How Do You Say Good-bye When a Marriage Ends?

A simple ceremony for couples who are breaking up, so that they don't carry excess baggage into their next relationship.

Van Gogh - Paul Gauguins Stuhl (Der leere Stuhl)If your relationship is sailing along splendidly or you are making progress with a marriage counselor, this post may not apply directly to you. But it may apply to a friend who has reached the end of a marriage that has become so distant, difficult or painful that all she can think about is ending the turmoil.

Had your friend sought professional help earlier, her relationship might have been salvaged. But by the time many troubled couples see a therapist, 80% are unable to salvage their relationship.

That is why, several years ago, Lynne Azpeitia wrote an article for Support4Change in which she shared an exercise she uses when couples decide that they need to split. The idea was to explore how they could break up so that they don't carry excess baggage into their next relationship.

She wrote about a technique she uses with couples who want to separate as amicably as possible. Reducing emotional reactivity and fighting, sorting out differences, saying good-bye, healing hurt, and learning from the experience are some of the benefits of this type of therapy.

This is how Lynne’s "Good-bye Ceremony for Couples" works:

Place two chairs facing back to back and each of you sit in one of them.

Next you will go through an exercise in which you will complete several sentences, one sentence at a time, taking turns answering.

Repeat the sentence as many times as it takes until you run out of things to say, then you can start on the next one.

It is off-limits to complete a sentence with a comeback to the other's previous sentence.

It is also off-limits to argue or discuss what anyone said.

Here are the sentences, to be used in the order indicated, although either 1 or 2 can be first and either 4 or 5 can be fourth. (I recommend you print this page so you won't have to try and remember them, since this can be an emotional, although healing, experience.)

  1. I resent _________________
  2. I regret _________________
  3. I remember fondly _________________
  4. You still owe me _________________
  5. I still owe you _________________
  6. My good-bye statement to you is _________________

When the sequence is complete, simply say "good-bye" and silently move your chair one step away from your partner. Have at least a two-minute period of silence.

If you are working with a therapist in doing this, take a break or close the session at this point. Then, if there is another session, you can process what went on.

Lynne Azpeitia now focuses her practice on gifted, talented, and creative adults. However, if you think this technique would be helpful for you or for a friend — or if you are a therapist who wants to learn more about it — you can contact her for additional information on this technique for healing.

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