Closing Up Shop on a Relationship

Copy of rosenthalNeil Rosenthal
Marriage and Family Therapist (lic.)

How do you say goodbye to a dream? More specifically, how do you say goodbye to a person who you once viewed as your romantic partner, spouse, lover, or soulmate?
If you are having trouble letting go of your attachment to an ex-partner, your first difficult task is to ask yourself: “If I allow myself to detach, what do I fear?”
So often people hang on well after a relationship has ended because they hope for a reconciliation. They fear if they actually let go of their attachment, the relationship will be gone for good, even if the relationship has, in fact, been dead for years. So your first task is to be willing to stop clinging to the dream and accept reality, so you can focus on your future.
You will then be ready to explore some more difficult, but very helpful, questions. I would recommend you write down your answers (you won’t remember your answers otherwise, and this is a list you may need to return to often). Also, I would recommend you write as many answers as you can to each question, rather than being satisfied with one answer. Truth is complex! Some of these questions came from or were stimulated by Karen Kahn Wilson in her book, Transformational Divorce (New Harbinger Publications).
• When were you at your strongest and best in the relationship?
• When were you at your weakest or most vulnerable?
• What warning signs did you miss?
• What was your role in causing the problems in the relationship or in helping the relationship deteriorate? (Hold yourself accountable for what you said, what you did, and how you handled yourself.)
• What were your ex-partner’s failures or mistakes in the relationship? How did s/he contribute to the problems in the relationship?
• If your ex-partner were being friendly, fair, and completely honest, how would s/he describe you? Answer the following questions as you think your ex would answer them: “What did you like the most about having me as your intimate partner? What do you see as my greatest difficulties or blind spots? How do you think I assisted our relationship in failing? What could I have done differently that would have made the biggest difference? If you could have changed me in some way, what would it have been?”
• How often were you walled off to being close, connected, and vulnerable?
• When did you close off your own heart?
• How would you assess your overall behavior as a mate?
• What would you have done differently in this relationship if you had it to do all over again?
• What feelings and thoughts has the ending of your relationship brought up for you?
• Are there any relationship skills at which you need to get better? What are they?
• What did you gain by being in the relationship? How have you grown? How are you better, wiser, or more enriched because of this relationship? What did you receive in this relationship that you feel grateful for?
• What are you willing to forgive your ex-partner for? What do you want to be forgiven for? What are you willing to forgive yourself for?
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