On Being Single … And Of The Power Of The Words “Break Up”

We all know that nothing good ever began with the words: “We need to talk!” So many movies, TV shows and books have discussed the meaning of those four little words that it has become common knowledge that they spell “trouble”. Most commonly, these words are uttered by someone who is unhappy in a relationship. In a future post, we will be discussing whether anyone can make you happy or unhappy. For now, let’s explore these four little words.

As an aside, isn’t it interesting that it seems our “happiness” could be centered around phrases that are different by only one or two words? That is: “I love you” (3 words = happy); “We need to talk” (4 words = oh, oh); “Break up” (2 words = sad). Perhaps I’m the only one who found this fascinating.

Merriam-Webster defines “break up” as:

  • to cease to exist as a unified whole.
  • to end a romance

The word “break” is defined as:

  • to separate (something) into parts or pieces often in a sudden and forceful or violent way
  • to open suddenly especially because of pressure from inside

Finally, the word “broken” is defined as:

  • violently separated into parts
  • damaged or altered by breaking
  • having undergone or been subjected to fracture 
  • violated by transgression <a broken promise>
  • disrupted by change
  • made weak or infirm
  • subdued completely :  crushed, sorrowful <a brokenheart> <a broken spirit>
  • cut off :  disconnected
  • disunited by divorce, separation, or desertion of one parent<children from broken homes> <a broken family>

Wow! Aren’t these definitions amazingly interesting? Let’s do our best to dissect each and understand how it affects our moods. Let’s keep in mind that “moods” are simply “emotions”, and that emotions are simply energy in motion (see how cleverly I complete the circle back to energy? See: On Being Single… And of Break-ups and Energy).

Okay, let’s start with “break up” and let’s dissect “to cease to exist as a unified whole.” Are two people ever a “unified whole”? Is it even possible? We may believe, and even wish it to be so, and this theme is certainly drummed into our brains by the media. And if it is possible, should it be? Should you “give” yourself to another to such an extent that you become “unified”? No wonder a “break up” hurts so very much. It is like separating Siamese twins! Would it not be better to be two people following the same path, having the same desires, wanting the same results, sharing the same ways to have fun, crying and laughing together, but being equally whole by oneself?

The word “break” evokes the same type of questions. The dictionary definition even refers directly to violence (i.e., “a sudden and forceful or violent way). Should there ever be anything at all violent in a relationship? Even a “break-up.” It is also interesting to me to note that the “break” occurs “because of pressure from inside.” Pressure from inside. Does that mean that your soul and/or your heart wanted something else? And, if so, what is that other thing or someone (the subject of my next post titled: “On Being Single … And of Green Grasses and Fences)?

Finally, the word “broken” again refers to violence. It even refers to making one “weak or infirm” and “subdued.” Wow!!!

Would it not be better to use a different terminology? Let’s stop saying “break up” and all its negative connotations and emotions. Perhaps we can use the term “conscious uncoupling”?Perhaps we can start saying that the end of a relationship is simply the completion of a cycle of love? And as hard is it can be, no doubt, the beginning of a new cycle. Perhaps we can complete this cycle by sending our former partners love and light? Perhaps we can start knowing that such a completion provides for the beginning of a new cycle?

Of course, I welcome all comments and discussion on this issue. What is your take on the words “break up”? How do you change your mood (i.e., energy)? How long does it take you to get over it? Do you again depend on someone or something else to make you “happy” (we’ll be dissecting that word later)? Do you take the time to learn the lessons your ex-partner was trying his/her best to teach you by letting you go?

As always, in love and light I remain your student, Jean-Pierre

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On Being Single…And of Communication

As a former attorney, I tend to be verbose: hey, after all it is a fact that attorneys used to get paid by the word. That’s why contracts used to be so complicated and lengthy. Well, that and the fact that the more complicated we made them, the less likely it would be for others to understand them and the more likely it was they would need to hire us. Okay, so where am I going with this? Communication!

Communication is at the heart of a healthy, vibrant and heartfelt relationship. According to research conducted by Dr. Albert Mehrabian, Professor Emeritus at UCLA who wrote “Silent Messages“, 7% of a conversation is conveyed through words, 38% through certain vocal elements (i.e., tone), and 55% through nonverbal elements (i.e., facial expressions, gestures, posture, etc.).

As an example of how this works, let’s use the, oh so familiar, “F” word. Whenever we hear or overhear that word (more likely than not, from a man), the tone used usually lets you know the mood that the person is in. That is, is it said in jest, rage, frustration, etc. The gestures accompanying the word provide further, and more solid, evidence of the person’s mood.

But are the percentages important? Does knowing that communication is X% nonverbal or Y% verbal ultimately mean anything? Perhaps the important part to remember is that what is said is not as important than how it’s said and the body signals as the words are said.

When we fail to detect body signals or tones, or when the partner him/herself is unaware of the true meaning of what they’re saying, trouble arises. That is, what one partner says is often, actually almost always, not what the other partner hears. Of course, we are all familiar with, and most of us have suffered at the “hands” of the infamous “Nothing” in response to the question “What’s wrong?” Men take the answer literally, while women tend to have a “hidden” meaning. While some, if not most of us, have been trapped by that one, there are other minefields waiting to blow the relationship up. Allow me to share a personal example (please be kind as this is hard to share).

In my latest relationship, my partner made it clear that she would “terminate” the relationship if I could not pull my financial weight. This is not said in judgment for I understood her position (belief?) based on her past history. Moreover, it is likely that this was not even the real reason but a cover for her own “fear”, a subject we will explore at a different time.

At the time of the final denouement, I was working very late at night in an effort to market a company I had just started. Unfortunately, what I failed to understand was that my partner was growing frustrated by what she perceived was a lack of interest (i.e., love) from me. She was also growing frustrated by what she perceived as my negativity towards my ability to be a provider. In reality, I was as much in love with my partner as ever. However, I felt the pressure to be the provider, so I would work late into the night.

Near the end of our relationship, my partner would come to me as I worked at my computer, tenderly touch me on my shoulder and ask whether I was “coming to bed.” What she really meant to say was: “Please come to bed and hold me tight as I believe you no longer love me and I’m falling out of love with you.” Her body posture no doubt indicated her need as well. Of course, focused on my work and the need to be a financial provider, I failed to notice that as well. Clueless, I would state that I would be in bed “in a little bit.” I would stay at my computer a lot longer than “a little bit.” In fact, it was several hours before I actually went to bed wanting to hold her. Of course, by now, she was fast asleep. Because I cared deeply for her, I didn’t want to wake her. So I would simply caress her, whisper “good night”, and go to sleep. Of course, she was clueless to any of this since she was asleep. A few weeks later, she “terminated” the relationship.

The lesson? We failed to communicate! Or rather, we mis-communicated. I failed to understand what she really meant. She failed to tell me what she really needed.

While I now understand that I failed to read the clues my partner was giving me, it is indubitable that she could have said exactly what she meant. But women are not wont to do so. Apparently, inbred within them is the need to have their partners read their minds…before any woman take the poison pen to paper: Just kidding! Well … almost. As a man, I have been taught that women do want us to read their minds! Or perhaps it is that they need us to read their minds as “proof” of our love for them?

Actually, this is more likely than not a result of upbringing. In this society, as in almost all others, men grow up to be action-oriented (for example, we grow playing with GI Joe and toy guns), whereas women are more intent on making connections. Talking is a necessary part of this latter. Men grunt, women talk. Or do they? Research and statistics seem to be all over the map in this, and perhaps it is just a stereotypical belief.

What is indubitable is that partners’ differences in communication result in roller coaster-type of relationships. So are we stuck always wondering what our partner means? Can we evolve to saying what we mean? Are there regional, national or international differences? Or, to paraphrase someone who had his “10 minutes of fame” quite a while back: “Can’t we just all communicate?

In future follow ups to this blog, we will explore further differences between men’s and women’s communication styles, and particularly the genetic evolution reasons for these differences. In the meantime, remember: to become a butterfly, you must want to fly so bad that you are willing to give up being a caterpillar.

With love, Jean-Pierre

On Being Single … And Of The Power Of The Words “I Love You”

It seems that a difficult lesson to learn for men and women is the power of the words “I love you!” I know it took over half of my life, and the end of a deeply meaningful relationship, for me to do so.

We all come with scars inflicted upon mostly by our family. Though most parents (there are a few exceptions) mean well, they are a product of their own upbringing. And while each generation seems to be getting better at expressing love instead of fear (remember, those are the only two emotions we express on our planet), most parents still inflict deep scars as we grow up. They do so because they are reflecting the scars built from their parents’ fears. And so, almost each and every one of us failed to experience and receive the love we knew we were entitled to. For men, it’s a little worse for, as we grew up, we were exposed to a variety of situations on TV, movies, music and in our own environment, most of which teach us to not be vulnerable. Worse, we were taught the value, or lack thereof, of the words “I love you.”

It seems to me that men and women assign different values to these three simple, and yet so powerful, words. Women tend to want to believe (or do they really believe?) that “true love” is declared when someone expresses those words to them. Experience tries to teach them the potential fallacy of this belief as most men use those words simply to receive sexual favors. Men who eventually evolve, then come to understand the power of those words and use it with deep meaning. That usually takes quite a long time and a lot of broken hearts in the process.

Men tend to want to show that they love someone by the actions they take. Does your partner bring you breakfast in bed? Does he cook you fancy dinners, complete with menus? Does he bring you flowers for no reason whatsoever, only to show that he was thinking lovingly about you? Is he always available when you need him to do something? And much more. If the answer to some, most, or all of these questions is “Yes”, then your partner loves you, whether he says it to you or not.

While women no doubt appreciate all the things men do for them, they need to hear the words. Word of advice for women: Tell Him!!! Do not assume he does not love you because he doesn’t say it. Tell him you need to hear those words and, more importantly, tell him the reason. Tell him that if he doesn’t say those words, you will start to think that he doesn’t love you, no matter what he does that is romantic! And men tend to forget because there are so very many problems (real or imagined) we are busy solving. So, remind him over and over again. Don’t get tired or exasperated, just repeat it. But when he says “I love you” make sure that he means it! Look into his eyes… you’ll know. And watch his actions…they’ll speak volume about how he feels for you.

I am most proud of the fact that I taught my parents this lesson. My parents live in Spain and are Spanish and grew up poor and in a harsh post=Spanish Civil War and World War II environment. They grew up without feeling loved. Moreover, in Spain, few men or women of that generation can express their love verbally. One day, my cousin, is in her early 40s, told me that her husband had never told her he loved her! I was … aghast. I then thought of asking my mother whether my dad (and her husband) had ever said it to her. She replied that he had once or twice. I then asked whether she had. I was amazed that she said she hadn’t! I suggested that, when we were off the phone, she go to him, take his face in her hands and tell him “I love you!”. She laughed but I said I was serious. We discussed the fact that my dad, who is a man with great fears, was likely to react negatively in an attempt to not be vulnerable. I encouraged her to just keep telling him “I love you.” The next day I called and asked whether she had done … She had! And dad’s reaction? He had reacted exactly as we had discussed, but she stuck to her words. I am so proud of my parents who have now started a trend in this small farming town in which they live. They now tell each other “I love you” in public!!! And other couples, who at first eyed them with puzzled looks, are starting to do the same!!! It took great courage for my mother to initiate this. It took great courage (probably even greater) for my father to follow in her footsteps. And with great courage came great reward. Best of all, I know they are sincere when they say “I love you” to each other. Even better, I know they are sincere when they tell me “I love you” when we end our conversations. I had waited 55 years to hear those words from them. I had the courage to utter them first. And you could feel the sigh of relief from my mom when I first said them. She even started crying … as did I.

“I love you”…such simple words that hold some much energy and so much power. Word of advice for men: Use them wisely for the hurt you inflict on your partner will reflect back to you.

In the words of Abraham-Hicks: “Don’t let the evidence that manifests be the criteria that makes you believe.” In other words, don’t be fooled by what you see. Your partner’s love is often expressed in ways that you misinterpret.

As always , in love – Jean-Pierre