It can seem daunting to initiate a transition, especially when you don’t know how your partner will react. When communicating a desire for a transition down or out, start with why. Gracefully identify the incompatibility. When transitioning up, talk about unmet needs and expectations about the future. Approach the conversation with curiosity and an intent to explore your feelings together. Neither party should view the unmet needs as malicious; these are merely differences between you. Make generous assumptions about their intentions.
It is also helpful to find a community to support you while you are undergoing a transition. In the mainstream world, people’s responses to a transition will mirror the binary states of monogamy – either you are on or you are off. Seek support that doesn’t push you in a certain direction and gives you space to process without judgement. A panelist pointed out that our culture pushes the idea that “a successful relationship means one partner doesn’t live to see the end of it.” But all kinds of relationships can be meaningful and successful, even after their end. This is the premise behind “conscious uncoupling”: exiting the relationship when all parties agree it is not serving them, and inviting others to recognize its success. Following a conscious uncoupling or any transition, find people who can celebrate it with you and dissipate the tension.
Although the idea of planning a healing conscious uncoupling ceremony is very romantic, not every transition goes smoothly. The harsh reality is that some transitions aren’t immune to anger or hurt, and one party will request limited or no contact. Effy’s advice is that all parties need to want to communicate in order for the dialogue to be healthy and constructive. But what if you are worried about them? She warns that it’s tempting to use other people’s needs as distractions from your own. Remember: when you are on an airplane, you put your oxygen mask on first. Then you can bridge the gap and help those you care about.
Because all relationships are unique, so are their transitions; however, there does exist a constant. With each experience, we are learning about ourselves, our connections, and our needs. We refine how we want to communicate, what works for us and what doesn’t, how we operate, and what we are looking for. One panelist peacefully said their journey has led them to having “more questions than answers.” It is this curiosity that helps us listen and helps us thrive.