Sometimes things need to break in order to evolve into something stronger. Relationships, like people, will evolve over time. If factors such as poor communication or a soul-destroying routine have contributed to a situation where both partners have grown apart, breaking up might be the only way to bring about the objectivity needed to make the right kind of change.
How Time Apart Can Help
Taking a step back from an emotional tangle can bring about clarity, or it can lead to even greater distance.
Sometimes it does come down to growing apart in a way which now makes you fundamentally incompatible (conflicting core needs), but real incompatibility is rarer than people think. Most of the time this distance is just a mist, an illusion stemming from insecurity or poor communication.
Time apart can help to bridge this communicative gap, assuming no mind games that aim to exacerbate insecurity are being played.
We live in a world that seeks gimmicky, easily implementable solutions to complex problems. Most of the time these “shortcuts” are practical, but not when it comes to breakups. I often read advice that includes ideas such as going no contact where reducing supply supposedly increases demand, or making your ex insecure by artificially inflating your persona (flaunting your new sexy profile pictures for instance). These magic bullets can give the illusion of improving our chances at reconciling in the short term because they can tamper with our ex’s capacity to move on, but in the long term they will doom our connection. Principally because they do absolutely nothing to resolve the issues that led to the breakup.
So, if we can shred elements of insecurity from the breakup landscape (by being clear with our communication), time apart becomes an opportunity for us to become objective about the relationship. Freeing us from feelings of resentment, guilt or other confusing elements that may have come to cloud the relationship.
Spend enough time away from the routine of a relationship, and you’ll eventually find that the relationship’s problems become a great deal more transparent.
No matter what you end up learning about the past, the core realization is that change will have occurred, and making the relationship stronger will require both understanding what that change is, and redefining your routine around it.
- What are your core needs (non-negotiable aspects of the relationship which are critical to personal well-being)?
- What are their core needs and are they something you are prepared to accept as is?
- What do you want more of from the relationship?
- What are you willing to sacrifice or negotiate?
Being honest about core needs is crucial. The main point about negotiating the future of the relationship is understanding that you or your partner’s needs don’t necessarily make sense. Feelings and emotions are not reasonable or logical. Much like attempting to argue someone in love with you is a waste of time, attempting to argue your partner out of their core needs is a waste of breath.
Rather than use objective truth as a measure for creating the relationship’s new structure, it is far more constructive and realistic to accept needs as is (or not). No matter how whimsical or unfair they may seem to us, when it comes to feelings fairness comes excluded. That’s just the way it works. If our partner’s core needs clash with ours in a way which is unsustainable, then sooner or later the house of cards is going to crumble, because feeding the relationship means starving ourselves.
Wants, as opposed to needs, are something we desire but are prepared to negotiate or occasionally even sacrifice.
Our relationship’s ability to mutate and evolve its “wants” to match change through time is what will determine its long-term success. Healthy relationships evolve and rediscover themselves (and sometimes time apart or breakups can serve as the pattern break to allow this to happen).
Good intentions can ruin relationships. This is particularly true when it comes to communication, where we wrap out messages in layers of distractors to avoid confrontation.
To a certain extent, being diplomatic and empathetic is useful. However, if communication veers too much towards conflict avoidance the message will become mixed, and no evolving will take place as a result. And if change does not occur over time, the relationship will stagnate because it will remain the same despite the partners changing.
Getting communication right the second time around will ensure that you build trust because you are both on the same page, even if this means temporary turbulence. And secondly, you build respect because it takes courage to be direct.
Be An Individual
Functioning well as a partner means functioning well as an individual. Often we shed too much of what makes us tick in order to make our partners happy, and in doing so being increasingly drained. This is a mistake.
Focusing on rediscovering ourselves, outside of our romantic routine, can greatly improve the relationship. This may seem counter-intuitive, but much of what you bring to the table in the relationship is determined by what your experiences are outside of it. If you have nothing outside of your partner, you have nothing to add. And sooner or later things will stagnate because there is no fuel. No spark.
Mixing it up is key to keeping emotions fresh. Negotiating and sacrificing is all well and good, but if you have nothing left that drives you, you have nothing left to offer (which is why people often complain about being dumped despite everything they did).