How To End It: a litmus test for emotional integrity

There was a time when it seemed possible, if not inevitable, that my marriage was going to end.

We’d tried a few rounds of therapy and found ourselves at an impasse we couldn’t resolve.

There was one thing we both realized while sitting on our therapist’s couch that gave us great pause about divorce: your partner (and ALL their issues) is the perfect mirror for you (and ALL of yours.)

If you aren’t too busy cataloging, memorizing, and repeating all their failings (and believe me, that shit kept me pretty busy for years), then you have the raw materials of true intimacy.

The impairment or challenge you face in intimacy is reflected back to you perfectly in your partner.

Every relationship, whether it’s a marriage or a mentor, will reflect to you what you believe about yourself, intimacy, and connection.

Everything is here for our awakening. If we don’t wake up in one relationship (or job or friendship) we will likely find a remarkably similar mirror in the next one.

My husband and I were lucky to realize that the idea that intimacy would be easier with someone else is a total fantasy.

Intimacy is always challenging, even (and sometimes especially) for those who have been together for decades.

We realized that if we were going to end the marriage and hoped to find love again, we needed to get really clear on how we were each responsible for the lack of intimacy we were currently experiencing.

Neither of us wanted to have the same intimacy issues, all over again, with someone new. Not after 20 years, 2 kids, 3 homes, and 5 dogs on 2 sides of the continent together.

Moreover, neither of us was terribly confident that we wouldn’t end up with the same damn thing all over again with another partner, despite our ‘eyes-wide open’ intentions.

We decided that if we were going to end it, we’d do it with emotional integrity.

We’d figure out how to love each other as we ended it with love (which is likely why we are still married but in a very different relationship now.)

How we end things is how we begin things.

Walking in Tucson’s All Soul’s Processsion, honoring the death — and rebirth — of our marriage.

How we take leave of anything — a job, a relationship, a friendship — says so very much about who we are, what we believe about ourselves and others, and how we value connection.

How we end things — whether we initiated the ending or not — speaks volumes about how we understand and ‘do’ intimacy and connection, not the lip-service we give it.

How we end things is a litmus test for our integrity.

If you’re going to leave something — a job, a friendship, a marriage — leave with your integrity.

If you’re singing ‘These boots are made for walking’, then walk your talk: take your leave in such a way that your actions and beliefs line up.

Leave with your love out. In other words, keep your heart open. Don’t close your heart and withdraw. Don’t condemn the ‘other’ with gossip and ‘the stories you could tell.’ Don’t make them wrong just so you can feel right.

Do the work of keeping your heart open. Yes, this is more painful. Yes, this is challenging work.

You will feel more than you want to feel. You will have to cycle through all sorts of bullshit stories. This is what soul-sister/soul-brother friends are for: to process your part of the crap you don’t want to carry forward.

The reward for keeping your heart out? When love, friendship, or opportunity comes again, there will be no emotional shit to wade through in order to receive it.

Leave with your gratitude for all that you gained in that relationship, that person or experience in your life.

Do the work of seeing the experience through the wider lens of how it lovingly shaped you; how it refined your capacity to know your truth, feel more deeply, give and receive more.

Gratitude greases the wheels of life and alters our perspective so that deep transformation is possible. (It also makes the next suggestion easier.)

Leave with your capacity to see the highest in yourself and others. Do the work of forgiveness and acceptance. This enables — and ennobles — you to bless them on their path and let them go, as you take the spiritual high-road in your very stylin’ boots made for walkin’.

Leave with your trust that there is enough for everyone. There is always more — more love, more jobs, more clients, more friends. There will always be more, provided you stay heart-open/eyes-open no matter what.

You get to end things however you wish.

This is the blessing of doing the blessedly-challenging emotional work to end things well: 
You do the work for yourself, but it gets reflected back to you in every part of your life.