The “goodbye process” can help and heal a couple

When you believe your relationship is over and it is time to move on separately, feelings of anxiousness, fear, sadness, anger and stress are common. You are entering into an unfamiliar and potentially overwhelming journey that may change at least two lives drastically.

When I work with a couple who believe their relationship is over, I use a technique I call the “goodbye process,” which helps them reflect on their life together, begin accepting the relationship may be over or seeing clearly there is a chance for reconnection, and, if the relationship is over, learning how to say goodbye in a healthy way that allows for the healing process to start.

The “goodbye process” is an opportunity for couples to get in touch with the positives in their relationship that have been buried through the years by disconnections, lack of communication, kids, finances, work and many other reasons that have moved to the forefront and sidelined their love for each other.

Through this exercise, which will take some time, couples may discover a renewed commitment and connection with each other as they uncover the strengths in their relationship and all of the good reasons why they have been together.

However, I caution couples that they must be fully aware that the purpose of the “goodbye process” is to explore their future, not necessarily their future together. They should not assume their relationship can be saved. This can be difficult for many couples to accept.

I also emphasize that this process will take time. There are no fast fixes or resolutions to issues that have deepened for many years. Both parties must be committed to exploring the process from both perspectives.

I also recommend that, before seeing me, each person thinks about what they what to say to their partner; to spend some time seriously thinking about the messages they want to share about their relationship – the negatives and the positives.

If it is time to say goodbye, this step can be very therapeutic and healing if it is managed in a healthy and constructive way. Being honest and open can be difficult; it takes a lot of courage to speak freely, openly and constructively, but not hurtfully. If it is handled with empathy, the couple can feel ready to move on with their separate lives because they said their goodbyes in such a healthy manner.

I conduct a “goodbye” exercise in which each person says their goodbyes to sad and hurtful memories as well as happy ones, and negative as well as positive experiences they’ve had together. They say goodbye to this memory or experience and announce that they are leaving it in the past. Each partner listens and acknowledges these, mirroring what their partner said to them. This goodbye exercise continues until each person has shared the messages they want to convey and announces their final goodbyes: “ I am released from my past with you and am looking ahead to my future.” As the facilitator of this process, I work right alongside the couple through this entire exercise to ensure it remains calm, respectful, non-accusatory and constructive. Ending a relationship is one of the most difficult steps a couple will take in their lives, but with the right approach, it can be an opportunity for growth and new beginnings. I have found the “goodbye process” can help couples move forward with fewer wounds and faster healing.