The Beauty of Breaking Up

Heartache is natural. Blaming and drama are unnecessary. How one woman learned to let go with love.

Breaking Up Is Good To Do


photo courtesy of Liubov Burakova

filed under True Stories

I often wonder how I left the driveway that snowy afternoon. What was it that actually made me get in the car and go? How did I leave a relationship of six years and keep leaving?

We had recently moved back to New York City from Vermont. We were both reconnecting to our career paths and it brought us to a crossroads.

“I fell in love with a you that was so many different yous,” he told me. “But if you’ve figured out that you want to just be one of those yous, then go for it. That’s not what I want. That’s not who I am.”

So we went on dates for two weeks. We talked things out and mutually decided that we weren’t sure about our next step, together or otherwise. We decided to try being apart.

Everyone was so upset that we had broken up, which didn’t help. It was close to the holidays, and everyone thought it might go the other way. There were so many questions. People wanted to know whose fault it was and why, why, why, we would do such a thing.

But when something ends, there’s usually no easy way to explain it. The two people within a relationship are the only ones who can know all the details, the layers, the stickiness. Exactly what led to what. And even then, there is my story and his story and somewhere in between, there’s the truth (or something like it).

I would tell people that we weren’t giving up. That this parting was a good thing that we had ultimately decided together. That there was no drama and it wasn’t anyone’s fault. We had, in the simplest terms, had a good run with many beautiful ovations and encores, and we were now closing this show and seeing what wanted to happen next. It sounded simple, and it was amicable—though the months and years that followed were not easy.

The relationship wasn’t me or him. In that moment we met long ago, we had begun to create a third thing in the space between us. We met in our early twenties. I was leaving California and he was passing through. I was the assistant for a summer workshop and he was a student. By the time we returned east, we were in love and moved in together within months. The relationship took on a life of its own. We created a theater company, became part of one another’s families, traveled together, shared finances, had two cats. When we went separate ways, the relationship didn’t stop. It fractured into many pieces, and continued to live on in our hearts (and in the hearts of all who knew us). Each piece reflecting different ideas of what was, what is, and what could have been. A prism of hopes, joys, disappointments, possibilities. A love that I will never stop relating to.

Looking back to that moment in the driveway, what got me to leave was reconciling with the fact that this relationship wasn’t a failure, but rather a grand success. What kept me moving along was seeing the strength of the love that we had created. I started to discover that every minute that we had given to the relationship was a great teacher.

Broken hearts only break more hearts, so instead of rushing on or lashing out or blaming him, I took care and listened to what my grief wanted to teach me. I slowed down and bathed in the waters of my grief to discover my own rhythm of letting go and moving on.

And amidst any heartbreak that will always reside somewhere in my depths, I came to proudly say: “Thank God for you. For helping to shepherd me to here. You have no idea how much you affected all the joy and the ground I stand on today. What an awesome success it was and will always be. Living our lives apart was the best decision we could have made, just as valuable as our decision to be together in the first place. I continue to celebrate us with you from here.“

My relationship with this celebration has fueled my momentum forward and cleared the space for me to gracefully and wholeheartedly let new love in.

Kali Quinn is a performer and teacher. This story comes from her new book, I am Compassionate Creativity


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