How to end a relationship

betty ming liu Relationships 31 Comments

I write to you now as A Newly-Single Woman. It’s the last thing I want for myself. But bloggers must carry on. So here I am, trying to feel it in order to heal it…

Three weeks ago, my partner and I had The Talk that led to relationship breakup. We agreed on a day for him to pull out most of his stuff. The move went smoothly. We were, in my mind, classy people.

What came next though, left me devastated.

His book shelves, favorite chairs and dressers were gone from their usual spots. His coffee mugs, sweatshirt hoodies, house plants — gone. The empty spaces left behind were more than physical gaps in the decor; they felt like wounds.

This is what I mean about needing to feel it in order to heal it. If I’m going to make a new life, the pain needed to sit there, out in the open, unhurried. The ache of loss must be respected and allowed to breathe.

At first, co-existing with the mess throbbed like hell. For a few days, I wandered the house like a weeping zombie. Then, I found the energy to clear dirty dishes from the kitchen sink. Eventually, I did some laundry. Then, I rearranged my office.

Each new day brought a few more baby steps to a new normal. I even managed to reorganize the bedroom closet.

Slowly, I’m finding my way back to cozy.

Figuring out what really happened over this nearly three-year relationship will take time. All I know is this: I loved the best I could, for as long as we could. Now, the journey is about letting go.

Even though I’ve been single before, this round is different. As an older woman (how did I get to 60???), I had really hoped that those dreadful dating days were behind me, that I had found a kindred spirit.

Now, I face what some people consider both a dream and a nightmare.

The dream: I’m financially stable with satisfying work. My daughter is grown, leaving me free to enjoy a meaningful life.

The nightmare: I face this abundance alone.

Alone, as in empty-nesting and boyfriend-less alone.

Like, sitting-on-my-deck-and-talking-to-myself alone.


Yesterday, I spoke out loud in my house only once — during a phone call to a friend. Oh sure, I interacted with plenty of people. There was tons of texting on my phone and endless emailing from my desk.

But the intimacy of a shared life had disappeared. Gone.

Hey babe, what should we make for dinner?

So-and-so just sent me the craziest message — listen to this.

That’s okay; finish up what you’re writing. I’ll feed the cats.

In time, the grief will pass. For now, though, I am climbing a very steep emotional and spiritual mountain.

If you’ve survived a relationship or have other comforting words, I need them now. And if you know someone who would identify with the journey ahead, I hope you’ll share this post. The support would help me, them — and us. xo

Comments 31

  1. Oh Betty, I’m sorry to hear this, and hugs to you. Sometimes society tells us there has to be a happily ever after, but life is about stages that keep changing. Your candor and honesty here is so brave and inspiring, and I hope it speeds the healing.

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      Thanks, Diane. I appreciate the virtual hug! That happily-ever-after thing really messed up my thinking for most of my life. Here’s my chance to really learn to love myself. Thank you for the support. xox

  2. I’m sorry things didn’t work out Betty. As a wise woman once told me, how you leave a room is just as important as how you enter it. I know that the door can seem so close and bearing after you had the exit, but based on what you have written, you’ve handled the situation with a great sense of maturity. The amount of good energy you’ve generated will move you forward and whatever happens next, one thing for certain is that you will be in a better place.

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      Ivan, your quote from the wise woman makes me smile. The relationship worked — until it didn’t. Now, I’m fighting my urge to “fix things” and just trying to sit with my feelings.Thank you for stopping by!

  3. hi betty,
    i’m soooooo sorry. i was sooooooo rooting for you. you were soooooo giving me hope that it’s never too late for love. & i still believe that & i know you will find it again if that’s what you want. it occurs to me (hey, the view from your deck is pretty sweet) that maybe your next lesson is about being alone with wonderful you & being totally cool with that, allowing yourself to love & be loved by you. if i’m correct, you’ve never really lived alone — as soon as your daughter went off to college, the boyfriend moved in, right? … it sounds like you’re doing great — clean dishes?! newly organized closet?! you are rockin’ the change!!! … i’m also wondering if you have thought about what house your saturn return is in, b/c i’m thinking that this boyfriend thing is helping you move through whatever you need to move through to become the next phase of you. … meanwhile: sending love & blessings, xo

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      Jaimie, your memory is remarkable. I met him right after my daughter started college. And what an interesting observation you’re making. See? This is why I blog. I get such incredible feedback…

      So your point is very insightful. Even though I got divorced in 2000 and spent a dozen years living on my own, this time really IS different. I’m much more grown up now. Which means I will feel more (which I’m not necessarily looking forward to). But yes, a lot of positive changes afoot. And thanks for the iTune! xo

      P.S. — I still totally believe in love. I DID have love. It just wasn’t lasting love. Yet, it moved me further along on my journey. Never give up, Jaime!

  4. So sorry to hear it, Betty.

    Yup, been there. Took me a couple weeks of crying and thinking “Wait, this is a mistake. We have to stay together.” That fog lifted when a friend asked me to house-sit for him while he went on vacation — that kicked me into gear. But I wouldn’t have dealt with it the same way if I hadn’t first had the grief. It sux being in it, but you’ll come out the other side.

    If you’re really, really wanting to feel it, listen to Delilah a couple evenings. Hear the love songs and let ’em get to you. Makes it easier when you hear them in the supermarket to not be hit over the side of the head, I found at the time.

    Meanwhile sending you the warmest of hugs.

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      Laura, thanks for pointing out the importance of mourning. I can’t say everything is fine — at least, not yet. I can see where a change of scenery will help. And I definitely have a trip or two in my future. As for Delilah, you’re the second one to suggest music (see Jaime below you). My understanding of iTunes is prehistoric. But here is another thing I can update about myself — my music settings. Thanks for the warm, supportive hug. :)

  5. Dearest Betty, I feel ya, sweetie. Have so been there. All I can say is be very very good to yourself now–generous and forgiving. I find a disruption in the day-to-day pattern helps–doing unexpected and surprising things. Also, travel! Always travel and speaking a foreign language to feel that frisson of strangeness and adventure. And time, my dear. Xx sending much love your way, xx Amy

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      Amy, thank you for the hello. Sometimes being a blogger feels like having a genetic defect. I mean, why am I writing about this? But still, the process is very comforting. And you’re a part of it. I appreciate the travel suggestion; I do indeed plan to travel! I gotta get outta here! It’s interesting that changing up the routine is helpful in re-establishing new routines. xo

  6. So sorry to hear, Betty. Need a sounding board? If you’re in or near the City, I’m always up for a hang. My phone works too.

    There’s no advice I could give that you haven’t heard, I’m sure. You’re bright, level-headed, and confident, and I know you’ll recover from this.

    Still got those drums? ;)

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  7. First, as my great aunt Lupy remarked, “men are like buses. There’ll be another one along in ten minutes.” Second – there is something much worse than parting with a partner and that is staying with one when you shouldn’t. My first was an alcoholic and a pathological liar (I use the term clinically.) I realized this early on but kept thinking he could be fixed. Well, he couldn’t but by the time I really understood that, it was too late. I was too inextricably involved with him both personally and in business. He essentially bankrupted, us, costing me the house that had been in my family since 1720 and much more. Because of complicated circumstances I ended up taking care of him until he died of liver failure at the age of 39 – a foul process much like dying of AIDS. I knew there was trouble ahead in the first year of the relationship but couldn’t get the rose colored glasses off my nose. Of course, had I separated from him and avoided the disasters, my life would have been on a different path and I would not have met my husband Mike with whom I have had 22 years of happiness and who I wouldn’t trade for Buckingham Palace…so…go figure… I don’t what the moral of this tale is. All i can say is I’m sorry you are going through this and I hope you find someone that makes you as happy as Mike has made me. Alternatively, I hope you can build a single life that is fulfilling and rewarding. Whichever way it goes I hope for your happiness.

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      Toby, how nice that one of your aunts is resurfacing in a comment for me. It’s been a while. I love your quirky family stories. Well, I’m not desperate to meet anyone right now. In fact, the last thing I want is another relationship. I just want my own space. And I am heartened by these stories from your love life. For me, the moral of the stories is that you’ve gotta go with what you feel. And if you do, in the end, you will find the happiness you wanted all along. The detours are all right. In the meantime, I am doing my best to live in the moment, wherever it takes me. Thanks for being such a steady companion in this journey.

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  8. Oh Sweetie (I hope it’s ok to call you Sweetie), my heart aches for you! Breakups are awful but as you point out “You have to feel to heal.” The version I’ve heard is “You have to go through it to get over it.” It’s the only healthy way. Be good to yourself, allow yourself to mourn, listen to your body, try to maintain healthy habits (and yes, ice cream is healthy right now). I hope you have some really good girlfriends to talk to — girlfriends are the best. You have touched so many hearts and souls with your blog and I hope you can feel our love for you. Wishing you blessings and a peaceful heart. xo Doralee

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      Doralee, of course you can call me “Sweetie.” The idea of “going through it to get over it” works, too. And I do indeed have many good friends, esp girlfriends. Girlfriends are forever! The thing I’m trying to avoid is acting overly perky and cheerful. I was raised to see the bright side of things, whether I felt that way or not. Right now, I see tremendous value in just letting myself feel sad. Thanks for making me feel better about blogging. Most of all, thanks for the love. xo

  9. I can’t offer much more that what has been so well said here than the cliche “This too will pass.” and you will come out stronger the other side. Grief is something I know about and a wise person once said to me, “Grief is like a forest. You have to walk thru it, not around or over, to come out the other side.”

    Also get out of the house! I know the feeling of being locked to a desk. even if it’s just to the local coffee shop for tea (!!)

    You will prevail and come out stronger,

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      Mary, I like the image of the forest. I am not the outdoorsy type by I am walking as steadily as I can right now. I’m hitting the various stages of grief (mad, sad, etc.) and it’s exhausting. I’ve been getting out and have other stuff lined up. I’m having trouble sticking to my four-times-a-week gym schedule. So that’s on my list this week. I need my routine. Thank you for this. I appreciate the support.

  10. Betty,
    I know that this HURTS! and I rarely leave comments…. BUT, I have to share this with you. I walked in this mindset during my divorce, and as I approached the 4th decade of my life it became my mantra.

    “I will nurture myself so much, that I have no choice but to grow.”

    Sometimes this means indulging myself in reading at the bookstore or library instead of dropping off dry-cleaning and scooping cat litter. Sometimes it means having a kale salad when I really just want french fries. It always means speaking to myself the way that I would speak to my precious little niece. That little voice that criticizes us, in our head must be vanquished and replaced by your best, most loving self. You know that voice, the one we use when our most precious little pet or darling grandchild heads towards a steep flight of stairs…. we use that ginger tone and say “no no baby doll” then gently, and playfully lead them to safety. That is the internal voice you must use until you have healed yourself with love. Meditate on this. I live this way and have found nothing but abundance on the other side.

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      Tia, I relate to the gentle voice strategy. It’s the voice of unconditional love. And I am doing everything I can to bring more of it into my life. Thank you for being part of the process.

  11. Hello Betty! I’ve been an avid reader of yours for several years now and hearing about this…almost felt like I was getting hurt as well. A true testament to how well you connect with people. I have no words of wisdom to offer that hasn’t already been posted, but I must say how interesting it’s been to read the thread of comments. Whatever your future holds, I hope you find happiness:)


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      Thank you, Judy. I had no idea you were reading. Thanks for sharing in my pain. I just posted the next step for me in “Letter to my inner child.” I’ve just woken up to a few new realizations about love. Glad that it’s never too late. Xo

  12. Pingback: Letter to my inner child brings healing - betty ming liu

  13. So sorry for your pain, Betty. But know that you are strong. When I took your class in NYU, my first impression of you was just that: a strong, fierce, kind, creative, smart, beautiful woman. It sounds to me like you are already on the right path, letting your grief air out. I always feel, when hurt, that the best thing to do is to imagine the sorrow as a wave, or a waterfall, to let it crest over me and through me, filling me up completely, and then just letting it ebb away, until the pain only reaches a certain point inside and no deeper. Take some time to focus on yourself now, and know that if you ever need a friendly ear, mine is always open :)

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      Chris, you’re making me cry. I’m sitting in a waterfall running down my face. Thanks for the love. It’s funny, as a teacher, I never know who will keep in touch. And here you are. You also hit on my top priority: me. I have a whole, safe house to myself. My safe house. And the water is starting to hydrate me in multiple ways. Over the last few ways, clarity welled up in me with surprising insights on the relationship and myself. It’s been quite magical. So thank you for bringing awareness to the process. It means so much. :)

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