We don’t talk enough about how brave it is to break up.
As a woman? Whom everyone will judge?
It takes courage to say, “I am not okay with how I am being treated in this relationship.”
It takes courage to say, “I’ve tried to communicate with you, but nothing I say makes any difference.”
It takes courage to say, “I love you, but I can’t stay in this relationship any longer.”
It’s so much easier to stay and keep trying.
And sometimes that’s all you have energy for.
Breaking up takes the kind of resources you had in the beginning of the relationship, when you felt strong and confident and knew who you were and hadn’t yet merged your life with his.
Now you’re tired and beaten down, and you have no idea how to extricate your life from his.
You don’t know what he’ll do if you say, “I’m leaving,” but you can imagine.
It won’t be pleasant.
The Timing Is Wrong—It Always Is
Breakups always happen at the worst possible time…
When you’re feeling your lowest, in the pit of despair.
But the longer you stay in a bad relationship, the worse it gets. It will only get harder the longer you wait.
Making a clean break requires resources, though.
And you need time to gather those resources.
To get allies on board (friends, family, lawyer, therapist). To make sure you have money in a bank account in your name. To have somewhere to live. To have a plan for dealing with him.
When you think about everything you’ll have to do, the energy it will take, and the wild card of how he’ll react, you worry you won’t have the strength.
Maybe it’s not worth it. Things aren’t that bad. There are still some good times.
Relationships are always hard. Maybe this is how all of them are?
Go back and read “When Is It Time to Walk Away?” if you haven’t already.
If you are in a relationship that’s harming you and you don’t feel safe, then it’s time to leave.
Here’s how to find the courage.
Envision Life on The Other Side
Yes, it can seem impossible to find the strength to leave when he’s drained away your self-esteem…
But when you finally do it, you’ll be amazed at how free you’ll feel.
You’ll be able to feel ALL your feelings rather than censor them.
You’ll be able to say and think all the things you refused to allow into your mind when he was your partner…
Things like, “I don’t really like him. The way he treated me was awful. He’s not a good person.”
You will feel so light once you’re out from under his shadow.
You no longer have to carry his unfulfilled dreams.
You no longer have to be the person he blames for everything.
You no longer have to tiptoe around his feelings.
You can be a constructive, positive problem-solver who gets s*@% done!
You can be yourself again.
The old you that your friends remember.
But What If He Was Right About Me?
Maybe he’s told you that you’ll end up alone if you leave him. No man will want you.
And part of you wonders if he’s right.
After all, he certainly thinks there’s something wrong with you. His list of your faults is legendary.
What if he sees you more clearly than anyone? What if you are all of those things he says?
Well, let me ask you this:
Has anyone else accused you of all the awful things he accuses you of…
Or is it just him?
If it’s just him, then chances are those are his traits. That’s his shadow.
He’s projecting it onto you. (Learn more here.)
He has to make you into the enemy.
Because, if you’re the enemy, then he is justified in treating you however he wants. You’re the evil one—he’s the good guy. That gives him the right to bring out the heavy ammunition to vanquish you.
Here’s a metaphor I like to use:
What would you think if you caught him kicking a puppy?
The puppy is defenseless. The puppy is just being a puppy.
Someone who’s kicking a puppy would have to go through some cognitive acrobatics to justify their behavior.
Which they do!
They say that the puppy was being bad. The puppy was trying to destroy things. The puppy was disobedient and needed to be taught a lesson.
Are you that puppy?
Use Your Anger
When you were in the relationship, you couldn’t be angry with him.
If you allowed yourself to feel your true anger, you’d feel disgusted by him. You might let those feelings slip out.
And he would come down hard on you if you showed anger.
But once you’re out of the relationship, you can get angry. You should get angry!
Anger isn’t bad. Anger is a natural, normal reaction to a boundary violation.
All mammals get angry when their boundaries are violated. Invade a dog’s territory and hear it snarl.
Healthy anger doesn’t make us attack anyone or fly into a rage.
Instead, it focuses our attention on reinforcing our boundaries.
So feel your anger. Strengthen and defend your boundaries.
If He’s Declaring War, It’s War
In your relationship, you may have survived by giving in. You did things his way. You surrendered.
It was the only way to stop the conflict.
He wasn’t going to move over to your side, so you had to move to his.
As a result, he learned that he could dominate you. You’d cave.
Now that you’re no longer together, that lesson needs to be unlearned.
He does not get to dominate you. You don’t have to cave.
You have power now that you didn’t have when you were together.
From the moment you split, your goal should be to get into a power position.
Raising the white flag and begging for reconciliation or compromise will only result in him crushing you. He’s good at that. He’s had your entire relationship to practice.
Approach him from a position of strength, one you didn’t have in your relationship because you were trying so hard to appease him.
The game has shifted; you are a warrior now, not a broken-hearted lover.
You will need armor. The gloves are off now. Your ex doesn’t have to be nice to you anymore. He doesn’t have to take your feelings into account or respect the promises you made to each other.
If you’re hoping he’ll feel guilty about how cold and hard-hearted he’s become, don’t waste your energy. You are not his problem anymore.
Bleak as that may sound, it also means that he is not your problem anymore. You don’t have to take his feelings into consideration.
This is about you and what’s in your best interests.
Although you are going to think about him—you can’t help it—hopefully you’ll have allies who will stand for you when you can’t stand for yourself.
Thinking clearly isn’t easy when you’re sick with fear and sleep-deprived and in the midst of emotional warfare and have no idea what to do.
That’s why you need allies to hold you up.
It’s scary and huge and awful, but you’ve got to keep trusting the process—that this is the right thing to do and you’ll be better in the end.
But What Will Happen?
The scariest part is not being able to see the future.
To have no idea what the future will hold ever again.
This was supposed to have been it. This man—your best friend and the love of your life—and the family and home you built together.
Now there’s just a raw, gaping space. A wound where your heart used to be.
Fill it with dreams.
Think of all the things you can do now with him gone. The exhilarating freedom. The adventure.
Fill your new home with positive energy, beautiful things, and your values.
Build a vision of the life you want to lead.
You don’t have to adapt to anyone else, walk on tip-toes, or shield yourself from negativity anymore.
Create your own closure. On X (formerly Twitter), @goodbyejournals posted:
My therapist once said, ‘People don’t abandon the people they love; they abandon the people they’re using,’ and that was all the closure I needed.”
That’s the frank and honest truth.
The love you felt in that relationship was your love, and you get to keep that.
Bad relationships may wound us. They may tear us down. But we can rebuild. We can find joy and self-belief and self-trust again.