Fighting for Self-Justification
Have you ever had a breakup, where every time you had to spill the news to someone, you found yourself having to help them process the end of your relationship? Most likely you’d already done plenty of yelling, crying and talking it out by that point, but you found yourself helping your friend or acquaintance make sense of the change in their head/heart.
On the relationship breakup side, you may have found yourself sharing your story over and over. Sometimes more often than you cared to, and yet you found yourself doing it anyway… getting into the details and drama around what happened.
There’s nothing wrong with this, if it works for you, but what I find interesting is why one feels the need to explain the situation – sometimes to total strangers – even when they don’t need to process it any further.
Similarly to it being nobody else’s business as to why you were with this person in the first place, it’s not up to you to explain in detail why you’re not either. Give yourself full permission in times like this to simply state, “I don’t need to talk it out any further, but thank you for your concern.”
On the friend/acquaintance side, if you find yourself hearing the shocking or sad news about a friend’s split, try recognizing the courage that it’s taking them to experience what they’re going through. Obviously the situations vary, but when I hear a couple has come to the difficult decision to complete a relationship, I often offer a ‘Congratulations,’ because I know it has taken them a lot of courage and thought to come to the decision (or come to terms with their partner’s decision, as it may be). Hat tip to my friend Karrie, who said these words to me years ago, and it was the biggest breath of fresh air in a very difficult time.
Congratulations might not always be in order, nor appropriate, but thing is, even if a couple chooses to reunite eventually, a separation means a new chapter ahead. Granted, it’s usually not easy to feel this optimism right after a split, but new chapters are full of possibility and potential for something positive to come about.
The key sentiment here is for your friend to know that you have faith in them; that you see them in their truest light, as loving and loveable. That’s the kind of friendship they need in that moment. Not your fear or doubt (that’s most often being projected from your own experiences).
I realize there are certainly tougher situations than others, and often it is helpful to talk it out. Heck, it can feel really good to just hear your girlfriend agree with you flat out that “he was a jerk and you’re better off” and to be honest, I’ve received some of the most valuable and poignant feedback and perspective from total strangers. This is all just to bring awareness to how often we feel the need to explain or assist other people’s processing of *our* news. Be it about a relationship or otherwise.
Be aware of when you find yourself stating your side of a situation out of a need to feel vindicated. Justified. Accepted. Right. All of which is totally normal… especially in the face of a complicated breakup when we can feel so confused, abandoned or defeated. Just bring some awareness to it.
Life and relationships can be so tough sometimes, that the underlying need that drives much of our behavior is to feel like we’ve done our best, or that we’re making the right choices for ourselves and the people we love. The reality is we’re human. We’re not perfect, and this life is all about learning these lessons.
I recently started reading “The Big Leap“, and read a section that’s somewhat related to this, so I wanted to share it with you:
“Arguments occur by two people (or two countries) racing to occupy the victim position in the relationship.”
He goes on to give examples to clarify this statement (you can read these pages online here, pages 85-87), but basically it made me think how even if we don’t want to play the victim, we often fight really hard to be justified in just that. It’s human nature to want to feel heard, understood, justified and accepted.
Self-awareness and self-compassion is where it starts. Take a step back and bring some awareness around why you are fighting, or what you’re hoping to gain by explaining your side of the story. From there, see if you can extend some of that patience, trust and compassion to those around you.
We’re all in this together.
UPDATE: My post today furthers these thoughts, in relation to my experience sharing the news about my recent career move: Taking the Leap Into Collaborative Entrepreneurship