For many of us, the end of a relationship means ugliness: bitter fights, painful arguments that never feel resolved, and eventually divorce or separation, while fighting over all that was once shared, including custody of kids, and forcing friends to choose sides. I understand – when fights ensue, and pride gets hurt or we don’t feel heard, sometimes it can feel that the only way out is to rip the band-aid off completely in whatever way we can, to push for the separation that we need.
Last year, my husband Wind and I were going through a rough patch. Our marriage up until this point had seemed unbreakable, and we had been through an incredible amount together as partners – far more than most in just four years. We had traveled through more than 10 countries on a tiny budget, lived in our minivan together for months, lived on communes, and with my parents. We had gone through the various intense shifts and dissolving of illusions that our awakenings had brought, had plant medicine journeys together, he had nursed me through my own heartbreaking sickness, and more recently, we had opened our marriage to polyamory. It was all an intense ride, but we had done it together and it had all bonded us tightly.
But slowly, the need for separation started showing itself. After all our closeness, we both started recognizing that to move forward, we needed to be individuals. Wind took a job that was out of state to satisfy his desire to travel and give me the space I was wanting. We had some arguments throughout this time of separation, but truth be told we weren’t fully aware of what was happening until it was upon us. Through a series of discussions and heated arguments, we began talking about our separation as something that needed to be more formal. That big ugly word – Divorce – came up.
I was completely devastated – I never thought that this would happen. Wind was the love of my life, my twin flame! It was never supposed to be like this. Separation was one thing, but to think of divorcing made everything inside of me hurt, especially the thought of going through that process with all the pain and unresolved emotions that we both were feeling.
As we were talking, discussing what we thought was inevitable, it occurred to me that there may be another way. After all, we weren’t feeling the need for divorce because we hated each other; we just somehow needed to acknowledge what was already happening, and do something concrete that would help us honor this and move on in our own paths. Through the tears, one of us said,
“What if we treated this separation the same way we treated our marriage? What if we turned it into a ceremony or something really beautiful?”
At that, the entire mood shifted. Surprisingly, we both started to get really excited at the prospect of making this transition a sacred moment and creating a ceremony together. With just a simple reframing, we had changed the entire energy around what we were experiencing from devastatingly hurtful to a celebration of our strength. With a ceremony, we could honor the truth of the matter: that we cared deeply for each other and yet needed our autonomy; that our love for each other was so great that we could set each other free.
We planned the ceremony for Christmas day. We wrote vows to each other, just as we had done for our wedding, and we gathered symbolic items to create a sacred space. We even considered having one of our friends officiate our ceremony, but in the end decided to keep it private and avoid the need to schedule anything. And because we were living long distance at the time, we had to do the whole thing over skype. But it was a beautiful moment for us both. Though we were still dealing with the fatigue of our saddened hearts, taking the time to honor each other and our changing relationship was incredibly healing.
Why is it that we feel the need to end relationships with ugliness? Sometimes it is unavoidable – when a relationship ends and two people have been working on their differences for years and are saturated with frustrations, it makes sense that there would be a lot of animosity. With all the endless fighting, we may have lost trust in ourselves and our partner that we are capable of ever having peace again. Maybe we feel that fighting creates a clean break, and we’re worried that without intense anger and turning each other into enemies that we’ll be weak, and change our minds, returning to a damaging situation.
There are many reasons that we may end our relationship with fighting and anger. My desire here is to offer another way to move through such a transition: through a loving ceremony.
For Wind and me, the biggest surprise of all was that our ceremony allowed us to transition into a new level of friendship, almost immediately, without straining over our previous marital expectations of each other. Creating a sacred moment helped us to give a name to what we were experiencing and honor the it, while also giving space for the grieving process to occur. This allowed us to become present with our relationship in its new state. Through ceremony, we were able to move beyond the relationship with the same honoring and love that we began it with.