Relationships Matter – Termination

Relationship loss is an inevitable aspect of life. We lose relationships all the time due to circumstances beyond the control of ourselves and those we have relationships with. There is also a type of relationship loss that is deliberately initiated; the termination or break-up. This occurs when one or more participants in a relationship decide that the relationship is over and should be discarded. The discarded relationship may or may not be replaced by a new relationship. For example the board members of an organisation may decide to terminate their relationship with a badly behaving high profile sports person or celebrity.

It is never pleasant to be on the giving or receiving end of relationship termination but nonetheless we need to learn how to deal with it properly. If a relationship termination is not dealt with properly lingering resentment and bitterness become a very real possibility that would preclude any chance of initiating a new relationship or a possible future reconciliation.

Decisions to terminate relationships are based either on evaluations that are driven by emotion (the way we feel), logic (our thought process) or both. For example where someone has been abused by their parents, and there is no acknowledgement or remorse, once they become independent the logic dictates that they terminate the relationship with their parents. However biological and acquired bonds may mean that they feel they cannot. Another example is where someone is with a partner who is treating them very well but with whom they are not in love. In this case logic dictates that they should retain the relationship whereas their feelings are urging them to terminate the relationship and start a new one with someone they are in love with; this sort of conflict is known as cognitive dissonance (read more about cognitive dissonance at http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Cognitive_dissonance). In business the decision to terminate an employee should be driven by logic but, unfortunately, is sometimes driven by emotion e.g. prejudice, professional jealousy, dislike etc.

Once the evaluation is complete and the decision to terminate taken, the prospective terminator then turns their attention to how the termination should happen. Most of us are intellectual, emotional and physical cowards when it comes to dealing with potentially emotionally charged situations. Consequently we avoid the difficult task of terminating properly (more about that in a moment) and instead fabricate what we think is letting the other party or parties down gently. This results in the other party being given stock reasons such as:

  • “You’re performance is unsatisfactory”
  • “I don’t feel the same way about you any more”
  • “The standard of your work has deteriorated”
  • “It’s not you it’s me”
  • “We’ve drifted apart and are living separate lives”

The commonality running through all these phrases is that the terminator does not have to provide any detailed explanation and thus reduces the risk of an emotionally charged exchange. The problem with this is that it leaves the other party feeling rejected, confused and possibly with low self esteem as they struggle to understand why. In the case of the employee being terminated they may ask for the metrics on which their “unsatisfactory performance” is being measured. As the organisation is under no obligation to explain until they reach a formal forum (e.g. arbitration or court) they will simply repeat that the performance is unsatisfactory. In the case of a marriage ending the terminator has no obligation other than a moral one to explain their reasons. In these cases if the terminator chooses not to explain it may result in the terminator being persistently interrogated by the other party; sometimes to an extent of discomfort that could be defined as stalking.

Proper termination requires a great deal of intellectual, emotional and physical courage because of the potential for the termination exchanges to become emotionally charged. A proper termination will achieve the following:

  • Appropriate closure for the other party (the terminator has already got their closure in making the decision to terminate)
  • Peace of mind for the terminator in having done the right thing
  • Full understanding by all parties of the reasons for the termination (if the terminator cannot give reasons they are either lying, perhaps to cover up an affair, or are uncertain whether the termination is in fact the right decision)

In order to successfully deliver a proper termination the terminator will broadly follow these steps:

  • Arrange a series of termination meetings at neutral, comfortable venues (parks are particularly good venues for romantic terminations)
  • Bring notepads and pens to the meetings in case anybody should want to write things down
  • Clearly explain the reasons for the termination of the relationship
  • Listen carefully to feedback from the other party and respond if possible; if not make a note to respond at the next meeting
  • Conduct the meetings so as to keep the other party focused on the termination decision and the reasons why
  • Have as many meetings as it takes for the other party to accept that the relationship is terminated

This may sound like a lot of work but it is better than some of the alternatives. A lot of people think that as a terminator they should cut off all contact and make the other party go cold turkey. One of the worst things we do to each other is cut each off and ignore each other; this is a particularly insidious form of bullying both in schools and workplaces. By totally cutting the other party off we are effectively saying “I don’t recognise your basic humanity and need for understanding which I am able to help you with”. We rationalise it in all sorts of ways:

  • “I don’t want to lead you on”
  • “It makes me uncomfortable”
  • “You should be able to get over it”

Ultimately, even though we can “get over it” on our own, we would “get over it” a great deal quicker if the terminator terminated properly… just like Arnie {:o).

Stay strong and serene.

About Yernasia Quorelios

Writer
This entry was posted in Relationship Insights and tagged , , , , , , , . Bookmark the permalink.

3 Responses to Relationships Matter – Termination

  1. cecile says:

    Great article. Agree that the terminator has a responsibility to meet if asked and be part of an appropriate termination process.

    However, if the relationship was terminated because of emotional abuse or manipulation, meetings could provide further exposure to manipulation and or abuse. The termination process for the terminator, particularly if it took courage and hard work to to get there in the first place, could be undermined and to meet physically may not be the ideal.

    The terminator has a responsibility to the terminated one but not at their own expense and proper termination may have to have more clearly defined limits. Talking on the phone or even meeting with a counselor as a mediator may be more appropriate and provide support for the terminator.

    Like

    • Yernasia Quorelios says:

      Hey Cecile

      Thank you for your comment and kind words; I totally agree with you.

      Stay strong and serene.

      Like

  2. Pingback: Relationships Matter – Love and In Love « Relationship Insights by Yernasia Quorelios

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