PV Mirror, Jun 5-11, 2010, issue # 87, pg 19

It is often necessary to break up even if you are still in love. For most of us that is a counterintuitive thought; if you are in love, why break up, if you are in love, why can’t you work it out, etc?

Love is not enough

There are many circumstances when love is not always enough. The first of which is the most basic; both partners have to be in love with each other. One partner can love the other more than life, but it it’s not mutual, then the love they feel is not enough. One person can’t create the sparks and re-light the flame…it takes two.

Love is only one vital ingredient to a healthy relationship. There must also be mutual respect, honesty, autonomy, and effective communication. If these are not in place and functioning, then love is not enough. Love may be the backbone and strength of a relationship that gives two people the desire and courage to work on improving these other essential aspects of the relationship, but love alone will not make a successful or healthy relationship.

Grow together or apart

Being true to yourself takes a lot of courage, especially when it means leaving a committed relationship because in your heart of hearts you know you are not happy with the life you are leading and you want to go in another direction. Elizabeth Gilbert famously describes in her best-selling memoir, “Eat, Pray Love”, her cathartic release and insight the night she decided to leave her marriage.

Wanting to go in another direction, doesn’t mean that your partner did anything wrong. You probably even still love him, it’s just that your life isn’t what you’ve dreamed of and you are not happy, and so the time has come to break up. This can be very hard to explain to your partner and to your friends and family. You may be highly criticized and misunderstood.

Both partners may realize that they are growing apart. There may be several conversations around this trying to discover why or how to fix it. Often times, a decision to split is the most loving thing you can do for each other. How loving to genuinely wish each other the best and set each other free and to encourage him to seek and discover a new life that is fulfilling and that he’s passionate about….no matter how much it hurts to do so.

Love does not conquer all

There are also things more powerful than love such as drug and alcohol addiction, sex addiction, domestic violence, some infidelities, criminal activity, lasting effects of trauma (PTSD), and childhood abuse. Such problems are severe enough and have long-term psychological roots that require a lot of dedication and work to overcome and/or learn to manage. Many marriages cannot withstand the pressure and tension nor the direct effects on the spouse and children. Such problems interfere with all life areas (work, social, family, finance, legal, physical/mental health, spiritual) causing self-destruction and destruction of the marriage/relationship.

Willingness to change or resolve problems

Sometimes the couple is able to identify the problem, but one or both of the partners do not want to change. They aren’t willing to do the work or they don’t feel it’s worth it or they might feel so defeated by it that they are no longer willing to fight it.

Consider addiction (alcohol, drug, sex). They might deny they have a problem and tell “you that you have the problem if you don’t like it”,  or they might know they have a drinking problem but refuse to deal with it no matter how much they love you or you love them. The addiction is stronger and more powerful than any amount of love.

Other times, one of the partners refuses to accept the problem and their role in it. This is common with domestic violence batterers who rarely believe or admit  they are abusive and easily justify their actions and attitudes. “She makes me crazy the way she disrespects me, I’m not going to put up with that” or “She came home 20 minutes late, you bet I was mad”. Even if the victim leaves, the batterer isn’t usually willing or capable of changing.

Must endure the pain!

No matter what your reason(s) for breaking up in love, it is going to be very painful for both partners. Accepting that love doesn’t conquer all is extremely difficult especially because that’s not what we grow up believing. Admitting that something as powerful as love isn’t enough, leaves us feeling powerless over other forces that have intruded our relationship. There is a lot of anger, sometimes at the person who found the courage to leave, and sometimes just at the fact that this is where you’ve both ended up.

Staying strong and true to yourself and to the person you broke up with is essential. If you consider going back to escape the pain, you are justtrading one pain for another. If you know that you had to leave because of something stronger than yourself, such as addiction, domestic violence, or other problems that became insurmountable, then trust the humble wisdom that you couldn’t change that person or their behavior and you absolutely had to save yourself. We each owe it to ourselves to live the best life we can and find our own happinessnot wait for someone else to change and make us happy.

So many times despite out best efforts and failed attempts begging and pleading with someone to change, to stop certain behaviors, or to get professional help, requires that we surrender and accept that their process is not going to be the same as ours. We must go forward and embrace our own process without them.