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We Don’t Know How to Say Goodbye

Eighty-nine percent of relationships end.* So why do we consider them failures for ending, or worse, consider ourselves failures for having so many “failed” relationships? Relationships are glorious cauldrons of growth, and often one of us outgrows the cauldron and is ready for something new. This can be painful and sad, but it is also beautiful. How can we celebrate the growth and gifts a partnership has given us while also holding the the hurts and resentments? How about a ritual? I recommend creating one around these six steps**:

1) Express resentments: Take turns sharing with each other all of the resentments you are currently feeling. While one person shares, the other listens.

2) Express apologies: Now take turns expressing everything you’re sorry for. Some apologies might match up with the resentments, others won’t. Only express what feels authentic; there may be things you’re not ready to apologize for and that’s ok. Again, take turns sharing while the other person listens.

3) Forgive what you can: Forgive your partner for anything you’re ready to forgive them for. This doesn’t necessarily mean you condone their behavior; it just means you understand their actions in light of their limitations.

IMG_3660_10244) Share everything you’re thankful for: What did you get from this relationship and what are you taking away? New knowledge and skills, experiences, specific things your partner did, or ways they supported you and allowed you to grow.

5) Share everything you loved and will miss: Let yourself grieve in the presence of the other person. Let them know how much they and your relationship meant to you.

6) Say goodbye to the relationship in whatever way feels right: Maybe you each share some hopes for the other and together blow out a candle.

I recommend setting up the space to be beautiful and sacred, as you might do for a wedding. Perhaps you burn some sage or sweetgrass or light candles. Maybe you even have witnesses, the family of friends who supported you as a couple.

Recently I had the honor of facilitating such a ritual for some friends and it was as beautiful and moving as some of my favorite weddings. If your partner is unwilling to do this with you you can have a friend or therapist stand in for them and listen as you share your feelings. If you have done or do this, please post or share your experience below!


*A statistic we came up with at Steve Bearman’s Power of Goodbye workshop by adding all the participants’ relationships and then counting how many of them ended. The true statistic is likely higher considering we included current relationships and probably some of those have ended by now too.
**Abbreviated from Steve Bearman’s Six Steps for Completing Relationships.

2 thoughts on “We Don’t Know How to Say Goodbye

  1. Imagine if people did this regularly in the within the relationship, before things break down…I’ll bet many more last. I firmly believe silences (and the stories we make up about the other person) kill relationships.

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