We’ve all been through it at least once. All relationships start with the very best of intentions. Two (or more) people come together to make something work, thinking that together they could be much better and stronger than as individuals. Whether it’s a business partner, someone you decide to date (or even marry), or one of your team members. Your “marriage made in heaven” turns out, well, not so heavenly.

“We can’t afford to lose them.” “This one is different.” “They are exactly what we need!” “Our success is determined by having their experience at the table.” The list goes on and on. We can all justify keeping someone around, and really convince ourselves that what we’re saying is truth.

But deep down, often our gut is whispering something different. And we know it.

Inevitably, that dreaded event you thought you’d never have to experience… happens. And your world is rocked. What starts out small, turns into a mountain that can’t be ignored. The person you thought you could trust, you thought you could depend on, you thought had your back?  Not so much.

I’ve found myself in this experience more times than I care to remember, honestly, and I always remember thinking, “What is wrong with people?” Because, of course, it’s never my fault. But, that’s rarely true, is it? It always takes two to tango. Fairly recently, a business partnership I had went south, really south, and a product I was taking to market failed miserably because ultimately, our values were fundamentally different. The things that mattered most to me, weren’t as important to them. And vice versa. Looking back, there were warning signs all along the way. Either I missed them, or it was just too hard to change, so I continued on. As a result, it got to a point where the outcome was irreversible. And since then, my road of healing has been long and arduous.

Here is what’s remarkable though… hard times are the fertilizer in the soil of our growth. Without a doubt, my favorite people are the ones who have the hard stories. They are inspiring when they talk about how they’ve done the hard work of change in learning the lessons meant for them and have evolved into a better version of themselves.

Along the way, there are a handful of things I’ve learned which have served as beacons of truth. If you find yourself in a situation that feels impossible, maybe these will help to read and remember:

  1. Breakups are messy. Whether it is business or personal, the splitting of a relationship is rarely pretty. You invested in someone, and trusted them, and they let you down. Probably in some very big ways. Let yourself off the hook to feel loss. This is an event worth grieving. And grieving is always a process. 
  2. Stay true to yourself.  What are your values? If you can’t list out the things that serve as the bedrock of who you are, it would be worth stopping right now to write them down. What caused the breakup? These are the things that you value, and should never compromise again. The true leader, the person worth emulating, is the one who does everything with integrity. Be able to lay your head on your pillow every night, fully confident you did the right thing, even if the other party did not.
  3. Ask yourself “Would I rehire (or re-date, or re-partner, etc.) this person if I knew what I know now?”  This is HUGE. If the answer is “no”, the very best thing that happened to you is the breakup, even if it doesn’t “feel” like it right now.
  4. Resist EVERY urge to talk crap. You’ve been hurt. Misery loves company. And, we long for people to know the truth. Nope. Don’t do it. The truth will always reveal itself. Always. And, it will be way more valid when it reveals itself, as opposed to you trying to convince people that you were “right”.
  5. With #4 being said, you have to find one or two people with whom you can vent. Honestly. Openly. No holds barred. You need a couple of people whom you implicitly trust. Let them in. But choose wisely. Choose people who will listen to you but, in the end, challenge you to be the best version of yourself. 
  6. Know that this too shall pass. In the middle of your challenging situation, your world feels upside down. Similar to getting caught in the undertow of a nasty wave. It’s hard to determine which way is up. Take one day at a time, continue walking forward, and before you know it you’ll be on the other side of the pain. 
  7. Be confident that business (and life) karma is real. The other person will most likely try to convince people they are right, and “win” them over to their side. This is probably one of the more painful things. People who you thought were your friends side with the other guy. It’s ok. Trust the process. Those who are supposed to come back to you will, in time, as they see the truth revealed. Karma may not always act immediately, but she is always your friend when you act with integrity. 
  8. Capture the lessons to be learned (and don’t make the same mistakes next time). At whatever level, you gave away your “power”. No one should have that much control over something that is yours. There is a vast difference between giving away your power, and empowering someone. What did you “miss” seeing in this person early on? What was your inner voice saying that you chose to ignore? What were other people saying that you just didn’t want to hear? Pay attention to these things better next time. 
  9. Two things can become terrifying when they are the ultimate motivators – money and power. Both of these are like a drug. The more we get, the more we want. Unless someone actively keeps these things in check, they will eventually be their downfall. Seth Godin says, “Sometimes talented people come to believe that being a prima donna makes one more talented.” People get self-absorbed at the prima donna stage. If this is why the separation happened, thank your lucky stars.
  10. Be impacted, but then let them go. There is a notable difference between being “impacted” and “compacted”. “Compacted” means you stuff it down, further and further, but it eventually turns into poison. Those of you who understand health and the body, know this. “Impacted” means it has affected you in deep ways, yes, but you are the better person for it. You absolutely have to go through the process of letting them go, or the thought of them will only grow increasingly more toxic. You will forever be changed because of the people who cross your life path. Be thankful for them and how they have made you a better person, and then move on. 

I still remember my first crush and the heartache of the loss. The breakup of my business partnership has changed me in profound ways. Those staff members I have had to fire pop into my mind often. Because people matter and breakups are never fun, these life moments don’t easily leave our minds. But, never once looking back have I regretted the separations. It is what was needed for my growth.

Breakups are inevitable.  How will you respond?

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