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Breaking up isn't hard to do

Updated on May 9, 2010

Breaking up isn't hard to do

When a mate turned up to work yesterday, amongst other things, he said to me "By the way, before you hear it from anyone else.... Jeff* and Tonia* aren't travelling so well. In fact, she is moving out today. My wife is minding the kids.while they get another place sorted"

During the rest of the day I found my mind returning the couple I knew. They are young, hardworking, are raising a couple of great kids, they are both very capable and both very determined. As I kept working through the day, the following thoughts come to mind.

I offer them tentatively and of course this is not an exhaustive treatise. But rather some reflections gleaned from 35 years of personal experience and having had the opportunity to sit with others during similar crisis.

* identities changed

relationship bliss!
relationship bliss!

Three dynamics of relationship breakup

When a person decides to move out, be that an individual or a joint decision, there are 3 key areas that are part of that immediate process.

Long Term Unresolved Issues

A person very rarely just wakes up and decides to move out. Usually, and of course there are always exceptions, but usually there has been some long term tension building around issues that have not been resolved.

Now lets be clear. If you are a person and are breathing, you will have relationships, and there are going to be issues. I've met couples who have said to me "We've never had a fight!" I think to myself..... "Well, I'd like to get this couple into the counselling room......" because that statement suggests a whole range possibilities. One may be, that one partner totally dominates the other and the other just gives in to keep the peace, which is actually about loss of self identity. Another possibility may be that, both parties learned long ago that the other can't cope with any sort of conflict at all and so both live on in a sort of pseudo intimacy, never really making it to an authentic relationship.

So, having issues to deal with in a relationship is normal.

The issue about issues is...... mostly we don't learn while we're growing up, how to resolve interpersonal issues in healthy and constructive ways. Mostly, we learn destructive and self esteem crushing ways of stating our own case and why the world should be viewed from our (my) perspective.

The Brick Wall

From my experience (ask Mrs Dags) and from observing and working with other couples for nearly 20 years, another dynamic seems to be present at the time of crisis. I call it the brick wall.

A brick wall is a substantial barrier to.... well .... just about anything except a military tank, certainly to communication and connection.

One of the things I've observed over the years, is that couples who separate and stay separated, especially if there are kids, need more than ever the one thing that usually is the most difficult. Communication. If there are kids involved, in most cases, there will need to be ongoing communication regarding school, welfare, who's living with who when etc etc ad infinitum.

The barrier is not the unresolved issue or issues. It is the crap that gets built up around stuff that goes on unresolved. It's the "he said, she said, he said, she said" type of stuff. The barrier can be anything and may be many things that prevent authentic connection between two people.

Ever been to a house where the folks have just never thrown anything out. I don't just mean the old furniture and vehicles etc. I mean today and yesterday's food scraps and news papers and stuff. You get the picture.

The third point is related to the brick wall but is different.

Emotional Volatility

At the point of crisis, there is usually a very high level of emotional intensity for both or all parties and nearly any little thing will ignite emotional over-reaction and put another brick in the wall, creating even more distance and keeping the relationship over the Bunsen Burner.

The problem in relation to emotional volatility is that it is personal. It's me. It's my sense of myself. It's how I feel about myself and how I interact with world and everyone in it right now, so it very difficult to be objective.

I'm not making too many suggestions about how to deal with this in this hub. Except to say, be aware of what is happening for you in the moment. Just remember, if you're on fire... you'll burn anything you get near!


In my thinking, these are key dynamics that will be present at the time of a relationship breakdown.

The unresolved issues from the past form patterns of relating that become habitual and entrenched. That is the stuff we argue about.

The brick wall is the static that builds up around the issues and becomes a barrier to authentic connection and communication.

Emotional volatility is another way of saying that when we hit that crisis and the decision to move out is made, we are in no state to deal with anything. If we can score ourselves 6 or above out of 10, don't try to work anything out at the moment. Just let the temperature drop a little.

These are pointers to the process as opposed to content that are part of living in relationship with others. It is the process that needs to be worked with to restore a relationship. So, there are at least three more hubs to go on this topic that will deal with the how tos.....

So, if you want some of my pointers on how to build a healthy relationship, come back again.

One last thing. As I re-read this hub, I sound like I'm putting myself up as a bit of an expert. Well guess what. I'm not...... just ask Mrs Dags... she'll tell you (that's the disclaimer)!


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    • dags the drover profile image

      dags the drover 7 years ago from still lost in Western Australia

      HI Jane, Thanks for your encourageing comments. Actually, I had a whole day going round and round on a tractor to think about this one. And, next tuesday my sweetheart and I celebrate 34 four years of marriage so I've had lots of learning expereinces. Mostly through my own failures!!! However, I trust that I've learned something. Thanks again..cheers Dags

    • Jane Bovary profile image

      Jane Bovary 7 years ago from The Fatal Shore

      Hi Dags,

      You've obviously given this a lot of thought...and I think it's very insightful. Those unresolved issues can really be the cancerous growth in a relationship, and when the 'brick wall' is up...a cure is almost impossible. When you're in a troubled relationship it can be so hard to stand outside and see these things objectively.


    • dags the drover profile image

      dags the drover 7 years ago from still lost in Western Australia

      thanks stricklydating, for coming by to read some of my stuff. All the best to you. Dags

    • stricktlydating profile image

      StricktlyDating 7 years ago from Australia

      Great Hub!

    • dags the drover profile image

      dags the drover 7 years ago from still lost in Western Australia

      thanks voice

      learning how to live with each other is probably the most important thing we do.. I think anyway. Cheers


    • thevoice profile image

      thevoice 7 years ago from carthage ill

      powerful honest write thanks