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breaking up gifts for Valentine’s Day – or `how to let go’

The customer in the London photography shop was oblivious to my ‘virtual’ presence, as I spied upon the most unexpected and moving conversation that was taking place before me.   Valentine’s day is only a couple of days away and love is in the air.

I was watching the whole scene, unobserved, via Skype, viewing the action via the camera discretely embedded in the screen of the large Mac computer in the corner of the shop.  A screen that  displayed images of happy family occasions and weddings throughout the day.

I watched as the shopkeeper, who had just paused our Skype conversation to serve this new customer, was handing back a large amount of photographs of the gentleman and someone he presumed to be the gentlemen’s girlfriend.

“A present for Valentine’s Day?” Inquired the shopkeeper, handing over some albums which were also being purchased.

“No”, replied the customer glumly.  “A breaking up present.”

Shocked, the shopkeeper inquired further.  “You’re giving your girlfriend albums of photos of you both as a breaking up present?”

“Yes, she said she didn’t have any photos of us as I had them all.”

Resuming our conversation via Skype after the customer had left, the shop in full view from my viewpoint but myself invisible with only voice contact activated, we marvelled over what we had just witnessed.

“That young man has just spent over £100 on photographs and albums for someone he is breaking up from, but I’ve had customers refusing to part with £5 for a frame for their Valentine.  Not only that,” continued my astonished friend, and an exhibitor at my forthcoming Starting Over Show event, “he’s now going to spend hours putting all those photos into the albums.”

The customer had not just left with his purchases – he had been handed a flyer for the Starting Over Show which he had observed with interest.  “It’s not about breaking up, it’s more about the starting over part” had been a good explanation given to him of the purpose of the event.

An exhibitor taking the opportunity to plug the show was one thing, but I was moved by such a positive ‘letting go’ process which was being carried out by this couple.  A painful process – much easier just to hate and ignore and run away from the agony of it all.

At the SOS event in March we are hoping to raise some awareness of the value of ‘letting go’ which can be done via a ‘letting go ceremony’.  These ceremony’s are a powerful psychological trigger for helping to move forwards from a relationship or situation and can be very beautiful and moving.  I myself had enacted a kind of `do it yourself’ version a few months before, having found a posting on my resource site at by relationship coach and author Julia Armstrong, another exhibitor at SOS.

Having had such success with even the version I and my ex-boyfriend had made use of, I would still not hesitate to pay good money, and be taken through the process by a skilled professional if I need to do one again.  In a strange way, it was like getting the hang of skiing following a few basic instructions, and now wanting to get some proper lessons before venturing back onto the slopes.  A bit of success feeds the desire to do something really well, particularly in emotional matters, as it is confidence and self esteem that are often key to being able to maintain a healthy relationship post break up.

Why should breaking up deserve as much attention to being done well as getting married?  Because in my experience, the fall out from a bad break up causes much more misery than a badly  planned wedding.

For those wishing to combine a spiritual element to the break up process, irrespective of their faith or belief, there will be non-denominational pastors at the SOS event in March.  Estelle Williams of Rainbow Heart Services, explains the purpose of the ceremonies they perform: “Such a ceremony can be long or short; religious or not.  It could involve just the separating couple or also children, friends or family – whatever combination is right for them.  Equally the ceremony could be held wherever they want it.  Such a ceremony is all about freedom, choice and respect for the individuals.  Such a ceremony is about providing the space for all to feel honoured and uplifted.”

A typical part of such a ceremony would involve the couple saying the following words:
“In the future I have every intention of:
Honouring and treasuring our shared memories
Sharing in loving parenting
Being fair, trustworthy and kind
Never belittling you
And honouring and respecting your new life
I recognise the new growth and understanding that has occurred in each of us; and I ask that you forgive me for past mistakes and my anger borne of sadness for the loss of shared dreams.
I am committed to letting go with love.”

Imagine a couple saying that to each other in a courtroom after two divorce lawyers have been battling it out?  More likely perhaps, that enlightened couples who have used mediation to reach their financial settlement would be more open to working towards a long term sustainable relationship with an ex partner.

Rainbow Heart Services have been working with the gay community where an appreciation of the importance of ritual may be stronger due to having to wait so long to have Civil Partnerships recognised by the State.  Hopefully, more heterosexuals will begin to seek out ways of breaking up without breaking down, especially where children are involved.

It was raining outside as the young gentleman left the shop carrying his photos of a lost relationship, the final gift of separation to be prepared by Valentine’s Day.  Trying to say something to lighten the mood, as he looked at the sky opening up outside and a torrent of water poured down, I heard the shopkeeper say: “Well, at least it isn’t raining!”

“The only place it’s raining”, came the subdued reply, “is in my heart”.  I watched him leave the shop, photos and albums wrapped in plastic bags against the downpour, and the shop was empty save for the shopkeeper surrounded by photographic images on the shop walls of laughing children, smiling brides, and loving couples enjoying a holiday in the sun.

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