How to Cope if Your Long Term Relationship Breaks Up

man facing backward hands in pocket stands on boat looking at blue ocean island in cloudy sky
by Vance Larson

You’ve been together forever. You can’t image your life with without them. You’ve explored the world, and made a family. Been though the good and bad times. There have been anniversaries, birthdays, job promotions and have lived together. Your one and only is your anchor. But now they’re gone. They have left you for another. It’s anchors away.

I have long spoken about anchors. In a nutshell, an anchor is something that we are tied to that keeps us from going off course. We don’t drift, because are connected to a foundation. Sure, there might be some small drifting, however that line that keeps you connected, ensures you will not go far. One night, the waves were a little choppy and you went to bed anyway. Out of the blue the storm rages, and you suddenly realize that the line has snapped and you’re without an anchor. You are a drift in uncharted waters. You have no foundation that you’re tied to. Now what?

I have seen good people turn bad. Hopeful people turn hopeless. And the strongest crumble when their significant other leaves them. I’m not talking about dating for 2 years and then they’re gone. I am talking about having spent a good part of your life together and then all that you’ve ever know, is gone. The captain has lost their first mate.

This morning I had this conversation with my wife. Like I often do, I ask her these hypothetical questions before I write or lecture. While I often lean on my experiences as being both a coach and counselor for 3 decades, I like to get her opinion, because she never pulls any punches. I asked her what she would do and feel if I suddenly left. First she said she would check the finances, to see if she would have to uproot herself. Then she quickly said she would be hurt, then mad, and then move on. This was interesting to me, because I could literally see her working through it in her own mind and then she pulled back some additional layers of insight.

She went onto to say that she would probably move in with family for a little while. I then asked her about faith. She said at first, it would be family over faith that would get her through but then she realized who she was deep down inside. She said then she would move out on her own, because it truly would be faith over family. It wasn’t meant to be an exercise, but I am glad it played out that way. She found her anchor in a matter of a few minutes. (One of the many reasons I married her).

So what is my point? My point is what are your anchored to? None of us want to imagine being without our loved one. (Okay, maybe some of you do. Insert your own humor here). But these things can happen. Over the past 3 decades in my practice, I have seen more than a few of them. What I find interesting is that some people focus, while other people fold. Those couples that have been together the longest, seem to have multiple anchors and when such an event like losing their spouse happens, they are not adrift. They know who they are, and they still have some sort of foundation. Yes it hurts and yes, it is painful, however they recover. Due to their existing anchors, even through the water is choppy, they lose little ground. They know where they’re on the map and they begin the next chapter of their life, when they are ready to raise the anchor.

Having several anchors will serve you well

You know the old saying never put all your eggs into one basket? Well, we do, I think it’s only natural. It is unhealthy to only have one anchor (meaning your spouse). Whether it is family, faith, job, community or something else that you are passionate about, having several anchors will serve you well.

And if you think having more than one anchor is detrimental to your relationship? In my experience providing hospice work for example, there is a peace that belongs to the departed, knowing that their loved one will go on. I know it’s not the same thing as your spouse walking out on you but try and think of it in these terms. If your significant other has multiple anchors, in most cases it takes pressure off of your relationship. There is a beauty and strength to the couples that have figured this out.

In the case of my wife and I, I would be leveled if she suddenly left. After all we have been together forever. I have multiple anchors (my meditation, my counseling practice, and my desire to serve), I know I would be alright. There would definitely be a grieving process, however I know in my heart, that I would eventually pick up my anchors, and sail again.

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