“I don’t like being told that I can ‘do better’. That’s not comforting; it’s insulting.”
The words came from Stacy, a friend who recently ended a cohabitory (not a word, I know) relationship. The end had been forecast for some time, yet it still brought anger and tears when it came. The ache persisted beyond the moving-out process and the hole in Stacy’s life is still a painful reality.
“If he’s so awful, that means I have bad taste,” she complained. “And what’s wrong with me that I spent so much time with someone who is so far beneath me?”
I agree with my friend. It’s become standard protocol to assuage another’s discomfort by cutting down the ex. But when you’re writhing in pain, one-liners just don’t cut it. Such words, upon closer scrutiny, can do more harm than good.
I think the problem comes from a continuous focus on the partnership aspect of the situation. It’s a natural reaction, really— when everything has been thrown off-balance by a separation or divorce, the knee-jerk reaction is to place a better-formed Relationship Piece into the puzzle to restore equilibrium. Statements like, “you were too good for him/her” or “there are other fish in the sea” are intended to soothe and inspire hope for better luck next time.
Unfortunately, these prescriptions completely ignore the present state of the person with the bleeding broken heart. True healing needs to come from within, and family and friends can ignite this restoration by loving their wounded friend instead of hating his/her ex. When focusing on individual needs, harsh judgments about the previous partner are simply unnecessary.
I made a sweeping gesture with my arms to signify the idea of clearing away all of the Relationship BS. “What are you planning to do with yourself now?” I asked.
Stacy’s eyes took on a new glimmer as she happily rattled off a list of goals pertaining to her career, education and home. She explained her intention to regard her ex with kindness while she chases her childhood dreams. She whole-heartedly hopes to see him realize his own potential.
Stacy is detached enough to see a bigger picture and plan for a better future via the High Road. By embracing her pain, she’s growing stronger. By employing compassion, she is letting go with love. As time passes she’ll move from hole to whole, and she’ll do so while defining herself on her own terms- no comparisons necessary.
I’m proud to have such a strong friend.Google+