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Breaking Up is Hard to do – 20 Questions to Help You Know When it’s Time to Let go

Breaking Up is Hard to do – 20 Questions to Help You Know When it’s Time to Let go

    Do you remember the story about the new prisoner on the block?   He is settling in nervously on the first night of his sentence, when he hears a series of numbers yelled out, each one followed by raucous laughter from his fellow inmates.   Nervously, he asks his cell-mate what is going on.   The cell-mate replies, “That’s the lifers, they have been in here so long that they have heard all of each others’ jokes, so rather than telling the joke, to save time they just shout out the joke’s number.”  If your friends and family could tell this joke to describe how you talk about your relationship issues, you might want to read this post.

    But seriously, breaking up is hard to do and inspires procrastination in the best of us. The writing may have been on the wall for months or even years, yet the exit out of a relationship can be a painstakingly slow process.  Even without marriage and children in the mix, wrestling with the dilemma of when to hold and when to fold is often painful.

    There are times when it may be blindingly obvious to everyone around you that it’s time to walk away, yet you still need to come to your own conclusion. The exception to this rule is if there is any kind of violent or abusive behavior taking place. In this case you need to get help and get yourself away and to safety immediately.

    Loyalty, commitment and a willingness to work through difficult times are all valuable qualities to bring to any relationship but it’s good to be aware that these virtues can also sometimes work against us and cause us to prolong the suffering by clinging to a relationship long after it has ceased to be good for us.  At times like this it’s great to have kind and patient friends who can support you along the way.   But most important, is to give yourself some space and time to really explore what you are thinking and feeling.   As one of my wise friends says,

    “You’re not done ‘til you’re done and it doesn’t matter what anyone else thinks, because only when you know you’re done will it really be over and when you’re done, you’ll know it.”

    Sometimes it’s helpful to ask yourself a series of questions. Journaling your responses may allow you to go deeper still, in search of the clarity you need.   Here are some to start you off.

    1)   What am I afraid of?

    Get really honest with your answers here, – some of the most common are,  the fear of being alone, fear of what other people will think and fear of making a mistake.

    2)   Are those realistic fears?

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    Once you have listed your fears, go through the list one by one and ask yourself how realistic they are.

    3)   If I wasn’t scared that x,y,z might happen– what would I do?

    Next, taking each fear in turn, ask yourself how your course of action might be influenced if this fear wasn’t a factor.

    4)   Am in love with this person, or the person I wish they were? (aka The Imaginary Boyfriend)?

    This questions deals with the perennial problem of falling in love with the potential.

    5)   If I could get an email from myself ten years from now, what advice might it have?

    This is another good trick to get a different perspective on the problem and to get in touch with the inner wisdom we all have. My thanks to Havi Brooks for inspiring this one with her dialogues with her “slightly future me”.

    6)   Is this relationship bringing out the best in me?

    Take a look at the person you have become in relation to who you were before. Do you like the comparison?

    7)   Have I given my best? 

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    It’s always easier to come to closure when you can honestly say that you gave it 100%.

    8)   Should it be this much work?

    What does this relationship add to your quality of life?

    9)    Do I make excuses for or justify my partner’s behavior towards me?

    Your friends and family will be able to fill you in here.

    10)   How would I feel about my little sister/brother/daughter/son being in this situation?

    This one may surprise you, it’s often a little shocking to see the standards we will tolerate for ourselves compared to what we think the people we love deserve.

    11)    What have I learned from this relationship?

    What have you learned about what works and what doesn’t work for you?

    12)     What haven’t I learned from this relationship?

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    Where are you stuck?

    13)      Is this a familiar pattern?

    Have you seen this all before?  What do you need to do to take responsibility for doing it differently from now on?

    14)      Have I honestly expressed what it is that I want without trying to hide my vulnerability or blaming or judging?

    It’s hard to ask for what we really want when we are scared we won’t get it but everyone deserves the opportunity to hear requests kindly and clearly.

    15)      Do I think I can love this person in the way they deserve to be loved?

    Let’s turn the tables for a second, can you give your partner everything they have a right to receive?

    16)      If this is all there is, will it be enough?

    It’s a great test to ask whether if nothing changes. Could you really be happy with this person?

     17)      If I weren’t angry, how would it change things?

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    When we have had our needs unmet for a while, resentment can build to the point of rage and obscure rational thought.

    18)  If I forgave my partner, what difference would it make?

    To err is human, but to forgive is divine.  One of my favorite quotes says that refusing to forgive is like continually drinking poison and hoping the other person will die.   If your partner has done something or many things that have hurt you, ask yourself what might happen if you gave them a fresh slate?

    19)  If I forgave myself what difference would it make?

    Self-compassion can be a wonderful vehicle for growth and clarity, if yesterday didn’t exist at all, would you still feel the way you do?

     20)     If today was my last – would I regret ending or not having ended the relationship more?

    Finally, this question raises the stakes a little and challenges any sense of complacency.  It can give you a real sense of perspective, by asking how you might do things differently if you knew you wouldn’t have another chance.

    Try these questions out or add and subtract your own and don’t forget to trust your inner knowing.  Deep down, you know what’s best for you.

    Good Luck.

     

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    Last Updated on September 15, 2020

    7 Helpful Reminders When You Want to Make Big Life Changes

    7 Helpful Reminders When You Want to Make Big Life Changes

    Overcoming fear and making life changes is hard. It’s even harder when it’s a big change—breaking up with someone you love, leaving your old job, starting your own business, or hundreds of other difficult choices.

    Even if it’s obvious that making a big change will be beneficial, it can be tough. Our mind wants to stay where it’s comfortable, which means doing the same things we’ve always done[1].

    We worry: how do we know if we’re making the right decision? We wish we knew more. How do we make a decision without all of the necessary information?

    We feel stuck. How do we get past fear and move forward with that thing we want to do?

    Well, I certainly don’t have all the answers, but here are 7 things to remember when you want to move forward and make positive life changes.

    1. You’ll Never Have All the Information

    We often avoid making important decisions because we want more information before we make a tough call.

    Yes, it’s certainly true that you need to do your research, but if you’re waiting for the crystal clear answer to come to you, then you’re going to be waiting a long time. As humans, we are curious creatures, and our need for information can be paralyzing.

    Life is a series of guesses, mistakes, and revisions. Make the best decision you can at the time and continue to move forward. This also means learning to listen to and trust your intuition. Here’s how.

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    2. Have the Courage to Trust Yourself

    We make all sorts of excuses for not making important life changes, but the limiting belief that often underlies many of them is that we don’t trust ourselves to do the right thing.

    We think that if we get into a new situation, we won’t know what to do or how to react. We’re worried that the uncharted territory of the future will be too much for us to handle.

    Give yourself more credit than that.

    You’ve dealt with unexpected changes before, right? And when your car got a flat tire on the way to work, how did that end up? Or when you were unexpectedly dumped?

    In the end, you were fine.

    Humans are amazingly adaptable, and your whole life has been helping you develop skills to face unexpected challenges.

    Have enough courage to trust yourself. No matter what happens, you’ll figure out a way to make it work.

    3. What’s the Worst That Could Happen?

    Like jealousy, most of your fears are created in your own head.

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    When you actually sit down and think about the worst case scenario, you’ll realize that there are actually very few risks that you can’t recover from.

    Ask yourself, “What’s the worst that could happen?” Once you realize the worst isn’t that bad, you’ll be ready to crush it.

    When you’re preparing to make a big life change, write down all of the things you’re afraid of. Are you afraid of failing? Of looking silly? Of losing money? Of being unhappy?

    Then, address each fear by writing down ways you can overcome them. For example, if you’re afraid of losing money, can you take a few months to save up a safety net?

    4. It’s Just as Much About the Process as It Is About the Result

    We’re so wrapped up in results when we think about major life changes. We worry that if we start out towards a big goal, then we might not make it to the finish line.

    However, you’re allowed to change your mind. And failing will only help you learn what not to do next time.

    Furthermore, just because you don’t reach the final goal doesn’t mean you failed. You chose the goal in the first place, but you’re allowed to alter it if you find that the goal isn’t working out the way you hoped. Failure is not a destination, and neither is success.

    Enjoy the process of moving forward[2].

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    5. Continue to Pursue Opportunity

    If you’re on the fence about a big decision, then you might be worried about getting locked into a position that you can’t escape from.

    Think about it a different way. New choices rarely limit your options.

    In fact, new pursuits often open up even more opportunities. One of the best things about going after important goals with passion is that they open up chances and options that you never could have expected in the beginning.

    If you pursue the interesting opportunities that arise along the path to your goal, then you can be sure that you’ll always have choices.

    6. Effort Matters, So Use It

    It sounds simple, but one of the big reasons we don’t make life changes is because we don’t try. And we don’t try because then it’s easy to make excuses for why we don’t get what we want.

    Flunked that test? Are you stupid? “Of course I’m not stupid. I just didn’t study. I would have gotten an A if I actually studied.”

    Stuck in a job you hate? Why haven’t you found a new job yet? “Well, I haven’t really tried to get a new job. I could totally ace that interview if I wanted.”

    Why do we make excuses like these to ourselves? It’s because if we try and fail, then we just failed. But if we don’t try, we can chalk it up to laziness.

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    Get over it. Failure happens to everyone.

    And the funny thing is, if you actually try—because it’s pretty clear that most people aren’t trying—then you’ll win a lot more than you think.

    7. Start With Something Manageable

    You can’t climb Everest if you don’t try hiking beforehand.

    Maybe applying for your dream job seems intimidating right now. What can you start with today?

    Can you talk to someone who already has that position and see what they think makes them successful? Can you improve your skills so you meet one of the qualifications? Can you take a free online course to expand your resume?

    Maybe you’re not quite ready for a long-term relationship, but you know you want to start dating. Could you try asking out a mutual friend? Can you go out more with friends to practice your communication skills and meet new people?

    You don’t need to be a world changer today; you just need to make small life changes in your own world.

    More Tips to Help You Make Life Changes

    Featured photo credit: Victor Rodriguez via unsplash.com

    Reference

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