Breaking up is hard to do: Expectations

Breaking up is hard to do: Expectations

In November of 2021, my presentation topic was breaking up, from the perspective of the person doing the breaking. How to decide when to break up, how to be compassionate, how to minimize upset and drama, how to maintain personal boundaries, and etc.

Coming up in March, I’ll be doing part 2, where I’ll be talking about the break up from the other side. The person being broken up with.

Which, admittedly, for many is MUCH HARDER.

Why do you think I started with the “easy” stuff first? LOL!

Actually, breaking up with someone is often not easy at all, for many people. It never has been for me. Because I care about the people in my life. And because I make it a policy to break up with people before I dislike them or hate them.

It sucks.


Another reason it sucks and why a breakup is so hard (from both sides) is the death of expectations and plans.

During a break up, a huge part of the grieving process is over the loss of your EXPECTATIONS of how you WANTED things to turn out…rather than the loss of the REALITY of how things truly were.

I know in all of my breakups, this has been a factor. A big one.

Because when I’ve broken up, it’s because things are not going well or I don’t see them ever going well enough.

But to be honest, that doesn’t actually change the fact that I wished for something more and better.

And that’s where it gets me.

Well, got me.

Because these days, I’ve found myself a bit more flexible. A bit less attached to a specific outcome.

I’ve not removed myself entirely.

I’m not that person, and frankly, I don’t want to be. I like making plans and imagining the future.

But when we have attached ourselves to a specific outcome, to an idea of what our lives will look like, to a belief, a preconceived notion, or to an expectation, we end up hurting ourselves and others with our inflexibility.

Last week, in my piece about insecurity I mentioned the balance of flexible and inflexible. I feel the same thing applies here.

We will want to strike a balance between being able to plan and enjoy the idea of a future enough to bond with another person (or people) and to build a life, and the ability to be flexible, and accept life for what it IS, now, and people for who they are—especially for who they are outside our desires for them.

(As an aside, one of the things I’ve noticed is that those with very rigid expectations of how things should be are also often the ones getting screwed over, lied to, or cheated on, because they naturally try to force others to fit their mold of what a relationship looks like.

And they also have more tendency to shut their eyes to what REALLY IS, rather than deciding when another person will not work out for them.)

And in a breakup, it’s easier to let go of what we wanted for ourselves with another, and what we wanted for them with us when we can let go and accept what is to move forward.

Here are a few actions that can help.

Journal or write about it.

I’ve found that a simple journal when I’m deep in my feels can really help me identify what I’m feeling. I will set a timer for 10-20 minutes, then just write whatever comes to mind.

Sometimes it takes a few entries to get to the heart of things, but it eventually comes out, and feels a bit like a painful boil has been lanced. The pain and grief are still there, but softened, and identifiable.

Give yourself credit.

You did the best you could with the knowledge and ability you had at the time. Even if in retrospect you could have done better (always!), be kind to yourself.

Work on your boundaries.

Many of our relationship challenges are centered in nonexistent or poorly maintained boundaries. Doing some work on yourself can not only help heal from a relationship, but can point to some of the expectations you had that were actually harmful to you and your personal needs.

Remember the benefits AND the drawbacks.

Looks for the things you glossed over in your relationship to maintain your vision of what it should be. Note when you actually noticed any yellow or red flags, AND when you chose to justify or ignore them. Tuck those feelings away for future reference.

Let go of the need to be RIGHT.

Often, grieving what might have been is made even harder thanks to pride. Our desire and need to be right. Our belief that we had the perfect vision, if everyone else had just played along.

“If I ruled the world…” Is a silly and favorite saying I use to turn that thinking on it’s head (by exaggerating it beyond all reason) when I start feeling RIGHT about something.

Of course, there’s more.

There is more to the end of a relationship than just the release of expectations.

And I’ll talk about how to navigate being broken up with in March, on the 8th at 8pm ET. Get notified by email of this event (and all my other presentations) here:

What are your thoughts?

When a relationship ends, whether you end it or it is ended for you, how much leeway do you give yourself to mourn the expectations you had and to let go of them gently?

Do you have a process that has worked for you?

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