11 Dec 2012
Clearing the Field After a Breakup
One of the hardest things about a breakup is all of the heavy, hurtful emotional residue it can leave behind in its wake.
Those shattering misunderstandings . . .
broken promises . . .
and wounding words left hanging . . .
You may find yourself wondering how so much love could slip through your fingers and leave in its stead such deep disappointment.
Where once the mere thought of this person brought you joy, now, just the mention of his or her name makes you cringe with all that is left incomplete and unresolved.
And if you have children together, or if you belong to a shared community, well . . . it can feel as though you are looking at a prison sentence with no end in sight but the grey bars of heartache and hurt.
Yet, what if I told you that you could clear all of this disappointment and hurt in as little as ten minutes?
I’d like to share with you a story of one couple who did just that – melting away months of agony in one simple conversation so they could begin anew, without all of that toxic emotional residue between them – a miracle of healing and hope for their ability to co-parent their three children together with mutual respect and cooperation.
And, for those of you who are going through a breakup or feel weighted by the prolonged grief of a long-past heartbreak, I am going to share with you in this post a practice that you yourself can take on to begin this miraculous process with your former love.
So, let me tell you about Damien and Karey, a couple who’d been married for 12 years and had three young children before they separated – two boys, Kevin and Nicholas, ages 10 and 7 and a little girl named Gracey, age 5.
They divorced after Karey discovered that Damien had been having an affair with a co-worker. Devastated and enraged, she kicked him out and changed the lock, banishing him from ever setting foot in their home again.
Of course, it only added insult to injury that where Damien went was . . . well, I’m sure you can figure it out.
For months, things were tense between them. Every time Damien came to pick the children up, Karey made him wait outside even when it was cold and rainy. For weeks on end, they barely spoke other than about the logistics that needed to be dealt with – what time he’d bring the children back, when he’d drop the child-support check off, who was going to pick Gracey up from dance class that week.
You can imagine that inside of this disturbed dynamic between them, the children began having problems. Kevin’s grades plummeted, Nicholas began having nightmares, and Gracey started cleaning up after everyone compulsively, as though she were suddenly saddled with the job of being the mother in the wake of Karey’s depression.
The reality of her children’s responses shocked her into the realization that she simply could not allow her big feelings of hurt and rage to be in charge of how this transition was going to go. She had to do something to help herself cope in a much more mature and life-affirming way to this disappointment in order to minimize the damage being done to her children.
A few months earlier, Karey had come to me as a private client and I had encouraged her to let me guide her through my Conscious Uncoupling process to release the trauma of her breakup, reclaim her power and reinvent her life. Initially, she worried that she’d have to do the program with Damien in order for it to be successful – she couldn’t bring herself to even look at him, let alone go through an uncoupling process together.
I explained to her that she could do the program herself without involving him, and she dove right in, finding tremendous relief from her suffering almost immediately.
Yet, as helpful as the program was initially, nothing compared to when she got to Week Four. During this part of the process, I teach an exercise on how to “Clear the Field” with your former partner, in order to put the past behind you and release everyone from the negative karma still hanging in the air.
And while I gave her a choice of doing this in person with Damien or by calling him figuratively into her meditation in order to avoid contact, she decided to call him on the phone, and invite him to her home to engage the process together face to face.
Although she had little hope of anything of merit transpiring between them, she had come to trust the program because it had already caused such miracles of release and relief that far surpassed what she’d thought was even possible.
Much to her surprise, Damien agreed immediately and offered to come over later that evening after the children went to bed.
At first, when she hung up the phone, she thought she had done something crazy. What could he possibly say that would clear away the horrible residue of all the hurt he’d left behind? What could she possibly say about the rash and hateful ways she had behaved in response? She still did not feel ready to meet his girlfriend, and she wasn’t sure how much she wanted to know about their life together.
Yet, that evening, when Damien rang the doorbell, she took a deep breath, opened the door and invited him in.
She shared about her concern for their children and told him of her intention to put her hurt feelings aside so that together they might help Kevin, Nicholas and Gracey to better adjust to their new life.
She took responsibility for her highly reactive behavior when she found out about his affair, and for the impact that throwing him out of the house so suddenly had on all of their children, as well as on Damien himself. She admitted that her response had been rash and dramatic and left little room for any true understanding to develop between them.
She understood that losing his home in such a sudden and traumatic way had most likely been disorienting and frightening for him, creating chaos for all of them and not allowing them to make the difficult decisions that needed to be made together as a family.
She then said that while her heart as well as her pride was still pretty bruised, she realized she needed to be more mature and actually try to understand his affair and what this new relationship meant to him in order to deal with it in a more life-affirming and constructive way for everyone involved.
Damien had come expecting to be reprimanded and found himself speechless and deeply moved when Karey began their conversation by taking responsibility for her unfortunate response to learning of his affair. He actually began to cry, and told her that it was he who needed to be making an amends and not her.
He began pouring out his grief and remorse for having hurt his family in this way and begged her forgiveness. He shared with her feelings he’d been withholding for years that contributed to the distance between them after their third child was born and that led to his affair. He spoke of the pain he’d been in and how torn he was because he genuinely loved this new woman in his life and yet also still loved Karey and their children.
They talked well into the night, sorting through all of the unhealed places between them.
Every time they got off track, Karey went back to the instructions for how to clear the field that I’d taught her, which got them back to where they needed to be in order to move forward in clear, wholesome and healing ways.
She’d also learned another practice called “Generative Communication” that helped them stay focused on the healthy future they were committed to creating for their children.
She admitted that before Damien came over, there was a part of her that was hoping that doing these exercises would bring Damien back to her. Yet, after hours of talking and getting related to his feelings, she was able to accept that this was most likely not going to happen. And while she never thought she could survive the disappointment of finding out he was gone for good, she actually felt relieved to be facing it head on, and to at least have some sense of being friends with one another.
Before Damien left that night, they decided that, in order to help their children better adjust to their new situation, that they would work together to fully support one another in the choices they were making, even if they did not necessarily agree with those choices. They would each put the needs of their children first, and they would align in a shared intention to raise happy, healthy children by co-parenting in a way that was honoring and mutually supportive of one another.
I’m happy to tell you that, several months later, all three children are doing much better and their symptoms of distress are almost entirely gone. Kevin is doing well at school, Nicholas is no longer having nightmares, and Gracey has gone back to being a little girl who loves playing with her dolls (and is perfectly fine with things being messy around the house).
Karey is now dating a new man who is helping her to move on, and Damien has moved out of his girlfriend’s house and into his own apartment so that the children can have a bit more time to get to know her and adjust to him having someone new in his life without imposing that new person upon them.
None of us want to damage our children in the aftermath of lost love. Nor do we want to walk around feeling like damaged goods ourselves.
While Clearing the Field may not restore what you once had with your former partner, it will certainly clear the slate so you can begin anew to create a relationship based upon respect and honor.
You can get started today with Clearing the Field between yourself and your former partner, so I want to offer you this practice.
*Clearing the Field Practice:
- Discover What’s Unclear in the Field Between Yourself and Your Former Partner.
Look to discover where there is still emotional residue in the field between yourself and your former partner; those things that remain unresolved and are causing tension between you, even though you may have tried to apologize in the past for your behavior.
- Take Full Responsibility for the Breakdown.
In order to clear the field in a generative way, you want to take full responsibility for yourself as the source of the situation. While we may initially see only how we are the victim, we must make an effort to see more clearly, and strive to understand how we ourselves have contributed to and caused the situation we feel so victimized by.In order to do this well, we must become masterful at not moving into shame and blame of ourselves and of the other person, instead looking to understand more clearly and objectively what happened in order to take responsibility for how we ourselves co-created that situation.
- Get Fully Related to the Impact of Your Behavior on Others.
We don’t negate, minimize or dismiss the impact of our behavior on our former partner. Rather, we take full responsibility for the negative affect our behavior has had on them.Instead of reviewing our actions only from the perspective of how it made me feel, and how it impacted my life, we want to make an effort to understand also how we have caused undue suffering to others.Again, you want to see clearly and objectively the impact of your choices on your former partner without making yourself wrong and bad. You want to genuinely extend a sense of care and concern for the residue they have been left with from the choices you have made.
- Let Your Former Partner Know What You Can See About The Impact Your Choices Had on Him/Her.
Invite your former partner to share with you how your choices impacted him/her. Mirror back to him or her what you hear, and let your heart be genuinely touched by how this experience has been for them.
- Make a Genuine Amends by Taking Wholesome Right Action.
Taking responsibility is not simply having an insight, or even feeling bad for what you’ve done. In addition to offering an apology, look also to discover an action that would restore wholeness and trust to the relational field. While apologies are important, they will often still leave residue in the field between yourself and others (i.e., ways s/he still doesn’t feel safe, or heard, or restored to a sense of wholeness).When we are able to acknowledge the impact our behavior has had upon others and then offer a clear action as an amends (i.e., offering to pay for what your mistake may have cost them, helping them to clean up a mess you helped make, making a commitment to never do that to anyone else ever again), we actually move the situation forwards towards resolution, and create a clear track toward clearing the field of any residue that has been left over and festering.
I hope this practice gives you the same kind of help and relief as it has to so many of my clients and students over the years.
I encourage you to try it, and then refer back to it often as you navigate your breakup or attempt to heal the damage from one in your past.
And please leave a comment here afterwards if you’d like. I’d love to know how it worked for you.
Katherine Woodward Thomas