Ending a relationship either through a break-up, a divorce or sacking is never a pleasant experience. PHOTO.
Ending a relationship either through a break-up, a divorce or sacking is never a pleasant experience.
In addition to being hard to do, it is almost always followed by thoughts of ‘what if’s’, ‘what would have beens’ and regret.
Sometimes, however, amidst the anger, feelings of hurt and tears, there are invaluable lessons to be learnt from break-ups. Six people share the things they learnt from their own love and office break-ups
1. Stepchildren remain family
When 30-year-old Reuben called it quits on a two-year relationship two years ago, he was determined to move on and forget all about that relationship.
He even got into another relationship soon after that with a woman who looked the exact opposite of his ex. He was set on moving on but there were two little problems – his stepchildren.
His ex had two young children when they met and they all lived under one roof for two years. He had assumed that he loved them because he loved their mother but this break-up showed him that the relationship he had formed with those children was separate from the one he had with their mother.
While he now couldn’t stand her, he still felt genuine love and concern for her children. He resolved to remain actively involved in their lives, a decision that most women he dates have a hard time wrapping their heads around.
His only problem with his new role is that with no legal rights, he has little say in the children’s upbringing. Nevertheless, child psychologist Julius Gitari believes that Reuben took home the right lesson.
“When stepchildren are involved you must see past your own need to part. Cutting ties with them will not only be dishonest about how you feel, the children will also feel abandoned,” he explains.
2. Don’t kick them when they are already on the ground
“Telling him that I didn’t want anything more to do with him was satisfying. At least momentarily,” says Beldina, a 31-year-old banker.
After an abusive relationship which ended in a rather acrimonious break-up, she truly wanted nothing to do with this man whom she was briefly married to. When he called her one morning, she ignored him because she thought that he just wanted to chat. Then he sent her an SMS telling her that his father had died suddenly in a road accident.
“When I read that text message, I cried,” she recalls.
Knowing how close he had been to his father, she knew he must be devastated. She was still feeling bitter from how badly he had treated her towards the end of their relationship and she gave in to that instinctive urge to hurt him back by denying him her consolation.
Knowing that he expected her to support him through the mourning period, she sent a brief text message telling him she was sorry for his loss and then cut all contact.
It was when her own mother died last year and she saw her brother’s ex at the funeral that she realised that she had thrown away a chance to mourn a man who had been very good to her.
“It still haunts me. If I could do it over, I would put aside the hate and be there for my ex. Bad blood doesn’t preclude good manners.
Kicking your ex when he is already on the ground won’t make you feel better about the hurts he caused in the relationship.”
3. Don’t call him a jerk
You have probably come across books aimed at diminishing a man’s role in a woman’s life like Vivian Heath’s Dump Him, Marry the Dog or Melissa Sovey’s Dump Him, Marry the Horse.
Like many women, when she came to the end of her five-year relationship, Ida, 33, was surrounded by such messages.
When trying to make her feel better about the failed relationship, her friends trashed her ex and she joined in, giving him titles and eventually blurring the thin line between love and hate.
“I still loved him. Focusing on his weaknesses was intended to help me detach from him and it did,” she recalls.
Ida is a trained psychologist and had the benefit of insight. Still, she let her emotions override the fact that by devaluing her ex, she was devaluing the relationship which she had chosen and stayed in for a big part of her adult life.
It took her months of self-hate and a diminishing self-esteem to realise that in addition to making her look bad, talking trash about a man she gave a huge part of her life had a long-term emotional impact on her.
“With a background in psychology, I am more emotionally aware than the average person. When you devalue yourself in this way, it may be impossible to reclaim this power,” she explains.
Lesson learnt? Devaluing your ex may be counterproductive.
4. Sometimes it’s you, not them
Jacob Ngari, who runs a feminine hygiene company in Nairobi shares that one of the hardest duties of an employer is letting a worker go.
Even if they are a problem employee, it is still hard to have to look them in the eye while taking away their source of livelihood. Over the years, he has been met with pleading, tears and even anger. Still, firing an employee is sometimes necessary.
He says that he learnt his first separation lesson, when his company was still teething years ago, when he fired his first marketing executive. The lesson he took from that experience still influences how he manages his employees today.
“I only had experience in providing the actual services so I brought in someone with expertise in marketing and accounting. He had experience in marketing and yet my client list wasn’t growing as fast as I expected it to. When I finally fired him, I had no regrets,” he says.
The lesson cleared up in his head when he began training this employee’s replacement. He realised that this employee had failed to succeed because his boss hadn’t set expectations for him. When he asked himself whether he could have been a better leader, the answer was a resounding yes. Now, when he hires the first thing he does is to clearly lay out his expectations.
Before you lay off your employee or dump your love interest, ask yourself, is he aware of your expectations of your relationship? No? Then you are the problem.
5. If it’s a surprise to them, you failed
Alice Uria, 30, owns a boutique along Moi Avenue, Nairobi. The small size of her business means that her relationships with her employees can get personal. Firing becomes even harder. Alice speaks about an employee she had seven months ago. After seeing her rude interactions with both customers and colleagues, Alice knew she had to let her go. She has four employees and when she made that decision she spoke about it with the shop manager.
“I knew that this girl was struggling to raise a child alone and I got emotional and delayed the sack telling myself that I was giving her time to change,” she recalls.
Somehow, the employee got to hear about it and with zero motivation to work, she focused all her energy on poisoning all the other employees. When she finally left, she had not only stolen money, but also Alice’s customers.
“That you should not postpone the inevitable was a good lesson but this is not to say that firing should be spontaneous. If it comes as a surprise to your employee, you will have failed as an employer. It means that communication from your end was wanting. On the other hand, once you have determined that someone should be fired, reluctance may result in suffering for all involved,” explains Beatrice Kilonzo, a human resources consultant.
Your gut will never steer you wrong. The hard decisions have to be made. The quicker you do it, the less painful it will be for all involved.
6. You are not obligated to be sad
Last Christmas Susan Makori and her partner decided that their two-year relationship was not working. While the man is devastated, Susan feels no sadness at all.
While he agrees that it is not the typical reaction to a break-up, Nairobi-based therapist Ezekiel Kobia says that it is normal not to feel anything after a break-up or even to feel a sense of relief.