Like many, during the “Stay At Home Order,” I cleaned out my closet. My closet is unusually large—really, more like a whole room. When I found this home, the closet was one of the things that sold me. Who wouldn’t fall in love with an exceptional room-like closet! When it comes to spring cleaning, however, the size of the closet made the task feel overwhelming.
As a family and divorce mediator, I regularly help clients tackle a mountain of overwhelming “ending” decisions. Although these decisions are obviously weightier than spring cleaning dilemmas, decisions in divorce and family mediation involve the same type of decisions—decisions about “endings” and about what to take into the future and what to leave in the past.
I recently read a book about these endings, written by Henry Cloud, a bestselling author and therapist. It was the title–Necessary Endings—that first grabbed my attention. I thought: “What is necessary about endings?” and “When are endings necessary?” Cloud answered both questions.
When are Endings Necessary?
Cloud starts off saying: “Some things die, and some need to be killed.” Jeesh, with that cheery pronouncement, it sounded as though all things would die, and there would be blood everywhere.
Cloud clarified that, sometimes, endings aren’t necessary: It sometimes isn’t relationships that we need to end, but the behaviors and practices that hold us back in our relationships—relationships to things, people, or situations. Sometimes tweaks are enough.
BUT, we all know when we find ourselves in relationships and situations where tweaks and minor adjustments just won’t do it. We know that there aren’t enough tweaks to make it right, and an ending is necessary. In these cases, by choosing an ending, we choose to change our relationship.
Maybe the current circumstances are exasperating, but it has been this way for so long that this feels “normal”—like something pushed into the back corner of the closet. But, if we are honest with ourselves, most of us know when things aren’t going well and when we need to end something. It’s that something that rises to the top of the list of things that is stressing you out right now, or that underlying thing that is always there and won’t go away on its own.
There are several reasons that we all need endings (credit to Dr Cloud):
- Life has seasons, and seasons don’t last forever. Makes sense, doesn’t it? (Read on )
- Without doing endings, we will continue to flounder, get stuck, and fail to reach our goals and dreams.
- We need endings for good results to happen and for bad situations to be resolved.
- If we hang on too long when we should end something, we pay consequences for not moving on sooner. We keep the bad delaying the good while losing out on a better life!
- If we won’t let go of what is not good, we will never find something that is good—because the “not good” is taking up that place in our life!
Cloud’s book isn’t about stuff, and I have no idea if his shirts are Marie Kondo sorted or folded. But his point is one that applies to many aspects of life. Cloud says we all need to prune the things and people in life who don’t fit our vision of the future.
Back to that closet of mine. As I sorted, I saw many seasons. It wasn’t just the four Minnesota seasons of Winter, Winter and Winter x2. (Just kidding. We all know that living in Minnesota isn’t always Winter, and us Minnesotans love our well-kept secret that we get all four seasons.) Although my closet held fashions appropriate for spring, summer, fall and winter, the clothes in my closet (or piled on my bed, ahem) also represented life seasons. I had the dress I wore to my own wedding reception and the dress I wore for our daughter’s wedding last year. Then there were tops, purchased because I liked them at the time, even though I haven’t worn them. There are the pants I bought because they were on sale. (And one could never have too many navy bottoms, right?) Did any of these fit, and did I like them on me today? These items, I bought, sometimes wore, and have kept until this moment. How did I decide what to keep and what to toss (or donate)?
After Marie Kondo’ing my way through the clothes (which sounds like some martial arts approach to Kung Fu through my closet), I decided to let go of many items and outfits. It definitely was a process, and two days felt more like a marathon than a simple spring-cleaning routine!
During the process, I made dozens of “ending” decisions about what I want to take into the future and what I want to leave in the past. Some of these items represented dreams and memories that required saying goodbye. Yet, in doing so, my present is lighter and less burdensome.
Because most of us are at home during the COVID9 pandemic, it is a time when we are looking at our partners and homes more. Even though I saw my closet every day, I feel like I’ve been looking at it a lot more lately, which prompted my closet’s “necessary endings.”
It’s a fair point that my spring cleaning “endings” were just stuff and clothes. But how much more important are our relationships!
Whatever the problem on your heart, now is a great time to consider what to stop doing and what to start! What should come to an end so that something new and wonderful can emerge in your life? Pick one thing to address and get started. Identify the issue and follow-through.
As Dr. Cloud said, not all relationships need to end. I’ve found that during this time when we are all home due to COVID19, we sometimes just need space from each other. The issue might be temporary and easily solved, such as taking a walk or having some uninterrupted “me” time.
Or the problem could be more systemic. Has your relationship with your partner died, and are you tired of resurrecting it? Is it something that needs to end? If you want to reach a peaceful and thoughtful “necessary ending” of your marriage or relationship so that you can move forward to create a new future, I can help you do that! As a divorce and family mediator, I help clients have conversations and make decisions about how to create and shape endings, such as separation, divorce, child custody arrangements, and even pet sharing. As a mediator, that’s what I do: I help you face the overwhelming “pile” of decision, have those sometimes difficult “ending” conversations, and make sense of the decisions for life ahead.
Important Note: For those experiencing domestic violence, how you exit a relationship can be critical. If domestic violence has been a part of your relationship, please seek professional advice from a therapist before contacting a mediator.