In the course of my practice I unfortunately see a lot of people break up. Even though the career goal of a sex coach is usually to help people stay together, sometimes the best medicine is assuring them that what they once had is gone and it’s time to end it.
In my own life, I was in a long term relationship that ended not once but eight times. Finally we called a truce, went to therapy to find out what the heck was ailing us in the first place that made us unable to stay together or leave, and we did it! We ended our relationship with dignity, grace, and a helluva good party. After doing “the work” to know our choices clearly, we were done. Finished. Finito. Over.
Saying goodbye can be a healthy final curtain to a long play. Good or bad, that play has to end whether you do it while taking bows to the applause of your friends, or of your honey herself, or you just do a quick name change online and become a missing person to all but the old lady you bagged years ago, who birthed your pups.
Let’s face it: all relationships eventually end, if you factor death into the equation. But if you don’t choose to wait till the last moment, when you’re drooling and hanging over your walker in that nursing home, longing to throw a kiss to the pretty thing in the tight white uniform who’s given you a 30 second boner, then you better read on for tips on letting go when it’s time.
A COMMON PROFILE
What do I mean by a common profile? You and your girlfriend, wife, or common law cohabitant have been on the skids for months if not years, suffering the wisecracks and emotional desert of “no love” and the physical hardship of “no hard lovin’,” and it stinks. One or both of you say, maybe to yourselves, maybe out loud, “Maybe it’s time to call it quits.”
What do you do now?
Here is a set of options to follow, in sequence. If you don’t reach the goal with step one, go on to step two, and so on. The more sure you are that it’s time to cut the knot, the less agonizing you have to do. Being sure of your decision is the most powerful part of splitting up. Once you know in your groin, heart, or soul that this has got to end, it’s easy to find the means.
Until that moment, try these steps:
1. THE QUICK FIX
First, there are the quick fix approaches. You know the kind, like searching online for pop psych solutions to your love life woes. Of course, many of these folks aren’t legit, but you can learn a lot from the Mount Everest of tips out there in the advice world.
Maybe you find the “tell all” advisers, who tell you to write her a letter revealing your deepest, darkest secret: say, that you’ve always loved her sister, not her, and have endured these past 20 years because of guilt. Or take the advice of some 20 year old about your 34 years of marriage: that an affair may be just what an old codger like you needs to reboot your sexiness.
If you’re looking for a cure for your 45 second erection, a host of sites will sell you White Light in a Bottle, or maybe snake venom. Maybe you can buy the actual snake, if it happens that you found out that your significant other was cheating and are looking for a way of dealing with it.
You can buy gadgets and try gimmicks: romantic dinners in the moonlight, or a penile sleeve to practice in, or reminders of how hot she is, as a way to respark her interest in you (or yours in her). But, sadly, the problem isn’t usually what’s between her legs or inside your jockstrap. It’s what’s sitting in her emotional center or lying between her ears that has you on the death curve in your relationship.
2. PROFESSIONAL HELP
Which leads us to why professionals are often needed to get you in the ring to duke it out to the finish. A counselor worth his/her salt won’t actually get the two of you fighting, but will ask you to let out what’s been bugging you inside.
This can lead to some anger being expressed, but under the anger, for most men, is the real stuff, the repressed emotional baggage: sadness, guilt, shame, fear, and other brands of feelings that can be called whatever seems most right.
The best professional association in the U.S. is the one I’m president of: the American Association of Sexuality Educators, Counselors, and Therapists. At www.aasect.org, you can find experts who have the years of education and training, years of supervision, and specific expertise to guide a couple with relationship or sexual problems.
3. PROCESS IT OUT
If you’re too stubborn or scared to hire a coach or counselor and want to do it your way, at least try to express those feelings. You can work out what has built up over the years as gunk in the engine as anger, sadness, unexpressed happiness, lack of appreciation. Even if you know in the depth of your being that you have more than one foot out the door, be real with your emotions and with her.
Tell her how you really feel, but not as fodder for battle. Keep your focus on real gut level sharing, not the useless “blame or complain game.” Sometimes just being honest and authentic, sharing how you really feel, can be the antidote or the lasso on the horns of this dilemma that frees you both to decide to split.
Use the “positive sandwich” approach: Say something nice first, then some negative message, then another nice statement. Here’s a scenario that could happen to a couple who are stuck and may be better off if they ended it. You might say to her:
“Honey, you know that for years I thought you were the best thing that ever happened to me.” (Positive.)
“But lately we’ve drifted far apart, with all my traveling for work, leaving you to whine and groan about my being gone so much. Well, I’ve got to be honest. You haven’t been terribly supportive. You know that my job means the world to me, and that I’m not quitting it. I think it’s time for us to end this and move on.” (Negative.)
“But you know I’ll always appreciate what we had, and the great times we shared.” (Positive.)
4. WALK AWAY
If you’ve tried going to therapy or reading those self help books that crowd the bookstore shelves, if you’ve bought every sex toy known to man, if you’ve shared conversations for months about what the two of you need to do to get the relationship back on track but it’s not then sometimes you need to take charge and walk away.
If your mate is abusive emotionally or physically, or is a drunk or drug abuser, and if you’re trapped in a hell you never imagined, then walk away if you can. Even if there are children involved, if after counseling up the wazoo you still can’t resolve it, then I say walk away. I support your life as being healthy, kids or not.
5. KEEP A LIGHT BURNING
Finally, I say to you that love doesn’t ever die. There may always be a special place in the inner chambers of her or your heart for each other.
That doesn’t mean you have to spend the rest of your days living in hell or purgatory. You can leave and still feel love. Especially if you have kids, your relationship with the spouse or life partner with whom you produced those sons and daughters is forever, like it or not. But the form can change. You can leave. You can end it in the form it now is.
And at the end of the day, there are the touching stories of couples who divorce and then remarry. I never say “never” to my clients. I say “Keep a light burning” for that rare but “you never know” possibility that things could change, that you could come back together again.
Meanwhile, live each day to the fullest.