Why are we looking for what we want
We want to part: but how do you do it right?
What if a clear cut is not a stroke of fate - but a real opportunity to grow and (re) find your own happiness? Go or stay? Accept or change? Anyone stuck in a crisis or an unhappy relationship has probably asked themselves these questions. But if we want to part: how do you do it right? What our couples therapist Eva-Maria Zurhorst advises ...
The "after-relationship pain" is greater in women
Some think for weeks, others even for years, whether a breakup might be the way to go. No wonder, because the reasons to stay weigh heavily: family responsibility, compassion for the partner, fear of financial problems and consequences such as moving. Not to mention the pain and emptiness that lurks after a breakup.
Researchers found that this “post-relationship pain” - also “PRG”, short for Post Relationship Grief - is more pronounced in women than in men. On the other hand, we also recover much faster from a breakup, as a study by Binghamton University and University College London shows. Maybe that's why we find the jump more often: Two out of three separations today come from the woman. Men determined marriage until the late 1970s, and in Germany until 1977 the wife's duty to keep a house was also a legal requirement. From today's perspective unbelievable! But even if we women are now the driving force when it comes to saying goodbye, the question remains: How does separation work properly? So that children and self-worth get out of it with equal care?
Of course, in many cases it certainly makes sense to look for professional companions who can look out over the rough seas of our feelings from a distance. But maybe we can heal ourselves more deeply than we think. In order for the separation to develop its hidden power, we must regard it as a friend. Even as a good friend who accompanies us into a new, better life. That ensures that we grow with the pain and makes us aware of things that we have simply suppressed in advance.
Admittedly: In the first phase shortly after a breakup, when the pain has the upper hand and our identity is shaky, it is difficult. The good thing, however, is that this phase is precisely the most valuable. Then is the moment to look honestly at the supposed heap of broken glass and ask yourself: What was so unbearable? What hurt me so much In this phase we learn who we are and what we really need. Without our friend, the breakup, we wouldn't even get to this point. Perhaps that is exactly what the literary scholar C. S. Lewis meant when he wrote: "Need prepares ordinary people for extraordinary lives."
The story of the separation from Verena Becker
"My path was tough and certainly not the best way - but I had no choice"
Verena Becker (51) fought for their relationship for two years. I want to stay - for her daughter Lina (11) and for herself because she was a separated child herself. But it doesn't work. One night in April, she decides to leave. Now she knows: It was the only right step. I'll never forget how we left the restaurant on our first date twelve years ago and he suddenly took my hand. A magical moment. It felt like lightning struck me. I fell head over heels in love. With Frank, I thought, nothing could happen to me. His confident demeanor, the precise way he spoke, his reliability.
We moved in together in August 2007 and I was pregnant in October. Lina's birth made our happiness perfect, because I was 39 years old at the time, and we had long since closed the subject of children. So I was all the happier about the gift of her birth. I stood there. With a man who carried me on his hands, a child and a new apartment. I felt incredibly cared for and looked after. We bought a motorhome, traveled to Lake Garda and the south of France, where we stayed every summer from then on. It was great!
But our relationship changed little by little. Frank's care for Lina and me became a prison. He wanted to control my every step. And me? Yielded. I stopped dancing and met friends less often. Even so, he was madly jealous and freaked out regularly. Like on New Year's Eve when a drunk friend leaned on my shoulder. We had to go right away. More and more often I felt like I was tied up, had the feeling that I was at war. For him, however, the world was all right. He didn't understand what was bothering me and didn't want to talk about it. Instead, the doors slammed and we argued. He screamed, I screamed back. I transformed from the happy woman who made others laugh to an unpredictable fighter. Quick-tempered and bitter.
One afternoon I stood in front of the mirror and looked into my disgruntled face. I realized that something had to change. From that moment on I secretly began to look for apartments for Lina and me. I knew Frank would never let me go. Secretly preparing for the breakup was my only chance. I mostly looked for real estate at night when Lina was sleeping. During this time I often lay in bed with her because she couldn't sleep alone. For nights I filled shopping baskets online at Ikea, Westwing and Co. Apart from my aunt and a friend, nobody knew anything about my plan: If it escalated again, we would move out.
Then came the day that I will probably never forget. It was mid-April, a Thursday evening, a few days after a big argument - it was again about an appointment that I was supposed to cancel. I sat in the living room with a glass of wine. Angry because Frank put me in this situation. Angry because I had betrayed myself and Lina for so long. Angry because friends had told me so long ago. "Nobody envies you for the man, Verena," echoed in my head. And then it clicked. My decision was made: we really move out tomorrow.
The next morning I called a moving company. Frank was already in the office. So I had until late afternoon to go through with my plan. The moving van rolled in at eleven, and by twelve all the boxes were loaded.
I still remember that I was terrified that the neighbors would see me. What should i say While Lina studied unsuspectingly at school, my uncle and aunt helped me unpack and set up the new apartment. Frank I put a three-line on the kitchen table: “Hello Frank, I'm sorry. I would have wished otherwise. Email will follow. Verena. “Looking back I know: My path was tough, and certainly not the best way, but it was the only possible one for me. Breaking up saved my life. Even if Frank continues to threaten me today - almost eight months later - sending angry and then tearful messages again: Lina and I are happier. I was able to experience that you can turn your life around - no matter how difficult it seems. The breakup showed me how strong I am. Many people around me even have more respect for me. And the best part: I can do what I want.
We want to part: but how do you do it right? Plus our expert Eva-Maria Zurhorst
Couples therapist Eva-Maria Zurhorst has been providing first aid for relationship problems for over 20 years. She knows: love can do everything and is not far even in times of heartbreak. She spoke to us about the chances of a separation - and how it works best.
Ms. Zurhorst, how do I know that my relationship is over?
When violence, lying or cheating become part of everyday life. Then it is clear: Now I have to go - especially if the other person is not ready to be helped. Because often such repetitive acts are directed by the subconscious.
Keyword "Conscious uncoupling", so the separation without a mud fight. Is that possible?
It's certainly the best way, but you can't force it. This requires deep insight. Truly feeling that I am allowed to go, that it is the right thing to do, that I have no feelings of guilt, no fear of loneliness and financial ruin, is the key to a harmonious separation. But that is an internal process. Only when I really feel and understand why this relationship doesn't give me what I need can I consciously walk.
And what about pity? Okay - or out of place?
Compassion doesn't help anyone. On the contrary: this feeling “if I leave, the other person suffers” can keep an actually dead relationship going for years. In that case, it is important to recognize that a breakup can also be an opportunity for the other. If you leave, then he or she is forced to develop his or her own strength again and to find a way out of suffering.
"A breakup is not about guilt or anger, but about learning to take care of yourself"
What role does self-love play in separation?
She is the key. Only those who recognize that a break-up is not about anger and guilt, but about learning to take care of themselves, can walk peacefully. The picture of a plant is helpful in this context: if it is in the right place, it will bloom. If the plant isn't blooming, it doesn't mean it's wrong - it just doesn't mean it has the right conditions.
Where does the courage to go come from?
Hopefully at some point the pressure of suffering will be so great that I have to let go. Or I strengthen myself by grabbing a friend who slaps my fingers as soon as I want to whine.
The moment has arrived: How do you start a separation interview?
The best thing is to sit down and show what you feel as best you can. But don't expect the other person to be nice to you.
Where is the best place to part?
At home because there has to be a space to say goodbye. Feelings need space.
What to Avoid
Accusations. Which doesn't mean that I can't say what I can no longer bear. Make it clear to yourself: Most of the time, the other has given everything he had to give.
The days after: Which separation pain medicine helps?
See the pain like a contraction. Tell yourself: I feel this now, but I take a deep breath and stay present, accepting what is. In this process something new is born. Also important: friends who won't let you sink into pain.
When does the pain subside?
Everyone has their own pace. The pain phase is important. It brings insights and helps you to let go of unhealthy behavior and clamps. At the end there is an empty pot with soil in which a new plant can grow.
... in a new direction?
Exactly. Often in this phase you realize: I might need a completely different type of man - one that you might never have noticed before.
It seems like breakups can lead us to real power ...
Absolutely. It is extremely important to me that women recognize: To love does not mean to suffer - this is also what my book is about. A woman who takes responsibility for herself can do a lot of good for herself and for others. To do that, we have to learn to focus on things that are good for us.
How do you do that?
By learning to love from within. That sounds strange, but it can work wonders - if you know how. Meditation is very suitable for that. Here's a tip: while you are meditating, think of a friend and send her love. That feels good. And research shows that whoever directs love to someone else heals something within.
Go or stay? Difficult choice
The American relationship scientist John Gottman has observed couples and their behavior for many years. He is certain: five communicative behavioral patterns show when it is high time to act. A little guide:
“You never take down the garbage”, “I always have to do everything myself.” Such sentences are dangerous: According to Gottman, words like “always”, “never” or “every time” include the past and future and are direct attacks on the other.
Whoever is attacked defends himself, of course. But that is exactly what causes problems. Because the moment we try to defend ourselves or to explain ourselves, the other feels that his - perhaps justified - criticism has been ignored.
If this feeling comes into play, the goal is only to consciously hurt the other. The cause often lies in problems that have existed for a long time but have never been resolved - or in smoldering negative thoughts about the partner that have never been discussed and clarified.
WITHDRAWAL OR WALLS
The situation is typical: someone says what bothers them - and the critic withdraws, strictly refusing to enter into dialogue. This behavior often leads to frustration - even for the person who voiced the criticism. Because what should you do if the other is not speaking? So whoever is silent is behaving aggressively in his own way.
At this point the interest in the partner has completely given way. The time of the respectful name is finally over. Instead, deep anger comes to the fore. Every weakness, no matter how small, is used to hurt the partner. At least in this phase, it is time to pull the rip cord and break new ground.
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