How to consciously end or heal a relationship

So often in books, magazines and movies the story ends with a marriage ceremony. After that, of course, the couple will live “happily ever after”. Standard wedding vows speak of caring for the other when sick or poor. Most vows, either in the church or out of it, speak of forever. The wedding day celebrates a coming together that promises never to end.

However, statistics reveal a different reality. Long before “forever”, a large percentage of marriages fail, leaving one or two people heartbroken.

What happened in these broken unions? It may be that the couple lacked tools of communication or reached different life-stages and needed to move in separate directions — or one of a hundred other dramas.

We must find a healthier way to release the forms that no longer serve rather than end up in litigious battles that spread toxic hatred, damaging the couple, their offspring and many people around them. The stakes are high: the emotional damage risks killing trust in the idea of partnership as well as trust in love itself.

We believe in relationships: that they are the best tool for growing up, getting out of your own bubble, maturing into a better human being. And we believe you need to understand how they function before you get whiplashed by their sometimes tumultuous nature.

Entanglement and separation

A key to understanding relationships comes in the common word for their dissolution: divorce.

The word divorce can be broken into two elements: di (two) and the Latin for “turn”, from which we also derive vortex. A vortex is a swirl, a tornado, a whirly-wind. The word divorce proclaims, “We become two vortices.” This implies that a healthy relationship is a single tornado, a uni-vortex, moving together through life’s playground.

A uni-vortex looks like two streams of wind in an intertwined tornado — what you see with two people who are always together. A complete di-vortex shows two separate tornadoes, each engaged in different pursuits in life.

A di-vortex in the process of disentanglement — what you experience when you are ending a relationship — looks like two streams of wind that are trying to separate, but still remain interlinked in some spots. It’s a mess. Did you ever try to sort out two slinkies that had got tangled together?

In our book, One-Two-ONE: A Guidebook to Conscious Partnerships, Weddings, and Rededication Ceremonies, we emphasise that a healthy relationship first requires that each individual become an individual: a “One”. You have to be able to stand on your own two feet in the world before you can choose to relate to another, or become a “Two”: a di-vortex that becomes its own pattern.

A healthy partnership (Two) can then find the joy of communion, the sense of the all-embracing “ONE” of universal love. This is what happens during love-making and in moments of intimacy: a merging into the being of wellness or the well of beingness. The moment passes and the healthy partnership finds its Two-ness again, working and living together. Sometimes partners go different way: one to nap and one to Garden, or one to an office and the other to another kind of work. There they re-find their One-ness, their individuality.

We are most healthy when capable of freely moving between One, Two and ONE, between independent vortices and a uni-vortex. Over time, this will mature us.

Be the canary

You must understand that, quite naturally, people will mature in different ways. After seven years, certainly after 10 and sometimes much sooner, you have matured into people different from the ones who exchanged vows in a wedding. Your vortices are struggling to separate. The truth is that you most likely either need to end the relationship or renew it. Pretending that this isn’t necessary can act as a drag on the healthy development of you and your partner.

Three choices present themselves: you leave, you suffer or you change. Suffering can be wholly internal, such that no one knows about it, including sometimes yourself. Eventually it will burst out — perhaps as little innuendoes, then as spiky jabs and finally as a whole avalanche of recriminations. Often the spouse is completely surprised, “Where did that come from?” Then you get to be amazed at how you’ve suffered for years and your spouse didn’t even notice. That leads to anger at how he or she didn’t perceive your suffering. You wonder, “Wasn’t it completely obvious?” It’s possible that your partner is quite comfortable living a limited life or a life based on the fantasy that “everything is all right”.

You have then become the canary in the coalmine. Miners going underground used to carry a caged canary with them to help them measure safe oxygen levels. Canaries have a greater sensitivity to lack of oxygen than humans and when the caged bird stopped singing and hopping  the miners would still have their wits about them for long enough to leave the mine before they too began to suffer.

If you know you are suffering, you are the canary. You have the responsibility to let the miner know what is happening. Otherwise, you will, in some way, die. Of course, it may take years of oxygen deprivation for you to notice. The first miner you must inform is yourself. Some part of you has got the idea that you’re going to tough it out, no matter what, and the canary in you has to wake you up to the fact that something isn’t working and you need to do something about it.

Don’t despair. It’s part of the natural process of growing within a relationship. You’ve just got bogged and you’re the first one to notice it.

Speak up. Find a third party to speak to as a couple; that mentor may be able to help you dissolve some weighty chains. He or she may advise that you seek someone trained in marriage counselling. Do not consider yourself wrong or bad for seeking counselling. If you are bogged deep, you may need a stronger vehicle to pull you out. There is no shame in that. There is still plenty to do after you’ve been pulled out. The most important purpose of a marriage is not being happy — or looking happy. The most important purpose is to grow as human beings. When things get rough, you are in fine territory. Make the most of it.

If you get through the canary part, then the basis of your relationship has changed — and the terms of your agreements have changed. You have gone through one of those life-transforming experiences.

You have recognised that a Great Change has crept up on you. It’s already happened. You’ve di-vorced. You have two choices: remarry or put an end to the relationship. In truth, remarriage requires also that you end the relationship, even if for only a few minutes during a rededication ceremony.

Release of vows

Some things may have occurred in your marriage that you would like to undo or “do differently”. You may have married young and made vows in your youthful wedding ceremony that you feel now are inappropriate, foolish or inadequate. Times have changed, and now you would make some vows stronger and remove others altogether.

First, though, you must release those old vows.

How do you undo something that you did? How do you undo a promise that you made “forever”? You have to forgive yourself for your indiscretions, your mistakes, your errors: all of it. Your partner has to forgive you — and you have to forgive yourself.

You forgive and you release.

How? There are many release techniques. Here are a few we would suggest:

  • Write whatever is ready to be released on a piece of paper and tie it to a small piece of wood. Build a fire together, and ask that the pattern be transformed as it burns. This involves both the earth element in the wood and the element of fire.
  • Ritual bathing can provide a vehicle for release as well. Release yourself and your partner through the element of water. If you add salt to the water, such as Epsom salts or sea salt, that brings in the earth element. This soaks up the old patterns and leads them down the drain to be transformed by natural earth processes.
  • In the element of air, say what your vows were and then let them go. Speak your new freedom.

The kinds of words you might say come in two categories:

1. To yourself: “I forgive myself for whatever mistakes I may have made in discernment. I forgive myself for negative emotions expressed. I ask for healing for the wounds I have suffered, emotional and physical. I release the vows that I made, and the vows that were made to me. I release the older version of me, and welcome the new. I release with thanks all the people and spirits who were called into the wedding.”

2. To your ex-partner: “I forgive you for whatever behaviour may have caused me pain. I ask forgiveness for anything I did or did not do. I ask for healing of all wounds, emotional and physical. I release the vows that I made, and the vows that were made to me. I release the outdated version of you and welcome the new. I release with thanks all the people and spirits who were called into the wedding.”

Notice that you do not use “we” in these statements, as the “we” has changed. Going into the future means affirming the “I-ness” of each partner — from uni-vortex (Two) to two separate vortices (di-vortex, One).

Of course, you must design the wording to suit your individual situation. This ceremony is very helpful to the whole of you, especially the subconscious parts that are not touched by reasoning, but better by ceremony. And, as at a wedding, it helps tremendously to have one or more witnesses.

Ideally, you and your ex-partner can meet and release your ties amicably. However, sometimes things fall apart in such a way that your ex-partner cannot, or will not, attend a small ceremony such as we described above. Or perhaps you have come across this idea of severing the old ties years after the ex-partner has gone in new directions; perhaps you have no notion how to reach him or her. You can still go through these steps, on your own, in an undisturbed environment. They create an opportunity for you to get straight who is who, to remove the parts of your ex-partner’s vortex that are still entwined with your vortex.

When you have made love with another and taken his or her body into yours, or when you have opened your heart to another, an energy imprint comes into you that you have to release and let go. Intention to let go marks the first step; letting go the memories, the next. See the ex-partner grow distant emotionally and physically from you. People who maintain good relationships with ex-partners have always energetically redefined those relationships.

Next you must release your old marriage. (For this article, we need to be brief, yet we can give you the idea.) You can say to your ex-partner: “I release our marriage. I release our wedding vows. I thank you for what I have learned in love and in many other ways from our walking of the path of life together. I hope that your journey will help you continue to grow.”

We have found that, no matter how much your ex-partner seems to have become an ogre and no matter how much you have felt hurt by him or her, there is a spark of thanks deep in your soul for what you have learned from this temporary companion in life. There is a spark of compassion as you understand the source of difficult behaviour in the other. Deep down, there is a spark of love. Let that spark grow as you part ways. No matter what stresses arise from legalities, accusations and other challenges, repeat your forgiveness and your thanks.

Write an agreement

Conscious “di-vortex-ing”, even at the beginning of a relationship, may mean writing out a separation agreement in the company of friends, family or a trusted mentor. This can save legal fees, heartache and your health.

We recently witnessed a new marriage come to a conclusion after one year. They felt they didn’t need a written agreement, as they hadn’t accumulated much. They thought all would be well, until a tsunami of strong emotions came out of nowhere. Their friendship disintegrated in fury because they hadn’t established clear agreements beforehand about even the simplest things.

The storm that arises when a relationship faces divorce ought not to be underestimated. Try to meet the potential distress by writing down your agreements for a conscious separation, affirming the power of your individuality and your daily choice to live and love in partnership. Do your best to stay out of blame and judgment. Carrying a grudge creates a toxic atmosphere and can wreak havoc on one’s health and sanity.

These are important steps in the creation of two vortices from one. If you are doing this in preparation for a remarriage or rededication, then you can craft a wedding that speaks to your life situation now. In either case — a final ending or a rededication — cleanly breaking with the past is necessary to find your uni-vortex, your One, that will make Two and ONE more available to you.


David Tresemer, PhD, and Lila Sophia Tresemer authored One-Two-ONE: A Guidebook to Conscious Partnerships, Weddings, and Rededication Ceremonies. They offer consultations, retreats and workshops on relationships, in both Australia and the US. W:

The WellBeing Team

The WellBeing Team

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