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Clean Break

Clean Break

“When one door of happiness closes, another opens; but often we look so long at the closed door that we do not see the one which has been opened for us.” -Helen Keller

When we end our relationships badly, we get stuck in a continuous rebound relationship cycle.  Tragically, the most common and destructive bad endings that plague millions of relationships is when we use infidelity as an exit strategy. Some sex therapists would argue that most affairs, especially when they occur in succession, are nothing more than the continuous cycle of ineffective rebounding that takes over one’s relationship history. Certainly repeat marriage statistics bear this out. As dismal as our 50 percent fail rate is on first marriage, success rates for second marriage drops to 25 percent and the third relationships only have a success rate of 10 percent.  Failure rates in successive relationships out of marriage are no better. When we don’t authentically and definitively end our relationships, we carry what remains unresolved into everything that follows.

Ending relationships is a hard and painful business for both partners. Things happen and sometimes, as life and feelings change, our ability and willingness to maintain our commitments also changes.  However, these painful transitions can become lasting injuries on our long-term capacity for relationships when we are unwilling to take responsibility for these endings. When we don’t have the courage to communicate fully with our partner about what is not working for us, or when we refuse to show up authentically when we want out, infidelity opportunities arise. “It just happened” is what many people say about their affairs, yet clearly the opportunity of attraction grew in the fertile ground of leaving the intimacy of your previous relationship without really leaving it.

Another extremely popular and highly damaging bad ending is the digital dumping of relationships, which turns a painful conclusion into a bitter and unfinished burden. Ending real intimacy that you shared with someone with a brief email or worse still, a two line text message, is the perfect breeding ground for growing distrust of others and a continuous rumination over what is wrong with you. This kind of ending leaves people unable to connect deeply with others for years, caught in trying to piece together what happened without sufficient information. It isn’t just the person who is dumped who suffers from this kind of break up either. Not having the guts to look someone you cared for in the eye when you walk away creates an open wound in your life. It does not improve your chances for intimacy with another partner when you can’t honor who you are leaving.

Many relationship endings remain incomplete and become increasingly toxic because people refuse to make a clean break. Instead of moving on, the shifting of what was an exclusive intimate relationship into friends-with-benefits arrangement generally only serves to cheapen the original connection and leaves people feeling used. Many people go on for months or even years of being caught in a relationship that makes them feel bad about themselves and hateful about their partner.

The most tragic residue of all of these dishonorable endings is that it leaves both partners broken and unable to celebrate the growth and intimacy that they shared. When relationship history is plagued with only bitter memories, there are no grounds for moving forward. Truly our present moment grows from the integrity of our past, and nowhere more so than within our hearts. End the rebound cycle by living fully through the endings; this is where a new beginning takes shape.

Read more: Love, Making Love Sustainable, Relationships, , , , ,

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Wendy Strgar

Wendy Strgar, founder and CEO of Good Clean Love, is a loveologist who writes and lectures on Making Love Sustainable, a green philosophy of relationships which teaches the importance of valuing the renewable resources of love, intimacy and family.  In her new book, Love that Works: A Guide to Enduring Intimacy,  she tackles the challenging issues of sustaining relationships and healthy intimacy with an authentic and disarming style and simple yet innovative adviceIt has been called "the essential guide for relationships."  The book is available on ebook.  Wendy has been married for 27 years to her husband, a psychiatrist, and lives with their four children ages 13- 22 in the beautiful Pacific Northwest.


+ add your own
7:52AM PDT on Jul 12, 2012

It's too bad there are so many people who can't let go.
We've all had our hearts broken and broken some ourselves....but if you give up on love, then you give up on yourself and end up feeding the bitterness I see in so many of the comments here.

There IS life ....and love ....after a broken heart...IF you want it. If you're so damaged that you can't even try, then you need professional help.

Marriage is not obsolete and never will be as long as people can learn to love without addiction and neediness and dysfunction.

6:54AM PDT on Jul 12, 2012

Jane is perfectly right. Marriage is an obsolete form of domestic slavery and should be abolished!

6:52AM PDT on Jul 12, 2012


7:58PM PST on Feb 23, 2012


4:23PM PST on Feb 20, 2012

I feel broken, but he isn't. He stopped "loving me" 2 months or so before our 1 year relationship ended. I want to believe love exists, but it hurts too much. I don't know if I believe in it anymore. I know I will heal, but I dont think I can love.

4:46AM PST on Feb 14, 2012

Thanks for the article.

1:33PM PST on Feb 12, 2012

I think many people use the affair-strategy to get out of a relationship they fail at ending. Personnally, I believe it is a very awful thing to do, very coward and unrespectful. But, the strength required to put an end to certain relationships is so difficult to find within ourselves when we are in such a desperate place that I can see how people take this option as a solution to free themselves for good. I'd never do that. I'd rather hit rock-bottom really hard in a relationship than betray my partner as a way out. Relationship endings are difficult. Some more than others. Consulting a Psychologist and relying on personal faith is the two only options I can think of. Good luck to you all.

2:31AM PST on Feb 12, 2012


2:37PM PST on Feb 11, 2012


12:37AM PST on Feb 10, 2012

thank you for sharing.

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