Bridging the Communication Gap

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Thursday, June 16, 2011

Let’s Be Friends: All Around the Mulberry Bush

By A Member of The Birds and the Bees' Staff

Things are going south and they are going south fast. You and your significant other are on the breaking point and you can no longer see the light at the end of the tunnel. You have tried to work out the issues that you have with each other, but for some reason it just isn’t working out. So you decide to break up because it will make both of you happy. You two have shared some great moments together despite the recent turn of events so you figure, “we should stay in touch and try to be friends”, because you feel that’s the right thing to do. However, there is a right way to do this and a wrong reason to do this. The wrong way of doing this causes you to skip around what I call the Mulberry Bush.

The Mulberry Bush is a backdoor that many people like to leave open after ending a long-term (1 year +) relationship. The Mulberry Bush represents a security net that both men and women like to create as a way to decrease the feelings of loneliness. It is driven by the human desire to be wanted and loved by someone else. When one does not feel wanted or loved, they tend to go back to the last place or person that fulfilled that basic human desire, i.e. they knock on that backdoor regardless of whether the person on the other side has changed or not. The problem with circling the Mulberry Bush is: you hinder yourself from moving on, you hinder your ex’s ability to change, which can ultimately cause you to waste time going around the Mulberry Bush.
Without substantial time apart from your ex, I do not believe you can move forward. I do not believe you can just become friends with someone you have just been actively intimate with. Once the gates of intimacy are opened, they take a long time to close. Regardless of how much you think you would never date the person again, if you remain in constant contact with your ex after the relationship, your chances of falling back into the same routine as if you’re still dating are increased. Sooner or later you will share more intimate moments and the same issues that caused you two to break up will resurface again. Hence you will be back at step one, breaking up again.

I do believe in second chances, and trying things again, however, some kind of change must occur. Change cannot occur overnight. It is a gradual process. Therefore, if you want to be friends with your ex because you believe one day you two will try to rekindle what you once had, then time and space is needed. Before someone can change, their level of present discomfort must rise to the level that causes them to alter their current behavior. They must see for themselves the behavior you do not agree with and agree that it needs to be changed. If you are constantly around them, they will feel like the issue isn’t a big enough deal that they need to fully change. Remember most people don’t realize what they have until it is gone. So go away for some time and allow your ex to miss you if you want to rekindle the relationship one day.

The aftermath of ending a relationship can be a whirlwind. Everything you have come to know and expect, your whole routine is thrown off. A new void has been created in your life and it needs to be filled. You can either consciously come up with a game plan of how you will deal with ALL of the free time you will have being single or you can do nothing and allow loneliness to creep in and fill the void. I suggest you fill the void with some new or old extra curricular activities: causal dating, new or old hobbies, going out with other single friends to social settings or events, etc. The best thing for you to do is remain busy. Feelings of loneliness creep in when you spend the majority of your time alone after a break up, so try not to be alone too much. And after a month or two, if you feel like you want to try the relationship again, you MUST avoid the gray area. If you want to rekindle the relationship, it is essential that you bypass the friendship stage and start back with being in a relationship and moving things slowly. Just being “friends” that are exclusive is not a strong enough commitment. If you two want things to work, you must both address the old issues that led to the initial break up and plan how you will avoid the same pitfalls going forward. It is important that both parties internalize responsibility for failures in the past so that you can both work and strive for the preferred vision you two have for each other.

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