After one year of a wonderfully passionate and loving relationship, I decided to break things off. No phone calls. No email. No texts. A complete fast from my girlfriend.
Why did I go cold turkey with my lover, especially as Valentines Day was approaching? Because I did not want to settle. Isn’t that why most people back out of relationships–they fear settling for something or someone less than what they want in their heart of hearts.
Well, I’m no different. I hate having to settle. So rather than passively accepting my very comfortable relationship, I decided it was time to shake things up. To be honest, we both decided it was in our best interest to step apart. She hates anything that’s not extraordinary as much as I do, so the prospect of continuing the relational status-quo was simply not going to cut it. This lead us where we are now: working alone but together to take our relationship to new heights.
Truth be told, we haven’t exactly “broken up”. The relationship continues, just in a new form, one where we have consciously decided to cut each other out of the picture so we can observe how we relate in a new light. It’s not a break-up but a re-up–an experiment in rejuvenating our bond.
Our hope is that our intentional separation provides an opportunity to reflect upon our emotional and behavioral habits towards each other. Ultimately, we want to evaluate our behaviors/habits so we can strengthen those that are working and refashion those that are causing any undue stress, sadness or frustration.
You may think this all sounds like some fru-fru couples therapy. In a sense it is. However, unlike most people who go to therapy, there was nothing really wrong with our relationship. For all ostensible purposes, we are very in love and very happy showing this to the world.
So instead of viewing this as a final attempt to save something that was steadily falling apart, I see it as a preemptive intervention to strengthen something that was already going really well. It’s like having ‘that conversation’ before the need for that conversation even arises.
Thus we took the plunge into a temporary relational abyss. As an educator and personal trainer, the idea of a relational re-up obviously appealed to my coaching sensibility. How I managed to get her to sign-on still befuddles me. There were the obvious objections–you mean I can’t text you at all? What if something catastrophic happens? What will I do at night alone without you? What if you decided you’re happier without me?–and fears of being left high and dry crept in no matter how many times I reassured her I would not run away.
Despite the potential for stirring uncomfortable emotions, I think she knew deep down that this was going to be hugely beneficial to our relationship. After all, who wouldn’t want to do something to facilitate communication, promote understanding, and encourage continual growth of themselves and their partner. It sounds too good to be true. Perhaps it is.
Borrowing the words of Bertrand Russell, “In all affairs it’s a healthy thing now and then to hang a question mark on the things you have long taken for granted.” I’m not necessarily saying we took each other for granted. But sure enough, there are probably things that both of us do which are not fully acknowledged, appreciated or talked about. Every relationship has its blind-spots, and we want to bring light to them before they harbor resentment and stress.
We have both agreed that the focus is to remain on building positive future together rather than rehashing mistakes of the past. We will use principles of non-violent communication to express how we feel so as not to send ego-defenses into overdrive. And we will work together to generate a list of actionable steps to move forward in areas that require attention. All the while, we have both assumed a positive intention behind everything that is said, even if it hurts.
I will give you a detailed follow-up of our relational re-up experience once we’ve recanoodled. If you’re interested in trying this experiment in outrageous loving, I encourage you to work together with your partner and find a set a guidelines that suits your specific circumstances. If you need a few ideas to get started, you can see the details we drafted up below.
To making good things better,
Happy Valentines Day
I’m Jeff Siegel, a wellness coach and mindfulness teacher, helping people upgrade their habits and improve their health. For free bi-monthly wisdom on how to eat, move, and be healthier, sign-up for my newsletter. If you’d like to explore working together, you can schedule a private 30-min consultation call with me.