Wednesday, September 14, 2011

Reflections on the Ending of Romantic Relationships

Man and woman, once joined in a relationship, are not meant to be separated. Once entered into, the relationship between one man and one woman should grow and deepen until death separates the two partners. Marriage recognizes the unity between a man and a woman which begins during the period of courtship. Breakups are, in a sense, unnatural.
But sometimes, breakups must happen for the good of one or both parties in a relationship. Perhaps because one party is not ready for a serious relationship; perhaps because two partners are fundamentally incompatible; perhaps because families or friends pose difficulties – there are numerous reasons why a breakup may be necessary.
But although a breakup may be necessary, that does not mean that it will be pain-free. Whenever any relationship where two people care or cared about each other is sundered, pain will result.
Although they are never fun, the pain of a breakup – for both sides – can be eased if common sense is exercised. (Unfortunately, due to high emotions, common sense is the first thing to be tossed during a breakup.)
I make no claim to “expert” status in the art of the “clean” breakup, as anyone who knows me well could attest. Still, however, I learned several valuable lessons from my experience, which will hopefully prove helpful to someone in the future. What I have learned through bitter experience, I share:
1.     Never demean the person you are breaking up with – to his or her face or behind his or her back. In condemning your former partner, in many ways you condemn yourself for your choice of your partner. If your former partner hurt you, criticize the action, and do not personally retaliate against your attacker.
2.     Be firm when you are breaking up. There’s often a tendency to be too gentle and not want to hurt the other person. But a lack of firmness leads to false hope and confusion.
3.     Be gentle with the other person when breaking up. There is the tendency to want to hurt the other person and to blame the other person for every mistake made over the course of a relationship.
4.     If the breakup is not mutual, the initiator of the breakup should explain the reasoning behind the breakup to the best of his or her ability.
5.     Acknowledge what you did wrong, without exaggerating or taking all the blame. Very few relationships end through only one person’s fault (despite the all-too-common temptation to believe the contrary). Indeed, often there is no fault at all – two people may have been called by God to date for a time, but not forever, and the circumstances came about for a breakup.
6.     Friends are helpful – indeed, vital – in dealing with a breakup and the aftermath.
7.     Pray for the other person’s healing – and your own healing. Both parties need healing after a breakup. The destruction of a serious relationship causes a lot of pain.
The fundamental theme is balance. One should be respectful so as not to harm the other, while at the same time be firm so as not to breed false hope.One should acknowledge his or her own misdeeds (assuming any existed), while at the same time being willing to forgive the other's misdeeds.  One should never attack the person, while at the same time patiently bearing any attacks that may be made.
(This advice holds true for both men and women. Females often find it harder to compartmentalize like men, making breakups tougher on them, generally speaking. But generally speaking, these same rules apply to both genders.)
I do not claim that a Christian breakup is easy. Human nature makes it easy to blame the other person for the pain caused by a breakup. Nonetheless it is indeed possible – and something to be strived for. We as Christians are called to do what is right, not what is easy.
God heals all wounds, if we let Him heal us; time erases evil memories, if we are willing to let go of them. Even the pain of a broken relationship can be turned to His greater glory, if we let Him transform us.
Even breakups have some role to play in His master plan. And if we cooperate with Him by treating the other partner with dignity, we will heal faster and be better prepared to accept and embrace His future plans for us.


  1. I would add:

    A. Pray a rosary and go to communion, and ask God to make it easy for everyone involved.

    or .. do these things to make sure you're making the right decision.

    B. Invite your soon-to-be-ex to do the same if he/she's having trouble.

    C. When it's all said and done, repeat A. in appreciation and thanksgiving. Be sure to ask for quicker healing. He will forgive you, for whatever you ask, if needed, but you must forgive yourself and move on.

    God's Mercy is greater than everything.

    God bless your heart.

  2. "2.Be firm when you are breaking up. There’s often a tendency to be too gentle and not want to hurt the other person. But a lack of firmness leads to false hope and confusion."

    Of course there should be hope for a change in condition. The real fear is that those who do separate will become comfortable in the separation.

    Separation should be seen solely as medicinal, with hope of curing the ailment which lead to the amputation in the first place.

  3. Anonymous - excellent points.
    Love the girls - True. One should pray for reconciliation, certainly. But this post, as I wrote it (I apologize if anything was unclear), was for single men and women. If a romantic relationship is not meant to be, and one party knows it, it is cruelty to string the other person along, hoping for a romantic reconciliation.
    One may be able to have a relationship after the initial awkwardness goes away - just of a different degree. And in that sense, I fully agree with your post.


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