Act Three: The Clean Break

July 8, 2016
▪ 5 mins read

This is how the (bad) story (should) end

I this episode ofLoveHQ podcast I am joinedagain by return guest- awesome superwoman, Harriet Whaley-Cohen! Harriet joins me to discuss break up, or more precisely the third act of a relationship. We discuss how even though you know he's not right how you can keep tricking yourself into thinking it's all about to come right in the end... and therefore abandon yourself!

Catch up with all the podcast episode in my Hayley Quinn Club!

The interview


How would you title yourself? Because to me, you're the most glowing, fabulous, strong, empowered, coach and speaker that I know.


Thank you. That's gorgeous of you to say that.We've got a bit of a mutual fangirl thing going on here.

And how would I describe myself? I'm a speaker. I'm a coach, and I'm a mother. And to sum up, what I do, I change the way that women think, act and feel in their relationship with themselves and their bodies massively for the better. And I do that through my speaking workshops, talks and also my one on one coaching work and video courses and all that sort of thing.


Yeah, we've got a thing going on. But why we wanted to get together to do this again, is honestly sometimes we'll be having a chat on the phone, usually about our own ups and downs of our lives because it's never perfect. And we sometimes stumble across "smart ideas". I think they apply to date. So we had a couple that we wanted to share with you. And the one that we want to do today is what we've kind of snazzily entitled this morning. Act Three.


Yeah, like a Shakespearean drama.


Right. The concept here is- we interpret your love and romance. So say you've been with a guy and he's done something terrible and completely unforgivable. And yet, somewhere in there, as you said to me earlier, if he was going to turn up at your doorstep, the ring you up and say,

"I'm outside. I'm sorry, I know I've completely messed it up. It was only because I loved you so much. I acted like such an idiot. I resolved all of my issues. And I'd like to sweep you off your feet now and carry off into the sunset for happily ever after."

You would probably go: "Alright, great, sweet."


I'm cancelling everything. I'm there. Let's do it.


And this whole idea is that when we've had a really bad break up with somebody or got disappointed, somewhere in our heads we get switched on and go: "This is fine. This is just the act three, which means that there's an act four. Some other stuff is going to happen and then act five is going to be a big turn around. And he's going to come back. He's definitely coming back."

The Happy Ending- the Disney thing.


Yeah, the promise of happy ever after. But actually, Act Three is where I think in act one is the happy thing, act two- the drama disaster happens. And then act three, we start to tell ourselves a load of rubbish in our heads, and we buy into the fantasy of what we think that all the gorgeousness of the relationship was like and we start to wallow in this "Oh, but this. Oh, but that'" we actually lose sight of the reality, of the fact that it wasn't perfect.

There were lots of things that weren't right and yes, perhaps this other person has done something, or many things that were a bit shitty and a bit unforgivable. And actually, there are many red flags about them, but suddenly in act three, we've gone back to the Disney romance. We forget all this stuff and it's very disempowering. And it's very vivid to me to be in that place.


I agree and I feel bad because it's almost like a bit of a... I'm gonna go conspiracy theory on this.

If you think about it, how many Disney films have we all watch? Or romantic comedies or romance books, which have basically the same plotline, right? The same plotline which is telling us very consists, very simply that there might be a bit of drama. You know what he might be leaving, he might be distant, he might not be ready. But then something happens. He resolves everything happily ever after. And so we expect happily ever after.

The problem is, we can kind of project this storyline and make all these assumptions onto our lives instead of as Harriet said, looking at the hard facts here. And sometimes it's a little exercise, it can be good to look at the hard facts. If you're thinking about reaching out. For instance, you're thinking well, maybe, maybe we could be together, blah, blah, blah.

Sit down, and I want you to write down 10 rubbish things that he did or said to you and think about it. And I'm sure, I'm sure they'll come to you easily. At the end of it, if you still would like to contact him, you can go ahead and do it, but it's about actually re-engaging with the reality of the situation. I also really liked what you said that this whole storyline creates victimhood?


Yes! It does! Doesn't it?

When we take this position, kind of in act three as you describe it, where we lose sight of reality, and I love what you just suggested, write down 10 hard facts about the reality of the situation that are not pretty. One of the things that happen is that we start to lose sight of the fact that we're in control of our own happiness and our own life. We start to expect or want someone. This mythical perfect man to suddenly whisk us off of it.

I am easy to lose sight completely of the fact that we should be in charge of our own happiness. We should be in charge of who we are, what we allow into our server. And when we step into this horrible victim mode, waiting to be rescued, rather than being the heroine of our own story.


It's true! It's also about what narrative you choose to take around it. I think we can all make up stories about our lives after events happen because we want to create a rationale. We want to think that everything fits together. To find meaning in things.I think that's human nature. [...]

Sometimes I think there's a beauty in letting yourself heal and not dating again before you're ready. But waiting or expecting something to happen or expecting someone to literally have a personality transplant...


...or a sudden flash of realisation and come running back a reformed character. I think it's a massive mess and it keeps us stuck and it keeps us in pain. It stops us from moving on. And I think the biggest thing in all of this and the victim mode and the fantasy thing is that we abandon ourselves.

That is such a dangerous place to be and it's such an unhappy place to be because when you abandon yourself, you are powerless. You lose sight of what matters to you. You lose sight of what makes you happy, you lose sight of the truth. You're not able to take care of yourself, and you end up in this sticky place.

When you abandon yourself, all kinds of destructive stuff can come in as well. [...] If you're in a fantasy, you've got to run away from the situation. And that requires the want of a better word, bullshitting yourself and papering over the truth. And what kind of destructive habits are you going to need to layer on top of the truth to help you keep your blinkers on your rose-tinted glasses?

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About the author

Hayley Quinn is a leading dating and relationship coach, with 3 million views of her TEDx talk and 18 million YouTube views. She is spokesperson for Match, a columnist for Cosmopolitan, a regular contributor to international media, and has been published by Harper Collins (“The Last First Date”, 2022) and Simon & Schuster (“Do This, Not That: Dating”, 2023).

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