Call me a serial lover. I love being in love. I love working on a relationship. I love deeply and have fallen hard at least a good dozen times. But I’m bad at breakups. Until this last one, I have needed months, sometimes years, to recover and in the end, I’d come to some negative conclusions about what the breakup meant—about me.

Then I’d take those (mis)perceptions and use them to beat the living daylights out of myself. I’m too friggin fat. I’m definitely too independent—which must mean I’m not feminine enough, I’m even too smart for my own good. Self-worth? What’s that? I’d even turn my assets into shortcomings. I must have been the reason that he chose my replacement.

Soon, I started expecting my romance partners to find something wrong with me and dump me as a result. You get what you expect, right? Heading into my most recent relationship, I had healed many of those ugly misperceptions and I learned to start expecting what I wanted and knew I deserved. It was then that I met Michael—and I couldn’t envision it ever ending, let alone ending badly.

It was the most wonderful relationship I have ever had. The most bonded, the most loving, the most compatible, the most mutually committed. We shared gorgeous promise rings. We shared beautiful families. We even shared busy schedules until they started happening too often. I could stand the absences between us, but after a month or so, it would start to hurt. That was happening more and more, and soon, it felt like we were in a text relationship. I felt like a friggin Army Wife.

How the Decoupling Ceremony Improved My RelationshipMichael is a writer. A real writer. A great, accomplished, career writer of movies and books with credits on big box office stuff. Life with him meant a lot of alone time. It meant handling serious challenges only to fill him in weeks later. One time, I was in an emergency room hooked up to an EKG and I called everyone but him so as not to interrupt his creative process. I believed Michael was The One, but I was struggling. I wanted to track down the wives of celebrities like Steven Speilberg and Stephen King, the women partnered with lawyers and doctors while they were still students. I wanted to ask how on earth they did it, how they made the relationship last.

In Michael’s case, successful meant heaps of work with no pay and then suddenly—BAM—a windfall. Ultimately, every year would turn out fine but only after months of nerve-wracking worry. Then one day, after supporting my man for all those years, giving him all the space he needed to hunker down and create his masterpieces, the heavens open up and rained every possible blessing: Movie deal, book deal and an investor to finance the creation of every movie he’s ever written. And then, I found myself alone.

It was our long-awaited date night and we had so much to celebrate, and he never showed up. Fear kicked in. I wasn’t good at pressuring partners. Finally, I got brave and left him a message. His response? It was over. Devastated, I called Gillian Harris, a spiritual psychologist. I could barely talk through the tears. That’s when I learned about the decoupling ceremony. It’s a process that helps people to shed feelings of victimization, to recognize shared history and to acknowledge and accept the journey into the future with no baggage. It was exactly what I needed.

The ceremony usually entails an initial consultation followed by a private 20-minute ceremony where both parties declare their mutual forgiveness and release. I didn’t want to be so damaged by this breakup that my future would be damaged, too. So I was open. At that point, I would have tried anything to find peace. Somehow, we had to rearrange the terms of our relationship. While I loved Michael, he now had less time than ever. I held onto the fact that I am worthy of my dream relationship and I deserve to not feel rejected. While he loved me, he was severing our monogamous status so I could be free to find my true love. By staying together, I might miss the opportunity to find someone who has the time to participate in what a healthy relationship requires and deserves.

As much as part of me wanted to scream, IT’S OKAY, WE DON’T HAVE TO SEE EACH OTHER! PLEASE DON’T BREAK UP WITH ME!, I knew the Universe was probably doing me a favour. But I still didn’t want it to end, not in sudden death, anyway. And I didn’t know how to exist without my life partner status, without being in union with him. At the very least, I needed our friendship to survive.

The decoupling ceremony served me in so many ways. I was the one being dumped, so to speak, so I probably needed it more than he did. It was so amazing to hear him tell me why he fell in love with me in the first place. I had pretty much forgotten he was ever in love with me. It felt good to tell him why I fell in love with him. And then came the best part: the forgiveness. It was freeing not just to forgive my partner, but to forgive myself, at least temporarily, for buying into the false perception that maybe I had done something to cause this awful severance, that it had happened because I wasn’t worthy of such a wonderful relationship.

Decoupling taught me that I was ready to move on, and that this relationship had served its purpose. I needed to trust the Universe and allow the miracle to keep unfolding. Through all the forgiveness, we came back to the awareness of the love essence that we both are and we made new vows to each other—just like at a wedding. We promised to be friends in the truest sense of that word. To be supportive in our present and future dreams and ambitions and to continue as the spirit family we are even though we were now single. When I started feeling emotional about a month later, Michael stopped what he was doing long enough to respond to a few distressful emails I’d sent him with a phone call. We talked and he helped me process what I was feeling.

The healing was faster than I’d ever experienced, and that’s because this time, we were in it together. A year later, I’m healthier than ever, and most importantly, I’m happy inside. I’m dating an amazing man, and when I think of Michael, I smile. I am not alone. I am truly free.

Helena Smith is a 35-year-old business owner of a small chain of restuarants in Los Angeles, Ventura, Orange County and San Diego. She originally hails from Colorado. Gillian Harris is an ordained minister at Bless & Clear in California where she promotes decoupling through ceremonies that help partners move on after divorce. 

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