sense. Those places, the sticky, messy ones, are the places calling out the loudest for contact and containing the most raw potential for connection.
The decision to end this phase of our relationship was not mine outright, but we’d been moving in this direction for a few months. And it wasn’t a surprise. I knew where he was at because we’d had conversations about it.
I used to have this understanding about relationships that went like this: if you are experiencing questions, concerns, or doubts about it, don’t talk about them with the person with whom you are in relationship. If you resolve the doubts, then it won’t matter anyway; no need to worry him unnecessarily. If you decide to end the relationship, it won’t matter either because you’re ending the relationship. But I also knew that that didn’t feel good.
I’ve been on the receiving end of heartbreak a few times that seemed to come out of nowhere. As these relationships were ending, it became clear that these men had been feeling questions and doubts for quite some time, slowly pulling away or choosing to head in another direction. Because none of this was shared with me, the end of the relationship felt abrupt and painful, a dull guillotine slamming down on my neck, leaving me full of anger and resentment.
This breakup was drastically different; it actually brought us closer together. That sounds strange, I know. How can you be closer when you’re going different directions? How is a breakup an opportunity for greater intimacy, not just an end of intimacy? I don’t know how to explain it yet, but I know it’s true; I feel it.
Here is our breakup process. I take no credit for it because it wasn’t my idea. I was just a whole-hearted participant:
1. Share and discuss any lasting resentments.
2. Apologize for anything you feel like you need to apologize for (even if your partner isn’t asking for an apology).
3. Express appreciations for what you’ve shared and for who your partner is.
4. Share desires for your relationship as you move into the future.
5. Anything left unsaid? Say it now!
The next time you’re breaking up with someone, give it a try. I’m fairly certain that neither of you will regret it. It feels clean, complete. In that tearful, hours-long conversation, we were able to transform our intimate relationship into a rich friendship. Does that mean I was instantly “over it?” Nope. It still aches; still pulls at my heartstrings, playing a sad, sonorous melody. And, that melody is layered with so many others – excitement for what’s to come, appreciation for what’s been, eagerness to dive into intimacy with myself and others. Rather than feeling like I’m left standing alone, full of anger and resentment, I walk away from this relationship feeling supported and connected, full of appreciation and love.
It’s Wednesday now, sunny and windy. The bright yellow, orange, and red leaves are blowing off the trees sooner than if they had been left to their own process. But now they get to dance in the wind, swirling intricate patterns in the air and on the ground, becoming more than they thought possible.
*(check out www.thrivingpartnerships.com You won’t regret it!)