What a Therapist Taught Me About Ending a Relationship
I Wasn't Sure If I Should End My Relationship, Then a Therapist Asked Me This One Question
I've never been one to go to therapy. My mom got her master's degree in counseling while I was in high school and would test things out on me to help her remember them ahead of an exam. For the most part, I thought I knew what a therapy session would cover, and I always questioned why I should go talk to someone when I could read books that would tell me the same things.
That is until I was faced with the decision to separate from my partner of 10 years or try to stay together. Books could tell me all kinds of things about sexuality and healthy relationships, and when to let go and when to stay. But these books were written for the masses. I needed help on the ground, help that could be applied to my specific, complicated situation.
It took me three months to find a therapist I was willing to talk to. I didn't want a religious therapist. I didn't want a heteronormative therapist. I wanted someone who would see my struggle not only with my sexuality, but also with other aspects of my relationship, as well as someone who accepted my insurance. I was asking for quite a lot from the American healthcare system, but I did find her. She was very progressive in her views about sexuality and relationship dynamics. She was also a badass whose immense personal power was mirrored physically in her septum piercing, tattooed arms, and combat boots. She was intelligent, compassionate, witty, and unafraid to speak the truth.
I walked into that room feeling that I had a similar amount of power locked down inside of me. This therapist gave me courage, but all that I could offer her was fear and ambiguity. She saw right through that. She told me something that I think we all need to remind ourselves of daily. It was so simple, yet so powerful — and it went something like this:
What choice would you make if fear wasn't part of the equation?
You are powerful, capable, and intelligent. You have your whole life ahead of you. So why are you wasting it trying to keep someone else happy, to save a marriage just for the sake of avoiding acute pain? Especially when you're exchanging it for a more insidious type of harm in not living your truth? If you could take away all of those external factors right now — the fear of hurting someone else or of not being able to survive financially, every single fear — what choice would you make?
When she put it that way, the answer felt clear. It didn't make ending that relationship any more appealing or easy, but it gave me clarity and a direction. It gave me courage. I take that question with me into almost every challenging decision or experience that I face now. What choice would you make if fear wasn't part of the equation? To live the life I want. What about you?