The first line of Eddie’s Facebook post hit hard. “After much soul-searching, Jim and I have decided to end our relationship.” My heart sank.
His post went on to say there was no untoward event involved in their decision; it was simply time for some space between them. Eddie made it clear they intend to remain friendly and will continue to work on several social projects they are involved in producing. It also called on friends to be supportive of both of them and to continue to be part of their lives, knowing it will be a very difficult and emotional journey for everyone involved.
You don’t often see such in-your-face honesty about the ending of a relationship. Break-ups suck, regardless of the circumstances, and surely it won’t suck any less for Eddie and Jim. But they’ve changed the discourse among their friends by showing respect for each other, even as they (and by extension, all their friends) deal with the emotions that come along with a relationship ending.
Civility of this kind doesn’t happen at the end of a relationship, for the most part. It’s built into the daily interactions and truths you tell to each other over time. Civility is present in the way you talk about your partner when they’re not with you. It’s void of self-centeredness, but is sustained with self-confidence.
So, how does civility begin?
I think it starts with you.
Consider setting up your next interaction with your partner, spouse, or significant other before you see them. Think about the qualities that attracted you and the things about them that make you smile.
Be courteous in your conversations. Adding simple words like “please” and “thank you” infuses kindness into everyday talk.
Express gratitude for the things your partner does to make your life together possible.
Hold hands or sit close enough for your bodies to be in contact with one another.
Most of all, be fully present. If you have a lot of things on your mind, identify the emotion they’re raising, decide how you want to manage it, then let it be off your head for a bit of time so you can focus on the person you love.
These subtle changes don’t cost anything, but what they buy you is immeasurable: they root your interactions in respect, kindness, presence, and gratitude.
I hope you don’t have to follow the footsteps of Eddie and Jim by announcing the end of your relationship. But I do hope you’ll use their example to infuse kindness, honor, and authenticity into the way you interact with your significant other.
(My thanks goes to Eddie and Jim, who graciously permitted me to use their story.)