The end of a relationship, whether we are 16 or 60, can be devastating although not always for the same reasons. This morning I sat on the phone with a friend of my husband who is trudging through the breakup of what was a short marriage. It’s easy to think that we messed up and made a big mistake when something we thought would last forever doesn’t. And while I’m not standing in his shoes, what I do know is that he has an opportunity to learn from this relationship and make himself stronger and better for what lies ahead. To do this though, he needs to remember who he was before she came into his life, and who he will continue to be in his life to come.
The reality is that some relationships might not be meant to last forever. We know that we have friends and others in our lives who might only travel with us for a short time. The same can be said for romantic relationships. It’s devastating to be 16 and experience that first breakup (or whatever age it might happen). But what we often realize later, possibly many years later, is that we learned a lot from that relationship. That relationship might have been our first opportunity to learn the communication skills it takes to maintain a long-term romantic relationship. Each time we enter a similar partnership, we are given an opportunity to grow and learn. Whether we take it is up to us.
As we grow and change, it might not be feasible that the partner who started the journey with us continues. Sometimes we need to go in different directions, other times, we have outgrown them, and to be who we’re supposed to be, we need to forge forward without them. It’s a painful road to travel, no matter if we are the ones told it’s over or we must be the ones to end it. In that journey though, we must remember that we are a whole person, we always were even with a partner, and that a loss is still an opportunity. There is a pop song that says “Sometimes goodbye is a second chance.” While the song might be saying that it’s a second chance for that particular relationship, I have a tendency to think it’s a second chance for us to grow and change and make ourselves better. And by doing that, we will have the opportunity to invite that next person into our lives to be with us when it’s time.
Not an easy road to travel but well worth the journey when we look back and see how far we come. And see the reward standing next to us.
Michelle Linn-Gust, Ph.D., is an international author and speaker about finding hope after loss and change. She is the author of several books including Rocky Roads: The Journeys of Families through Suicide Grief and Ginger's Gift: Hope and Healing Through Dog Companionship. Her first book, based on the suicide of her younger sister Denise, Do They Have Bad Days in Heaven? Surviving the Suicide Loss of a Si..., inspired siblings around the world in their survival after a loved one’s suicide. She is the President of the American Association of Suicidology and lives in Albuquerque, N.M. Read more about Michelle at www.michellelinngust.com.