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Relationship Advice: Dealing with Unfinished Business

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In order to start meeting people, its best if most resentments from the past are eliminated, first. For many singles this is a piece of relationship advice that may be an enormous challenge, but the courage and openness it takes to deal with any unfinished business in your emotional history will create the kind of space in your life required to invite in someone new.

To better understand the unfinished business in your life, review the following questions, keeping in mind the people’s names that come out of this list may not necessarily be just former partners:

  • Is there anyone I need to apologize to, send thanks, or seek resolution with?

  • What resentment, anger, fear, hurt, grief, or pain comes to mind when thinking of people I’ve had any kind of relationship with?

  • If a friend were to mention someone’s name in passing, would there be a negative physical response to their name coming up in conversation? For instance your heart sinks or something gets caught in your throat.

  • Are there any conclusions I’ve made about who I am as a person from these interactions that require further investigation?

Depending on your past experiences, your answers to these questions may be brief or lengthy. Don’t be surprised if the list of people increases as you work through this unfinished business or have more time to ponder them.

Unfinished Business: Making Apologies

If you’ve held on to guilt about a specific relationship or something you did for a number of years, wouldn’t it be a relief to let that burden go? Even if you have no interest in making contact with this person again (or can’t because they’ve moved away or passed on), there are many ways to say you’re sorry that have enough meaning for you to move on with your life. Writing a detailed apology on a piece of paper that you later burn, enshrine, or put into a helium-filled balloon and let waft into the sky are all ideas to try.

Related:

Unfinished Business: Dealing with Conflicts Not Yet Resolved

Go back and look at the questions you answered in part one, and prioritize the people that you want to clear the air with in order of the most straightforward to deal with to the most difficult or complex. Then, write a letter to this person telling them you’d like to meet. Your letter could be something as simple as,

“You’ve been on my mind of late, and I feel strongly that we need to get together to talk about what happened. Please know that I have no intentions here other than to talk and try to come to terms with our conflicts. I’d like nothing more for both of us to be able to think of the other without any negative feelings.”

Send your letter to the first person on your list, keeping in mind it may come as a shock to the receiver. If they don’t respond in a couple of weeks, then take the time to write out everything you wanted to say to them in person so that at least you can move on. Or, if the person asks for no contact whatsoever, write the letter anyway and dispose of it using a method that both honors the intended receiver and your memory of them.

Don’t forget to include the following ideas and thoughts in your letter:

  • Anything the other person did to make you feel loved, appreciated, special, or anything else positive that came from the interaction;
  • What you learned from your relationship with this person;
  • Any qualities you appreciate in this person; and
  • Whether or not you want to leave the door open for further interactions or not.

Unfinished Business: Grieving

You’ll know that you’ve grieved to completion about a person or a relationship when you can remember the experience with only peace in your heart. This also means not feeling intense loneliness night upon seeing your empty bed or crying when finding something of theirs unexpectedly.

Each person grieves on their own timeline and in their own way. There are no guidelines to follow, only the knowledge that when you’ve worked through your grief you’ll be a better person for the experience.

Related: Grief and Mourning

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