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Sunday, July 11, 2010

The end of the world is near!


Life throws us curves. You can plan, plot, control, schedule, analyze and compromise and still every once in a while things don't go the way you want. That's true for relationships just like everything else in life. And just like all the other curves, the question is how you navigate the challenge.
Part of successfully navigating a curve is seeing it coming. Just like driving a car. If you don't see the curve coming you are going to be well into it before you turn, making for a rough ride or even a trip off the side of the road. If you see the curve coming you can start your turn early, slow down if you have to, making for a nice smooth ride. The hard part is seeing the curve coming. Fortunately when driving, some nice person has usually put up a sign telling us there is a curve ahead.
But what about seeing the curves in relationships? There are usually signs but many of us ignore them, hoping the curve won't really materialize. Maybe you argue more frequently with your partner. Maybe your sexual relationship cools off or expires completely. Maybe communication stops. Or is it something else? Is there a sign you usually see? Even if you ignore it at first, do you always realize the sign was there later?

All of that was really leading up to the heart of this article which is all about endings.

Do you see signs that tell you the end of your relationship is near or is it always a surprise? Maybe you don't quite see signs but you have a feeling in your gut, or a hunch, that something isn't quite right. How do you notice?

And then, how do you navigate the curves? Do you try anything to save the relationship? Do you allow that the relationship is over but just try to maintain a friendship? Do you scream, yell, and fight to the bitter end or just quietly let it die?

For me, the signs aren't really signs. Or if they are I'm just to ignorant of them to ever notice. Instead I start hearing little voices in my head saying things like; If we break up can we still be friends? This doesn't feel right anymore, what's happening? Or the worst; What kind of conversation will I need to have with my partner to redefine our relationship.

For a lot of guys, myself included, there is an urge to just run away when we want a relationship to end. Maybe we don't like to make girls cry. Maybe we avoid confrontation with women. I really don't know but the "flight" urge hits pretty hard when contemplating a break-up. Personally I hate that I feel that way so I fight the urge all the way. I won't say I'm perfect or anything, but I do try. Part of it is that I dislike the idea of losing a friendship and think there is a big difference between "being in love" vs. "loving someone". Once I have been in love with someone I find it very hard to stop loving them, so I usually don't.

So how do you manage a breakup? Probably avoiding screaming, yelling, and petty bickering would be at the top of the list if you are trying to have a calm ending. There are all sorts of tricks to stay calm from breathing to applying the "Will it matter in 5 years?" question.

I think a lot of people become manipulative during a breakup as a way to defend themselves. Do they need defending? Probably not. They aren't really being attacked but a breakup usually creates feelings of rejection or that the other person was insincere. Those things can put people on the defensive.

At the same time one or both of your hearts are breaking. That kind of pain can often lead people to act unusually. They might be less patient or understanding, or more aggressive. In the middle of a breakup it is hard to take a step back and allow for unusual behavior but that is a good way to keep things calm. Gently questioning the other person when unusual behavior is noticed may reveal they are just striking out blindly and don't mean what they are saying.

I could go on and on as there are dozens of different things people do during breakups and every person is different. In my experience, staying calm and gently questioning abrasive or other unusual comments and behavior from the other person will usually calm them down while at the same time letting them know you still care.

How do you handle a breakup? What actions do you take when you see a breakup coming? What triggers you to anger or irrational behavior during a breakup?

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