08 Oct Conscious Uncoupling
It’s hard to say exactly when we ended the relationship because the last few years were so fraught with heartache and pain that any given moment I was thinking to myself “I’m done with this relationship” or a few moments later telling myself, “Are you crazy? You love each other and you will never find anyone else who’s compatible and loves you as much as she does.”
But, after teeter-totting back and forth herself, she finally made the call. “If I don’t get some space from you,” she said, “I’m going to kill you.” And, she was not joking. Our codependent patterns were making both of us feel depressed, confused, hopeless, and enraged.
Although I was pissed, shocked, and felt my soul slowly spiraling down, down, down, thank God, she had enough guts to end it. It saved both of our lives.
Our relationship could have been defined as a Personal Growth relationship. In that, we both were smack dab in the middle of our personal growth process and taking every workshop, reading every book, hiring every coach and counselor and using each other to learn every lesson we possibly could about what we wanted heal in ourselves and our partner.
As we approached the end, my partner, who was usually in the role of teacher and me as the D student, suggested we do an Conscious Uncoupling Ceremony. She had heard about this process from Katherine Woodward Thomas who coined the term and facilitated these for couples on their way out. This sounded like a ideal option for our conscious-raising personalities. But, no sooner than she suggested this, I was like, “no f*cking way! You, broke up with me, I’m out of here. See you in my rear view mirror.”
After nine months of crying, truly, just say “Boo!” to me and I was sobbing, I finally opened up to the idea of a completion ceremony. Only, when I came back all smiley and welcoming, now she had entered deep into a dark night of the soul.
We abandoned the idea of a loving departure, I left our community, and we barely spoke to each other for the next 10-years.
During this time, quite a bit happened. I started seeing someone else. My ex-partner did as well and got married. I broke up with my next partner and spent some time soul searching and feeling hopeless that I would ever have enough relationship tools to have a healthy partnership again. I engaged in several other personal growth and healing programs and eventually learned a few things about myself and relationships and got my courage back up to initiate a relationship again. This time, it seemed like it was going to stick. We both had strong autonomy and intimacy skills, we were much more compatible, and had similar life work.
The one hurdle was that my new partner for life, wanted to start our future back in the same city where my ex- lived. Aaaaaaaggggghhhhh!
How am I going to stay emotionally centered knowing that this person who once loved me dearly would now be better off if I was dead?
I knew that it was best to figure out a way to face this, than hide and feel like a broken, inadequate, human being every time a memory of my ex- would arise.
So, I pulled myself up by my boot straps and headed back home.
We started small. First a phone call. Then a date for tea in which my new partner joined us. (I think that helped both of them feel more secure).
Then, a few light conversations about our lives now and about my daughter whom she helped me coparent and still does.
A walk in the park and conversation by the stream helped to melt away the defenses and start to rebuild trust.
Finally, I asked the big question. Would you like to have a completion ceremony?
My ex- was still apprehensive and yet was now willing.
We decided to have a series of facilitated sessions with a somatic experiencing counselor. We were both astute with how to process ourselves and yet is was a relief to have a third party witness, give reflection, and hold space for our process.
We addressed our initial attraction to each over and agreed that it was mostly lust and I idealized her and her relationship skills. She revealed that, yes, in fact she did fall in love with my potential and not who I really was and wanted me to grow up and meet her.
We addressed the relationship itself and how well we worked together as a team accomplishing so much in our business, our farm, and our community. We appreciated how painstakingly we worked to understand and love each other. I don’t know any other couple who tried so hard to make it work. We addressed the break up and I really got how even though she was the one to end it, she still hurt when I began dating someone else and wouldn’t be thoughtful about excluding my new love from activities that my ex- was also attending. I get now how we were at different places in our process at different times as I was done grieving and moving into acceptance, she was entering anger.
These sessions were loaded with tears of sadness and joy as we forgave, accepted, appreciated, and blessed each other on our journeys.
Now, 15-years later, we invited a group of close friends to the farm and neighborhood we co-created and in circle displayed our public ritual of divorce.
We recapped our process and gave friends an opportunity to share. I was surprised how healing this process was to our friends. They loved us both and also struggled watching us go through the agony of our failed relationship. This ritual brought love back into everyone’s hearts and gave hope that other failed relationships can end in beauty and appreciation (and it doesn’t have to take 15-years).
Both of our partners joined us for the celebration as we gave the spirit of our old relationship up to the mountain. Even though many years have passed, and we both have changed and gone different
directions in our lives, we acknowledged that we will still be co-parenting my daughter. We created a community network together, and there is open space for something new to arise.
We ended the ceremony by tossing the bouquet and the next uncouple-to-be gleefully leapt to catch it.
Reflecting on this process, I am so grateful to my ex- for going through her processes on her own timing in her own way, to my wife for her patience and understanding of the importance of this process to me and my healing, to our friends and loved ones for loving us through thick and thin, to Julia for holding space tenderly and firmly for us, and to myself for holding the vision for this happy ending.
If you or someone you know, resonates with this story, please know that there is hope to end your relationship with loving kindness and begin anew.
If you would like some guidance in doing this, you can contact any of us.