A Non-Tragic View of Breaking Up

A Non-Tragic View of Breaking Up

From The School of Life Sydney comes this unexpected slant on the ending of relationships:

We tend to greet the news of the end of a relationship as if it’s a minor tragedy. This is because we believe that the natural and successful outcome of any love story is that two people should stay together forever, and therefore any break up must be seen as a hostile failure.

From a very different viewpoint, however, we might see the separation occurring, not because the relationship has gone badly but because it has gone well! Instead of feeling hurt, bitter, regretful and/or guilty, we’re parting with a sense of mutual gratitude and joint accomplishment.

This unexpected possibility comes from keeping in mind the crucial question: what is this relationship for? Rather than sounding disillusioned and negative, it can and should be a positive and eager question with a good answer that goes to the heart of love.

In a dynamic and liberating interpretation, we can look at love as a kind of education. It’s a mutual attempt to learn from and teach something to another person, growing together through what love teaches us. We’re in a relationship with that person because there are specific and highly important things we need to do together, thus answering that big question about the purpose of the relationship.

Having recognised all that, however, there may come a time when there is nothing more to learn from our relationship, which has indeed had a great loving purpose. Thanks to our partner we’re more grown up than we were at the start; we’re more balanced, mature and wiser. They’ve helped us to become better people, so now it can end.

Just like writing a novel, the hard work of story-writing can be brought to a good resolution; or devoted parents have prepared the way for the child to leave home and go into the world.

Finishing isn’t a sign of failure but of background success.

In an ideal relationship there has been a goal in mind and this sense of completion would be mutual. The painful reality, though, is not so clear-cut: if we could only hold on to the idea of love as education! By recognising that we’ve stopped being able to teach one another anything, that we’ve done all we can, we are entitled to end it without feelings of abandonment or failure.

In breaking up we need to accept that we’ve learned a lot but there is more to come. By realising, too, that there are still many ways to develop ourselves, we can avoid feeling devastated. Look forward to the lessons in love and life that may come from someone else or, indeed, from being on our own for a while.