Facing the void - when a relationship ends

There are a whole host of reasons why a relationship ends, which may include; affairs, betrayals, incompatibility, conflict or even death. It may be completely unexpected or might have been on the cards for some time. Either way, a connection is lost and when an intimate relationship ends an inevitable space opens up.

Finding yourself without a relationship can feel like standing on the edge of a huge emptiness. In the void, feelings of isolation, loneliness and fear can be overwhelming and quite unbearable.

Often the coldness and the discomfort of the void forces couples to get back together. As such the void can help individuals assess what they want and what they really value - therefore reconciliation can be a step in the right direction. However, for many reconciliation may simply be a way of avoiding the discomfort (avoiding the void) ... and why wouldn't you? Who wants to be falling through a cold and empty space with only despair and loneliness for company for ever and ever?

Therein lies the problem - the belief that the void is eternal.

What does remain eternal are the memories and the impressions of our relationships. Our past will always be our past and this includes all the people that have entered and exited it.

We may find someone else to fill the void and some people go from relationship to relationship in order to keep that vacancy filled. For many, though, it takes time to heal the wound that separation has created before moving on to the next relationship.

This in-between period can also be accompanied by the nagging doubt that another person may not come along with whom we can be happy again. Like rubbing salt into the wound we may play over and over what went wrong, what could have been done and who was to blame. We may also spend time focussing on our difficult feelings, worrying about our age, the future or the thought of dating again. In this action we forget to give attention to ourselves and what needs to happen in order for us to heal and move forward. 

This is where the value of the void comes in. For in that space there is nothing to do other than allow the free-fall nature of it, allow the emptiness, tolerate the loneliness and trust that growth and change is taking place. Trust in the fact that this is not eternal and that, from here, something new will emerge.

Author and spiritual teacher A.H. Almaas, in his theory on holes, describes the void as a separation in the fabric of being where the individual is displaced from their essence or split away from their true self. This process can happen through encountering external physical realities in life such as relationships. Passing through the void, he suggested, is an essential part of spiritual growth that enables the reconnection and retrieval of the lost parts of our selves.

At some point, as we pass through the void, we will eventually reach the ground of our lives or our essence, which may mean finding ourselves back in relationship - perhaps with life itself, another or, most importantly, with ourselves. Therefore, cultivating and understanding that the experience of the void is what needs to happen in order for change to take place, might help us heal a little quicker than if we deny or avoid it.

The end of a relationship is a painful experience and as lonely and frightening as this space might be, with the understanding of change and trust in your own ability to heal and grow, it may not be such a devastating place after all.

The views expressed in this article are those of the author. All articles published on Counselling Directory are reviewed by our editorial team.

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London, WC1A
Written by Neil Turner, MA, UKCP, MBACP | Psychotherapy | Adults and Couples
London, WC1A

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