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Reuniting Leaving and Left


“Waking up every day and loving someone who may or may not love us back, whose safety we can’t ensure, who may stay in our lives or may leave without a moment’s notice, who may be loyal to the day they die or betray us tomorrow – that’s vulnerability.” -Brene Brown

At the end of almost all relationships there are two roles, the one who is leaving and the one who is left. Optimally, yet I think more rarely, both people in a relationship are ready to move on and the leaving is mutual. I have noticed in my own life that for me, endings are almost always about being left. I don’t think I am unusual in finding myself habitually in the same role pattern. People who leave others tend to be the ones who leave. People who are left tend to be the ones who hang on. Each role is steeped in both our conscious values and unconscious adaptive emotional patterns.


I have always believed that our closest intimate relationships are our best teachers and have deeply valued the continuity and shared history that comes from relating over time. Even at times when it was clear that I prioritized and nurtured the relationship more than the other person, my need for continuity translated into the work of accepting the love that was present and accommodating to what the other person was willing to share. I struggled sometimes when the differences in our commitments to the relationship were glaringly obvious. I talked myself through the ways that reciprocation didn’t happen and maybe convinced myself of the relationship’s other gifts. However, I have never been able to walk away from relationships which held my history, however tenuously.

For some people, leaving is easier and perhaps more honest. Those who walk away readily from relationships are more adept at judging the usefulness of their connections. Less tethered by the past, they are more self- possessed, which in turn enables them to retain a separate and stronger sense of identity throughout the relationship. The act of leaving our relationship history behind us opens up an unencumbered present. And yet on the down side, it is extremely common for people leaving one relationship to create the same dynamics in their next relationship.

Reuniting the gifts of both sides of relationship endings is where healing occurs. Imbuing a stronger sense of self to the experience of being left is how one learns to become loyal to oneself and I hope, eventually, attract more mutuality in future relationships. Embracing and respecting the history of the relationship being left informs and evolves future relationship choices for those who leave. Navigating this balance of power is how we actively engage in our relationships and teaches us the subtle, yet crucial steps in the dance of giving and receiving, building more equity in the ways we fall in and step out of relating.

The first relationship to attend to is with our selves. From this unified space, we can have the courage to be vulnerable enough to keep on loving.