Relationship Failure and Self-Compassion
BY ANITA MARTIN
Divorce? Breakup? These words may stir assumptions, stories, questions, and at times criticism from others. While opinions and experiences are abundant, perhaps the most destructive of all is our own opinion. In the aftermath of a breakup, we may struggle to heal, trust, or even open to the possibility of future relationships. In time, we move forward and may reopen ourselves to the opportunity of love. But, the first steps toward healing are self-compassion and self-forgiveness.
Often, divorce feels like personal failure. You may feel solely responsible for the relationship’s decline. You may initially believe that if you were good enough, smart enough, or committed enough divorce could have been avoided. The process itself may have become destructive as you were faced with unrestrained emotional outbursts. In reality, most of us have failed in at least one relationship. However, a failed relationship is not equivalent to personal failure. And, the way in which we approach the experience can set the stage for our futures.
What happens if the notion of failed relationships as personal failure shifted? These are two completely different concepts and may create judgment rather than acceptance and compassion. Definitions of failure are influenced by value systems. The space between personal values and the partnership’s reality is where self-judgment has room to flourish. What does self-criticism sound like? Usually, these statements begin with “I should or I should have.” Thoughts of what you should do, should have done, or should have been are signs you’ve already judged yourself and your experience. When you accuse yourself, your history becomes a prison and you remain bound by past mistakes.
In the aftermath of a breakup, self-compassion and self-forgiveness are beacons to your future. When you repeatedly and harshly judge the way in which you experienced and understood your relationship, forward movement and healing may be prevented or stalled. So, learn to be compassionate toward yourself, your mistakes, your history, your feelings, and your new life.
Still, leaving a relationship is difficult even when the choice is clear and it may feel as though you are abandoning everything you have known in life. As you sort through the options, a multitude of questions arise. In the hurried pace and emotional intensity of the relationship’s final moments, there is a temptation to abandon your questions. However, their answers and the way you answer them serve as a compass that will guide you into your future. They tell of your first attempts in learning. They tell of your strengths and mistakes. They highlight your inexperience. They reveal your character, courage, and voice. And, it is these things that offer wisdom, understanding, and compassion. However, a decision remains when we find ourselves caught in between the reality of what we need and what we have in our relationship. And, what every healthy relationship requires is two individuals willing to work toward an honest conversation where the needs of both are respected and nurtured. But we must first be able to extend compassion to ourselves.