In the realm of breakups, many words come to mind. Difficult, painful and sad are a few—many thanks to Dia Draper for her eloquent expression of love and gratitude, showing us that beautiful can make the list, too.
I’m not kidding. This was a beautiful break-up.
It probably helped that the break-up wasn’t happening for any lack of compatibility. In fact, we both really, really like each other. Still. (And it doesn’t matter when you’re reading this, that’ll be true.) But our compatibility certainly wasn’t necessary. We made a choice.
I’ll spare you the details as to why we broke up, but it did have to happen. What I won’t spare you are the details of how we navigated the most loving, raw and gentle break up I’ve ever experienced.
It didn’t start off smoothly. For over a week, there was great communication around the why, and I perceived a willingness to keep moving forward. And then, over text, plans were cancelled with no reason and I just knew. I couldn’t respond for hours. So, this amazing break up started over text. The actual break up words were said over text.
That part wasn’t pretty.
I didn’t have a lot of information. I felt really disconnected. And I disagreed. So in the two days until we could get together and talk, I made assumptions, I made things personal, and I layered my emotions with analysis and extrapolation about what this meant about me and my future. Seriously, not pretty.
I share this unsightly start because it emphasizes something important—in each moment we have a choice. Was it cool that he cancelled our plans, or began this process over text? Certainly not. Did that come up in our break up talk? Nope. The details and the grit—or the symptoms of what was really happening—seemed inconsequential by then. I had one intention:
I wanted to connect, so that I could disconnect lovingly.
Here’s what happened: He walked in the door and we shared an awkward hug. He reminisced about the first time he came to my door, and I said I felt like I was going to vomit. Then, in an awkward lull, I explained to him how I needed to start.
“We’re going to go upstairs, lay down and cuddle. We’re going to do this for 20 minutes without talking. No words.” I didn’t explain to him that my words in that moment were going to come off as harsh and create more disconnection than connection. I just told him what I needed.
He said he almost suggested we meet at a restaurant to avoid exactly that. He exuded hesitation and asked if I was really sure. I was sure. He said okay. (I’m pretty sure he thought this was a horrible idea. I’m positive he feels differently now.)
We went upstairs, laid down (fully clothed), and held each other. We exchanged no words for maybe 30 minutes. I felt his breath. I felt his heartbeat. I felt his heart. I could literally feel his feelings. I could feel the overwhelming love he felt for me (a word he hasn’t used, but I will). I felt overwhelmed by my love for him. I could feel his agony and he could feel mine.
Our pain and love formed an infinity loop tracking from mine to his, from his to mine. When the pain loop overwhelmed me, he held me tighter. When it overwhelmed him, I held him tighter. Our breath (which we had always noticed was so different) had pockets of syncing that felt like we were one organism. Our bodies tangled and shifted, squeezed tightly and relaxed heavily. I felt heavy sadness for losing this, and deep joy for having it in that moment, and I felt anger at the circumstances and him, and I felt empathy in every cell of my body.
Without words there was space for all of it. There was space for all of mine, and all of his. There was space for the beautiful and the ugly, the intense and light, and the this-world reality and the divine-world reality. Everything was right there. And it it processed itself. Just by noticing and responding to each other through our breath and bodies, it processed. The stress melted, the anger dissipated, and the emotional roller coaster stopped. It was time. I looked up and into his deeply loving and kind eyes. And I said “This is the place. This is the place I want to talk from.” He got it. And that’s where we stayed.
I can’t share every word we exchanged, because those are ours. But everything we said was heard by the other. When we disagreed, we could be light and understanding. We shared deep truths, and paralyzing fears. We kissed tenderly, we stared longingly, we held tightly. And we laughed. We didn’t hold back. We got to be all of who we are. And from that place I could say I was angry and it wasn’t an attack. He could say he was scared to feel so strongly, and it wasn’t a line. It was beautiful. A beautiful break up.
It all started from an intention and the willingness to let that intention be what mattered. I don’t claim to have this process on lock (nor would I want to be some master of break ups), but there’s something in this that can inform all interactions, arguments, fights, break ups and separations.
Decide What’s Most Important: For me the question comes down to whether I want to be right, or loving. Other questions might be, is it more important to punish or to heal? Or what is the most important thing for me to experience?
Set the Intention & Let Everything Else Go: Did I have a good point about breaking up with me on text being totally lame? Damn skippy! Did making that point support my intention? No. When you are clear about what matters, you can more easily let go of the rest. Note: if everything matters to you, go back to step one.
Find Connection First: Before anything else, find connection and alignment with the other person. Begin with shared truths (even as basic as we are both humans and don’t want to hurt). Begin with even the smallest common ground. Begin with connection. And trust that you’ll be able to address everything more powerfully from this place.
Stand for Your Intention: Insist, but compromise. Had he said no, I would’ve suggested something else. There were several ways we could have accomplished it. Get creative and hold yourself to your intention.
Be Vulnerable First: This takes courage. The courage to lead with your heart and your intention, with no attachment to the return. There’s a good shot that when you are open and vulnerable and aligned with your intention that you’ll have a good experience, but there’s no guarantee. Be brave. Go first.
Communicate Wisely: There’s a reason there are hundreds of thousands of books on communication. Read some. Look at how your words are received versus how you want them to be received. The simple acts of reflective listening or starting sentences with “I” (“I feel hurt” vs. “You hurt me”) can make a huge difference. Work with what supports your intention.
Get Ready, Then Let Go: My (ex) man said several times he should probably go. My responses, through the course of several hours went from “please, not yet” to “I’m not ready yet, but I promise I will be” to “I’m getting closer, but I’m not quite there” to “okay, I’m ready.” And once I was ready, I was ready. Sad, but ready. Scared, but ready. You don’t necessarily need someone there for you to get ready (but what a gift he was!), just honor your process. Give yourself the space to get ready, and then let go.
Express Gratitude: This is how we ended our beautiful break-up. We each expressed what we were most grateful for in each other and in the relationship. And we shared what we were taking with us. I won’t share his, but mine was this: This man really saw me, and in a way I didn’t know was possible. I felt seen. And I will take with me the knowing of how wonderful that feels, and that it’s not too much to ask.
A relevant side note: always check with him before blogging about the break-up! I did, and gave him the power of review. He didn’t want to stifle my process and said he didn’t need to approve it. But I shared it, and he’s on board. Talk about acknowledging each other! The power of this break-up continues. And really, it’s the power of how we can choose to interact with anyone, anytime, anywhere: from the foundation of connection. Even when disconnecting.
My deepest gratitude goes to this man and his willingness to move through his stoic nature and into my unconventional methods. It makes me miss you more, but it keeps me grounded in my belief that I am safe in the world. A million thank yous.
[images: via Allie Kenny on flickr]
Dia Draper is a life coach assisting individuals with questions of meaning, mindfulness and spirituality in their lives. She is also the owner of Nomad Yoga, bringing yoga, mindfulness and wellness programs onsite for workplaces. As a lawyer turned yogi, Dia approaches whole-hearted living with enthusiasm and humanness. For more information on Dia and her work, please visit her websites: Nomad Yoga and Illumination Coaching.