Saying goodbye is one of the most difficult things for a person to do, even to someone who’s hurt you. According to science, goodbyes in their many forms are so difficult because they ultimately remind us that we cannot, as individuals, exist without the recognition of others. In a sense, goodbyes illicit an existential quandary; they remind us that we are mortal, and that someday, hopefully long from now, we will pass on, which is itself the ultimate goodbye. But I digress.
When you find yourself deliberating about leaving someone who’s hurt you, you’re not just grappling with the finality of a goodbye, the fact that you’ll be losing an element of selfhood in the person you are parting with, but you’re also forming a judgment: has this person hurt me so much that I need to go?
Should I Stay or Should I Go?
Before uttering that much-dreaded word, you’re probably going to equivocate. Lots. You might convince yourself that things aren’t really all that bad after all, or that maybe you’re the one to blame for being so unhappy; after all, you’re too sensitive, too emotional, take things too seriously, and so on and so forth.
But here’s the thing: you’re no doormat. If your significant other has been emotionally or physically abusive, if they’ve done anything to hurt you and have made absolutely no attempt to reconcile things with you, let alone acknowledge that they’ve done anything wrong, you need to move on. If you don’t, you risk losing essential parts of yourself to someone selfish and you end up wasting plenty of precious, precious time.
Under any circumstance, goodbyes are hard, for sure, but they get harder the longer you try to put them off. While that time passes, you only get unhappier and your self-esteem only gets smaller.
Sometimes, in moments like these, it’s useful to get some perspective. By all means, talk to friends and family and get their advice. What do they think about your partner? Have the courage to listen to what these people say because, remember, they care about you and only want what’s best.
Just Do It
By now you’ve consulted with friends and family, you’ve had a good long think and probably wavered a couple times, too, but you’ve decided: I’m going to do it… A close friend of mine, Colin, was seeing this absolutely stunning girl. She was the whole package: gorgeous, extremely intelligent, funny… so what was the problem? She played it fast and loose with the rules of monogamy. They’d been together for nearly three years and all the while she’d been seeing other guys on the side. He opened up about it to me, ashamed and embarrassed, months after finding out about it himself (one of our mutual friends awkwardly stumbled on her Tinder profile). Even I was shocked. He’d confronted her about it and finally, she’d admitted. The worst thing: he suspected that she was still doing it. Eventually, as everything began to sink in, Colin looking at me with wide eyes, as if to say: Dude, what should I do? I told him he had to move on. At first, he didn’t, but eventually he did. He told her what had been bothering him, full transparency, disclosed all of the pent up shit he’d kept locked up inside and told her it was over. His exact words:
“There are so many people on this planet. So many people who wouldn’t treat me like shit. We both need to move on. I think we’ll both be happier that way.”
Like a boss. It wasn’t easy, but he was able to finally put the trauma of that relationship behind him. Colin’s single now, but you know what? He’s enjoying the life of a bachelor, and meeting plenty of new and interesting people who get to enrich his life in ways his ex couldn’t. Think of goodbyes like you would taking off a band aid.
Not “Goodbye”, More Like “Bon Voyage”
In the words of the great Steve Zissou: Bon Voyage. Bon voyage is all about possessing a kind of attitude. It’s a sort of balm against the permanence of a goodbye. In life, the past has a tendency to catch up with us, moments or people we think we’ll never see again pop up at the most unexpected times. Life is, so far as I see it, a trip, an adventure, with sometimes joyous and sometimes sad stops along the way. Don’t think of goodbyes as definitive endings, but as the point at which you decided to take the wheel of your own life and steer it in another direction.
Recently Colin was out at a bar and saw his ex there with a group of her girlfriends. He was on a date and had a chance to briefly and privately chat with her. Not only did she apologize for what she’d done, but admitted that she’d been immature. She told him she missed him and they ended like that, on positive terms.
Rather than thinking of goodbye as the termination of something, look at it as the beginning of something new, an opportunity to step outside of your comfort zone and embrace all that life has to offer you. And please always remember that people love you – even if it may not be a significant other at this moment. You are worth something to many different people. It is not the affection, love and worth you acquire from a relationship that defines who you are.