Guideline # 10 for a Healthy Relationship

Written by on November 26, 2012 in On Relationships

Guideline # 10 Let Your Relationship Die

This guideline may seem a bit strange. Letting your relationship die sounds like a bad idea for a maintaining a healthy relationship but just let me explain exactly what I mean. Every relationship goes through changes. For example, the romantic infatuation stage of meeting someone new and enjoying the excitement and chemistry of connection does not last forever. At some point that phase has to die to allow the birth of the next phase. Why? The relationship must die to allow a transformation. Nature is a good example of the necessity of death to make life possible. The survival of your relationship depends on its own death. Out of the death of the caterpillar comes the new life of the butterfly.

The Three Stages

In my experience I have noticed that relationships seem to go through a cycle of three stages. Each stage is vital to the evolution of the relationship and each must die for the next to be born. You may or may not relate to these cycles but I have found them consistent in my own life.

Stage One

Stage one is all about discovery, new experiences and being reborn. You often feel like a different person as though you have been polished and are shiny and new too. In this stage you feel a little obsessed and hyper-focused on the object of your desire. Even in relationships that have endured many years this obsessive feeling is the same only it may revolve around the new aspects of the relationship rather than the person. It is the excitement of the unknown and the possibility. During stage one you are more open to experimentation and new expression. You explore or renegotiate boundaries in this stage and you may find yourself acting different or saying things you would not have said before. It is as though you have shed your old skin and have been transformed into a better you. Again, like the butterfly that leaves the cocoon behind you have left an old self and an old way of relating behind and feel the freedom of flight. It is the period that most people call “falling in love.”Even in long term relationships this “falling in love” feeling will be present. There are any number of expression for falling in love. In a long term relationship this may feel like falling in love with oneself. You may find that you have fallen in love with life or that a whole new way of being has opened up to you. Your friend or partner is not always the object of the experience. But stage one is marked by new discoveries. Before you enter stage two, stage one must end.

Stage Two

Stage Two is a time of establishing boundaries and each person in the relationship seeks to find themselves as individuals. The vast amount of time spent together in stage one has blurred your sense of self and personal identity. During the second stage you redefine yourself as an individual within the relationship. This is a vital and necessary stage of the developing relationship if it is to survive past stage one. You may find yourself challenging your friend or partner, pushing back a little and testing the boundaries. This stage is usually marked by separation of some kind and discontent. This tests the survivability of the relationship beyond constant togetherness. There has also developed a strong enough bond that you try your wings without fear of the relationship dissolving. By stage two your relationship has some mortar between the bricks and can now withstand a storm or two. Many relationships end during stage two. If both parties are not ready to allow freedom for the other or they are addicted to the highs of stage one things will spiral down pretty fast. If there are major issues such as jealousy, control, violence they will surface in stage two. Stage two reveals the nuts and bolts of the relationship. If one or both parties tries to hang on to stage one and not allow it to die naturally, the relationship suddenly becomes full of friction, discord and discontent. This has nothing to do with the other person but rather that the relationship is being held onto too tightly and not allowed to evolve. Many people can become entrenched in this stage because it is full of drama and ups and downs. You can become addicted to the drama often connected to stage two. It can be difficult to find you have nothing to argue about, no fight=no making up. Many of us hang on to stage two out of fear of the unknown. Last time the relationship died it seemed to get worse, not better. Holding onto stage two will cause your relationship to take a real nose dive. Minor issues can turn into deep resentment, frustration and isolation. Stage two must die for before stage three can occur.

Stage Three

Stage three represents the maturation of behaviors and new ideas that have fully taken root. The storm of stage two has passed. You have learned to ride the wildness of the weather. You have let go of the need for drama. This new period is a stage of creativity and expression. It is a time of joy and pleasure. You are able to spend lots of time together and have fun doing things and never seem to tire of each other. The intensity of stage one is gone, the upheaval of stage two is resolved and stage three is a time of relaxation and quiet love. The relationship expands and deepens. Stage three secures the roots of the relationship firm and sure. It is usually a longer period for relationships that last long enough to experience it. Many relationships die at the end of stage one or during the conflict of stage two. The ones that last to stage three will find a reprieve and sense of security not known in either of the previous stages. There are no demands on each other but each person allows total freedom to the other. This is the stage when a marriage or other relationship develops the solid footing that will allow it to continue in the birth, death and rebirth cycles. All of life goes through these stages of birth, death and rebirth cycles. Each stage represents an entire cycle. Relationships continue this cycle throughout time. Even marriages that have lasted for fifty or more years go through death and birth cycles that keep it alive and vibrant. If not, the relationship is vacant, hollow and without true connection. The two people in that kind of a relationship have simply learned how to tolerate each other and avoid confrontation. Also known as “the roommate dilemma.” Whenever your relationship begins to feel this way it is time to let go. Time to let your relationship die. Here are a couple of suggestions for supporting the death and rebirth of your relationship.

Really See The Other Person

We become so accustomed to all the personality traits, quirks, pleasure and displeasure of the other person that we begin to tune out. We think we already know how they will respond, what they are thinking and how they are feeling so we stop paying attention. We are no longer curious. This is poison to any relationship. It is called projection. We project onto our partner or friend our notions about them. These notions become fixed and it inhibits our perceptibility, discourages deep listening, increases judgements, and stymies intimacy and closeness. The whole relationship becomes dull and even boring. When we project onto our partner or friend we have constricted our awareness, cutting ourselves off from the vitality of relating to others. In other words, we are trapped in our heads. Learning to see your partner with new eyes will guide you to the next stage if that is what is needed.

To Boldly Go Where No One Has Gone Before. . .

Being in a healthy relationship is like exploring the cosmos, there is a continuous evolution of each other and the potentiality for endings and beginnings is a constant. Think of yourself as an explorer learning new things about each other every day. Open your mind to the possibilities. Go where you have never gone before. Say things you have not said before. Challenge yourself to try new things, do something you usually do together, by yourself. This is a great way to guide the relationship to the next stage. This will put you in the driver’s seat and allow you the opportunity to see the death of the relationship as something positive and renewing. You will see your relationship as an ever changing, beautiful never-ending process. Exploration and taking risks can greatly support the death/rebirth cycle.

The Big Bang

Some relationships die in a cataclysmic manner like the exploding of a star. Obviously, divorce is one of these changes. Some people though, get divorced and then later remarry! This is the result of the death of the relationship and the renewal of it. While this is unusual it illustrates the way a death can create the birth of something new.

The cataclysmic death of a relationships is usually preceded by some event or experience that triggers a desire, an opening in yourself or your partner that challenges the stasis of the relationship. The stability is rocked. For example, you may meet someone that opens up a new window into your self. This opening allows you to explore yourself in new ways. This may threaten your friend, partner or spouse. It destabilizes the relationship. It can affect your values. A midlife crisis has this effect on many.

A midlife crisis can completely bring the framework of a relationship down to the foundation. A life altering experience, such as a near death experience, the illness or death of a child, or the loss of parents. Other altering experiences can include, personal illness, accidents that are close calls or ones that cause injury, change of job, giving birth to a child, etc. A spiritual change can also result in the death of a relationship as can a physical change such as rapid weight loss or weight gain.

There are many ways to experience the death of your relationship. While most of us feel some fear around the relationship changes these can be powerful transformers and can and often do elevate the relationship to new heights.

Life span of a relationship

Every relationship has a different life span. Not all are meant to last or have the stamina for enduring the stresses and challenges of a long term relationship. Some relationships die and are not reborn. There is simply not enough material left to recreate something. Too much has been used up. Relationships are like beautiful dresses made from bolts of fabric. Each bolt has the capacity for only so many dresses. Once the material is gone, that relationship’s potential is also gone. That doesn’t mean it was a worthless relationship or that it was somehow wrong. It fulfilled its measure and is complete. Let those go too. It will allow you to treasure the good times and to keep all the lessons learned. Other relationships are meant to last, they have a great deal of potential and have many rebirths within them. But you cannot know how much potential there is in any one relationship until it is revealed to you yard by yard.

The End is Only the Beginning

Whether your relationship is evolving or permanently ending there is always potential for a new beginning. The end is always a sign of the beginning. So perhaps you will embark upon a new relationship with a new person or you will discover the friend you have been close to all these years can still surprise you or your dull spouse suddenly has the power to make you weak in the knees again. Where there is death there is also birth. Knowing this can give you the strength and the faith to let go and see what life and relationships have in store for you.

On a personal note. . .

  • I have experienced a few major deaths and rebirths in my own marriage. The first time occurred when I had a spiritual transformation. It threatened the old way Aaron and I had been interacting and the destructive phase was pretty scary. I worried about Aaron leaving me, I worried about leaving Aaron and I worried I would have to stay married to him for the rest of my life. There was a lot of upheaval and uncertainty. But I had changed and the relationship was going to change with me or it was over. But there was more in our relationship and we weathered the storm and entered the calmness of stage three. I felt like I was married to a completely different person and perhaps I was. I had changed so completely that Aaron was interacting with a different person. It makes sense that he would be so different as a result.


  • The second time my relationship died I was more prepared. I knew how uncomfortable the death part is and I made a conscious effort to let go. The second time I had met a person that completely unseated me and made me reexamine so many things. It challenged me to look deeper at my marriage and to make a decision to stay and keep investing in the relationship or to leave and find out what possibilities lay ahead. I chose to stay but only because when I looked deep inside I found that I wanted to see the relationship through-all the way to the finish line whatever that took. Both of these experiences were wild wonderful roller coaster rides and they have kept my marriage filled dynamism, growth and the kind of security that comes from weathering the roughest storms and sharing the deepest pleasures.

Don’t be afraid to let your relationship die, it will only rise again in another form. So embrace my tenth and final guideline for a healthy relationship.

Let your relationship die and you and the relationship will be transformed.


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