Why is it that we hold on to relationships long past their natural end?

Think of a friendship that no longer exists. Do you still remember how your friend insulted or deserted you? You gained new friends, but you still feel that hurt.

Remember that supervisor who made your life such hell that you left to get a new job? You smile every time you think what a sad sod that supervisor is, and how much better off you are now. Or you still resent the opportunity that you missed as a result of that person, even though you gained much more from the new job than from the old one.

Then of course there is your marriage. You have known for a long time that there is nothing left of that relationship, but you still hold on. You cannot get a divorce – or so you have convinced yourself. You are dying a slow death every day because your partner refuses to change.

Probably the most destructive relationship to hold on to is a marriage, because of all the social and cultural restrictions against divorce. Somehow we share a belief that a marriage must last for ever, even if statistics confirm that most marriages do not last for ever.

If you end a marriage, does that mean your relationship has failed? That depends on what you take away from the marriage.

Let’s assume that you decided to end the marriage because you discovered your partner is cheating on you. Of course the cheating partner is wrong and should carry all the blame. Or maybe not?

Let us take a step back and look at the situation from a different angle.

You had particular expectations of the relationship. You made those expectations clear to your partner, who obliged and live up to your expectations. Everyone was happy and all was well. You were very pleased with yourself.

Then you discovered that your partner was seeing someone else. This of course was devastating. When you confronted your partner they had nothing to say, or they said “it did not really mean anything”, or they said “you won’t understand”.

Did you listen to that? Did you hear what your cheating partner was saying to you?

It is not pleasant to realise that the relationship was all about you and your expectations. It takes much effort and sometimes a large leap of courage to look at the face in the mirror and see who carries 50% of the “blame” for a relationship where one person cheated.

Cheating is only the symptom of the lack of communication in the relationship. Did you ever listen to your partner? Did you ever ask and discover what your partner really values?

Of course it is quite disappointing to discover that a person does not live up to your expectations. But in any relationship there are two people and they both have expectations. One person may have the vocabulary to express their expectations and values, while another person uses their behaviour to express their expectations and values.

Who is wrong? The person who is “wrong” is not the one who cheated. The person who is “wrong” is the one who does not at the end of a relationship step back and do some introspection.

What did you learn from this partner? In what way did you grow from the relationship? What was the most valuable thing you gained from the relationship? How did the relationship make you wiser and stronger? In what way was your partner the best teacher you could ever have had to learn that specific lesson?

Life is about balance. For every light side there is a dark side. And this is the blatantly obvious bit that we like to overlook: for every dark side there is also a light side.

The closer we get to the natural completion of a relationship, the more we focus on the dark side and the hurt from the relationship. This hurt gets so intense that we completely forget to look for the light side – the gain from the relationship.

Often a relationship ends on the surface, but that does not mean we get closer to the natural completion. Think about divorces where the hurt and pain drags on throughout the divorce negotiations – and often for years afterwards, long after the divorce was finalised.

As long as we get stuck on the part of the equation that focuses on “me, myself and I” and “the things they did to me”, the relationship drags on.

Dealing with the paperwork or dividing possessions does not end a relationship. Getting into another, more fulfilling, loving relationship does not end a relationship.

The only way to end a relationship is to acknowledge how that relationship changed you for the better, and then to thank your partner for being a valuable part of the experience. Then let go of the relationship and hold on to the learning experience.

Yes, it is possible to thank any partner for their contribution to your growth, even if the partner raped or abused you, or was an addict. You had that experience not so that it would destroy you, but so that it would help you heal a division inside of yourself.

The secret of gaining from ending a relationship is to acknowledge the nature of that division, and to move from division to wholeness, gratitude and Love.

As long as you hold on to the division and look for someone to blame for your hurt, you will remain divided, hurt and in a dark place. Understanding yourself comes in small portions. Accept the small portions and grow from them.

Author's Bio: 

Elsabe Smit is The Intuition Coach. She helps people to resolve layers of fear, ignorance and misunderstanding, so that they can live the life they dream of. What concern is consuming all your energy? Visit www.TheIntuitionCoach.com for solutions.