How To Survive The Breakup Of A Longterm Relationship You Thought Would Last Forever

I got a phone call from a college friend telling me it was over. Here's what I told her that I wish I knew when my own decade-long relationship ended.
Publish date:
March 19, 2013

The birds they sang/ at the break of day/ Start again/ I heard them say/ Don't dwell on what/ has passed away/ or what is yet to be.

Ah the wars they will/ be fought again/The holy dove/She will be caught again/bought and sold/and bought again/ the dove is never free.

Ring the bells that still can ring/Forget your perfect offering/There is a crack in everything/That's how the light gets in. -- Leonard Cohen, "Anthem"

When a relationship of some length is over, it feels like death.

Except it feels worse than death because the person you no longer love but you still love is living -- but the relationship itself is dead.

There are no words to magically take away the hurt or the sadness or the pain of this most brutal ending: the ending of a love.

But there is one thing that I discovered along the way that can at least envelop you in comfort as you find ways to nurse your wounds and carry on. And that is faith.

I don't look at faith as something religious. I look at faith as a belief in the strength that has carried me along this far, and the faith that will carry both of us even farther tomorrow. I look at faith as a quiet knowledge inside of us that we won't give those who doubt us or put us down or question our dreams and desire the pleasure of seeing us falter. We are stronger than that. We are so fucking strong.

I look at faith as a small burner light inside, and when I visualize it, it grows larger than you could ever imagine.

I look at faith as the warmth of loving flesh pressed sweetly against us from friends, from family, from pets, from children, who remind us how small a part of the equation romance plays in a lifetime filled with love.

I want you to know how much I honor and respect and bear witness to your pain. Because I do. And I am here for you, always, as so many other people who love you are here for you, and will stay here for you, no matter what.

We will never, ever break up with you. We love you. You are love. You are loved.

Please know that part of my honoring your pain is telling you about this beautiful faith I see flowering inside you -- even though right now you may not. You see, I look at you, and I see you so clearly. I see you without the band of critics and regrets and fears and anxieties that might be jabbering away inside your brain, and without the seeping wound of grief that may be confusing your own sense of self.

I just see you. And you are extraordinary. You are what inspires faith in me.

Please know that I mean what I am about to say from the bottom of my heart.

My dear beautiful friend, you are doing everything right. You are whole even when you feel like you might be broken. Especially when you feel like you might be broken. You are perfect even when you feel like you are defective. You are so very lovable, and you are so, so valuable to me.

Don't believe me? Let me give you some examples of how wonderfully you are doing, my sweet friend.

Does your day feel like a fog sometimes and the tears start when you least expect them, like when someone says something tenderly to you? Because you are doing that perfectly.

Do you want to curl up into a ball and hold your phone like a blanket and call your mom and ask her to just listen? You are doing that perfectly, too.

Do you want to keep bringing up the possibility with your ex and your friends and yourself of maybe still trying to make it work, and what was the moment it ended, and who is the most to blame -- and maybe something gets thrown and a vase gets broken? Yep. You definitely did that perfect. You fucking nailed it.

Because right now, all you have to do is breathe, lay your hands on your heart, breathe out pain, breathe in love and accept it all.

Carrying around the weight of shame, and piling on further judgment of all your feelings and actions, is helping no one. "Why am I so sad?" "Why can't I get over it more quickly?" "Why, why, why?"

Do you know what shame stands for? "Should Have Already Mastered Everything." Let that glide around and melt on your tongue a bit.

You couldn't have mastered everything. Your ex couldn't have either. That's the maddening and wonderful part of being human.

Here's another truism someone told me once, and I've never forgotten it.

"What if you were to look at the pain and the joy of life as being equally exquisite, but just opposite ends of the spectrum -- and to view it objectively, without judgment, you might actually see the beauty in them both?"

When I told another friend this, she snorted and said: "Yeah. Well, I've had so much beauty I can hardly stand it anymore."

Then we laughed and cried together. And there was so much beauty in both.

Please keep going, my friend.

You're doing everything right.


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