What did a breakup do to you

Conscious uncoupling: why a breakup can be the chance to find yourself again

People fall in love and fall out of love. That's the way things are - and yet there is little more painful than a breakup. As a teen you think the world is collapsing, in your late 20s you know you will survive this terrible lovesickness - and yet the world somehow stands still for a moment. All plans, hopes, even wishes are gone. At least that was the first thought. Because what one often does not recognize in the first grief: There is a reason for separations. People change, relationships change and sometimes a breakup is also the chance to start a new, different life. Then when you are unhappy, want to change something and at some point love has been lost between the door of your apartment and your wardrobe.

It is still difficult to part. How can you boldly jump into a new life when you no longer know what it might look like? Isn't the reasonably okay life perhaps what you can endure better than being alone? And how do my children, my family or my friends deal with it when I split up? And who are you actually without a partner?

All of these questions often keep us from really pulling off the breakup. The fear of uncertainty often lets us stay in unhappy relationships for too long or after the decision drives us back into the arms of the ex. On-Off sends their regards, but happiness falls by the wayside.

I believe in great love. I am an absolute relational person, but I also believe that happiness is everyone's own. Life is too short, fear - and I speak from experience as an anxiety person - shouldn't keep us from making decisions for ourselves. A separation can be the chance that not only the individual will be happy again, but in the best case four people. Because a couple becomes two - and everyone goes their own way.

Couples therapist Dorothea Behrmann also believes that breakups can be an opportunity. That a separation is not a failure, but a recognition of your own desires and needs. Whoever speaks this out has the chance to change something. Sometimes with your partner, sometimes alone. As a Conscious Uncoupling Coach, Dorothea supports people in separating. And indeed peacefully, lovingly and full of strength. So that a new life begins positively - just like Hermann Hesse: There is a magic in every new beginning.

I spoke to Dorothea about what the most common reasons for couples break up, how we manage to break up with positive feelings, and how to let go and get out of toxic relationships.

When we have romantic relationships, are together for a long time, or even get married, we always hope from the bottom of our hearts that it will last forever. But couples split up. In your experience, what are the most common reasons for a breakup?

When you have the feeling that the other person is no longer really interested in me, when love "goes out", one is no longer happy to see the other person, but "secretly" compares him with someone you find better. When the criticism becomes more than the appreciation, when physical closeness is lost. Of course, there are also more serious reasons, such as cheating, addiction, violence, and so on. If you answer the central question “Are you really there for me?” With “No”. Quarreling about raising children or quarreling about money can also wear down a love and end relationships.

It's time to go when you get to the central question
"Are you really there for me?" Answered with "no".

A breakup is never nice. Nevertheless, I often ask myself: Why do relationships often end so emotionally, full of anger and sadness?

Because we are social beings and our brains are geared towards being together and connecting, not letting go. We actually feel rejection as physical pain and get into primitive states of attack or flight. When we are abandoned, we feel completely helpless and our body sends out "emergency signals" as if it were a matter of bare survival.

It often takes a while from the wobbling feeling to the separation. In your experience as a couples therapist, when is the time to leave?

When all attempts to save the relationship have failed. If conversations with the partner come to nothing and a couple counseling no longer helps. When there is nothing left when you look at each other. When you have grown apart so much that you no longer speak the same language and there are no more joint projects.

Sometimes it is actually better to go and get to know each other again. So both people have the chance of a new happiness than to continue to be dissatisfied together. Why do so many people still shy away from the step of a separation - and prefer to remain unhappy in the couple relationship?

For many, a negative attachment is better than no attachment at all. A couple recently wrote to me that they put off the breakup because they fear the pain, confusion, and the personal and financial consequences for their children. I respect all relationships, including those that appear subjectively unhappy. Among other things, I'm a Conscius Uncoupling ™ Coach because I think we don't know enough about breakups and how to do it well.

Then tell me: What are the positive sides of a breakup?

If you dare to face the full force of lovesickness and are ready to see your own part, a breakup can be THE opportunity to finally free yourself from old patterns. You are practically forced to reflect on your own life, you learn to be alone, perhaps rethink professional and personal projects, learn new things about yourself.

I see breakups, painful as they are
as a real growth opportunity in life.

Sometimes you may need an outside perspective to take the step of breaking up. You help couples break up in a positive way. Where does the Conscious Uncoupling method come from?

I don't work with the couple, but with the individual, because separation means something different for each partner. One is usually a little better. This is mostly the one who leaves and something or a lot worse for the other, usually the abandoned one. The method comes from the American couple and family therapist Katherine Woodward Thomas. A great woman in her early 60s, whom I was able to get to know personally. She used her own peaceful separation in the book "Conscious Uncoupling" 5 steps to living happily EVEN after "and developed the method of the five steps from it. Conscious Uncoupling then became famous through the separation of Gwyneth Paltrow and Chris Martin, who separated very benevolently and peacefully using this method. In Germany, Conscious Uncoupling is gaining more and more attention, a lot of people are still separating and after the Corona crisis, even more separations are expected.

The "5 steps to living happily even after"

Step 1: dealing with negative emotions
It is the first impulse to hurt who hurts you. If we use this anger as energy for change, then something very positive can emerge from it - a new chance, and in the best case a new love.

Step 2: abandoning the victim role
A separation always takes two. It is important that both sides take responsibility for this. Absolutely honest self-reflection is the beginning of a new beginning. Separation always belongs to two. It is important that both sides take responsibility for this. Absolutely honest self-reflection is the beginning of a new beginning.

Step 3: breaking out of old patterns
What exactly sabotaged the relationship? Often it is only small changes or rethinking one's own convictions that help reduce frustration and allow wounds to heal. The result: a positive self-esteem.

Step 4: keeping the good
If you are aware of what you value in each other, it is much easier to be fair, benevolent and generous with each other. Your own well-being and that of your children benefit from this.

Step 5: get happy again despite everything
The basic requirements have been created. Now it's time to make healthy decisions, try new things and enjoy life again. Generous, fair financial agreements with the ex-partner help to strengthen the family and create a good reality for the children.

And how can such a conscious uncoupling work?

This works first by choosing to consciously and as peacefully as possible carry out the separation. You choose to see the breakup as an opportunity for personal growth rather than failure. So a conscious decision for a positive future. The prerequisite is to invest around half an hour every day to face the often overwhelming negative feelings in order not to harm yourself or the other, such as stalking him or her, leaving ugly messages on the answering machine or driving the car against a tree in anger. It is understandable that you want to hurt someone who has hurt you, but especially when children are involved, it is practically a duty to face the separation in a constructive way. As a coach, I am then completely with the person who is suffering, comforting, listening and showing ways to cope with the whole mess. Friends and family members are often overwhelmed with this and automatically make others feel bad. Unfortunately, this only helps the battered soul for a short time, but not in the long term.

Even if we are reluctant to take up gender stereotypes, I believe women and men deal with separations differently. How is your experience

In my experience, women wait a long time before they finally break up. They hope that maybe he'll change after all and that things will turn out for the better again. Women are more likely to face their hurts and hurts when the separation is pronounced. Men might rather try to distract themselves: at work, during sports or in the pub. Or they wait to break up until they have found a new partner. These are only personal experience - and not scientifically proven!

In your experience, are there also differences in how men and women separate?

Studies show that it is mostly women who express the separation (70%). In my perception, men often do not say honestly why they break up and explain the breakup with reasons that are not related to the relationship in order not to hurt the women too much (for example a crisis at work, stress, no time. I believe that women are usually more honest about what makes them break up.

Women are usually more honest about what makes them break up.

What is your tip for people who are in an unhappy relationship and don't know: fight or let go?

I would definitely recommend finding a coach or therapist to help me make a wise decision. Friends or family members tend to be overwhelmed, and it's better to talk to someone who is neutral. For example, I offer a so-called “clarification module” in three steps, in which one becomes aware of one's goals, wishes and needs in relation to the relationship and also discusses being torn. In the end, there is usually a decision that can then be better defended. Be it to stay or to go.

Together today, apart tomorrow, in love again the day after tomorrow. We know these on-off couples. How do I let go as a woman or a man?

Letting go is a great challenge and incredibly difficult once you have let yourself into a love and invested feelings. Letting go is a conscious and usually painful process. I need to be clear about the consequences of staying in an on-off relationship permanently. When letting go, it also helps to allow your own longings and desires for a stable relationship. And to ask yourself what it is that keeps you in such a relationship, for example the fear of being alone, the fear of an argument or habit.

And what do you think are absolute red flags in relationships?

A bad gut feeling, a vague idea, an intuition that something is wrong should definitely be taken seriously, even if you don't yet know what the "strange feeling" refers to. When the other person no longer really takes part in my life, is no longer interested, no longer asks questions or tends to avoid conversations. If the loving look and the loving gestures suddenly disappear and the partner withdraws physically (also sexually), then you should take it seriously. If there are no joint projects for the future, but everyone goes their own way, then this is a warning.

When the other no longer really participates in my life,
is no longer interested, no longer asking questions or
Tends to avoid conversations, you should pay attention.

How do I recognize a toxic relationship - and how can I break out of it?

Toxic relationships are often reflected in addictions. The boundaries between what is okay for you and what is not are blurring. One is afraid of being abandoned. Conflicts are perceived as threatening and are more likely to be avoided. As with other toxic habits such as drugs or alcohol, the relationship is not one of freedom and benevolence, but rather of fears, addictions and conflicts. If you want to break away from a toxic relationship, self-worth and the ego need a lot of caresses. I should become aware of what is still keeping me in the relationship and what I am afraid of. I would be very interested in why I chose someone who is obviously emotionally unavailable. This gives you the chance to permanently break away from toxic bonds and instead look for someone with whom you are simply happy.

The day X has come, it has been said: It's over. But how do I find myself again as a person?

That's a good question because you've basically lost your emotional home. Take your time and take your time to process everything first. Lots of self-care, like keeping a journal, meditating, meeting friends and family, even if it's just a short time to have a cup of tea. Become aware of your strengths and resources and write them down. What's going well in my life What can I be grateful for? You first have to peel yourself out of the couple's identity in order to feel “whole” again as a person. This requires a kind of “love rehab” for which you should take your time.

After a breakup, everyone needs a kind of "love rehab",
for which you should take your time.

What do you think helps a breakup?

Breakups are always traumatic. It is best to get professional support quickly. Depending on how sudden and "cold" the breakup catches you, you should be ready to face the situation in order to be able to look ahead again soon. If there is a "useful" feeling about it, it is sadness and pain. Very few want that because it hurts. To make friends with the pain to a certain extent, to take it as an ally, helps to get through the separation process as quickly as possible and largely unscathed.

Then, when you feel a little better, you can ask yourself what you contributed to the breakup, what specific behaviors and actions were harmful to the relationship. Recognizing your own contribution without being ashamed or blaming yourself helps to trust yourself again and to do things differently in the future.
It is also helpful to forgive yourself and the other person, to break old appointments and promises that you once made.
A dignified farewell ritual, which one can also quietly perform “soul-to-soul”, helps to let go and let the other go. It helps to tell friends and family members that they don't have to choose either. When you have children, the parting parties need more work so that they don't become the plaything of their injured parents.

And when am I ready for a new love?

When I can give the ex a good place in my heart and appreciate the love for each other and everything I got in the relationship. When I no longer ponder who did what to whom and why, but accept it as it is. When I have said goodbye to wanting to explain everything and clearly recognize my share, even if the other was 97 percent “to blame” and I only 3 percent. Then I can stand up for my 3 percent and promise myself that I will do it differently in the future so that I can have even happier relationships.
When I have created space in my apartment and (almost) all photos and memorabilia cleared aside and replaced with my own, left a few hangers in the closet and a small corner in the bathroom for another toothbrush.
When I feel like my favorite fiddle again, lipstick and perfume, and the break-up jogging pants are carelessly in the corner - then I'm ready!

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