What if you could go back and fix everything that you and your ex did wrong in your relationship? Would you want the relationship to go back to the way it was, or are there things you would improve upon?
It’s a nice notion, isn’t it? But it’s impossible…
Well, because then you would have to be able to control what your ex wants and feels as well. And it’s already difficult enough when emotions are in play to even control your own actions, let alone someone else’s.
I’m going to ask you to tell the truth right now even if it’s only to yourself.
Assuming you aren’t the one who did the breaking up, you have most likely spent a majority of your time wondering what you could have done to change what happened. Right?
Heck, even if you ARE the one who broke things off, you’ve probably wondered if there wasn’t something you could or should have done differently.
It’s alright. Everyone wonders the same thing. It’s not unusual at all.
The thing is not to KEEP dwelling on it.
How Much Time is Too Much
Did you know that a majority of our current visitors here on the site are from the United States, The United Kingdom, and Canada?
I doubt it. Why would you? That’s a really random fact to know.
But for the sake of this topic, it’s pertinent.
Well, the average life expectancy of those three countries is roughly 80 years. And the rest of the top ten visiting countries’ life expectancy range from 53 years to 85 years. So, if we are being positive, then we can assume that you will live at least 80 years, if not longer.
So, your lifespan would look like this:
And in 20 year increments:
Assuming you found yourself here reading this article for the same reason as most people, you have probably gotten out of a relationship and are looking for some answers. I’m not sure how long you were in that relationship. Even losing a short-lived relationship can leave you feeling a little lost. It isn’t unusual.
So let’s put things in perspective. Let’s look at your relationship on that timeline.
Here’s a 10 year relationship.
Here’s a 5 year relationship:
Here’s a 1 year relationship: And here’s a 6 month relationship:
Now, we all know that a 10 year relationship is significantly longer than a 6 month relationship. But, compared to the length of your entire lifetime, both lengths of time seem relatively small. a 6 month relationship hardly even shows up in the scheme of things.
So know that beating yourself up over such a small period of time on the grand scheme of things is simply going to waste time.
I know that emotions get a little scrambled right after a breakup and make it hard to think rationally. That small chunk may seem like the most significant moments of your life. However, you have the power to go on and create much greater moments in time. Hopefully, you’ve gotten to a point of calm or close… ish.
The reason this is important is because changing perspectives requires a certain amount of level-headedness.
Essentially, when faced with the end of a relationship, no matter how long it lasted, most people see it as a failure of sorts. And, no matter what, it is guaranteed to suck emotionally on some level. Even a short lived relationship can hurt like hell.
Even if you did the breaking up, you invested time and possibly even effort into it.
Seeing the loss of a relationship as a failure instead of a learning experience results in one of two reactions, self-pity or self-loathing
Regardless, most people end up focusing on what went wrong and what they could have done differently, generally, completely forgetting to account for the other person’s involvement.
I always say to focus on the things you can control and let everything else fall away. Things that are in the past ARE NOT something you can change or control.
If you allow yourself to dwell on the past and see it as a failure, you will end up taking all of the weight of the blame for the failure on your shoulders and either being way too hard or going way to easy on yourself.
It’s always extremes when you take all of that blame onto your shoulders.
The worst part is that, now that the relationship is over, you can’t really do a whole lot about the “what went wrong.” What you can do is change the way you see the situation you are in.
Having the right perspective can keep you from overreacting. And, as I’m sure you’ve guessed, being proactive has better results than being reactive.
Over reacting is a natural response to feeling pain. Our amygdala kicks into high gear at the first sign of pain and sends us into fight or flight mode. And since the relationship is over and you find yourself without an external target on which to lay blame. It is not surprising then that it falls back to you, leaving you fighting yourself or retreating in fear of being hurt again.
Which extreme to you tend to lean toward?
How Tough is Too Tough?
So, being tough after a break up isn’t a bad thing. Believe me. I’ve had my moments where I’ve found myself holding back tears and looking in the mirror and telling myself to “suck it u” before braving it and putting on my mascara. Everyone knows after the mascaras on, you aren’t allowed to cry. I use my mascara as a declaration of no more being sad.
The point at which that becomes unhealthy is when it’s gone on for too long.
So how long is too long? How would you know.
Everyone that’s talked to me after they’ve gone through a breakup knows that I always say to take a day or so to just be sad bout it. Mourn the loss of what you had. When you mourn the loss of a relationship, the majority of people remain sad because they had expectations that weren’t met.
Generally when you are dating someone, you have some expectation of what is going to come next. When those are not met, you might find yourselves not only mourning the loss of that connection with that person, but also mourning every failed possibility that you saw coming out of that relationship.
You might have dreamed of one day having children with your ex or maybe owning a house together, dreamed of having a perfect future.
I once dated a guy who was always dreaming up wild adventures. When we split up I found myself sad because he was going to go on those adventures with someone else. It was heart wrenching.
Then on top of that, once you finish mourning the loss, both of the relationship and all of the various possibilities, you might find yourself in the company of most people, taking all of that responsibility for why the relationship failed and placing blame on themselves, as if you were solely responsible for the fact that things didn’t work out.
If you have been thinking about your relationship this way, you are in for quite a surprise.
I can’t even begin to tell you how many hundreds of times a week I have to re-explain the fact that a relationship between two people takes effort from both of the people in it. Therefore, when a relationship fails, the blame cannot be taken onto one person alone.
Making a relationship work takes effort on both sides of a relationship.
So when you find yourself culpable, know that you are not alone in being responsible.
While owning up to your actions, or lack thereof, is admirable, you have to remember that you are not solely to blame.
When do you put your foot down and decide that maybe you should cut yourself a break?
Well, let’s look at it this way. If someone you cared about, maybe a little sister or a daughter or even a best friend, was going through the exact same situation you are now and they were being as hard on themselves about it as you are… would you simply let them? Or would you tell them to cut it out?
I think this ultimately the perfect test.
I’m assuming that you aren’t just a good friend, big sister, or mother. But if your closest friend, little sister, or daughter was taking all of the blame and carrying it, allowing it to weigh her down and perpetuate fear of moving forward in life, would you just let her go on that way? Say she suddenly started pushing herself to be the version of girlfriend her ex always wanted to the extent of becoming someone she wouldn’t usually be proud to be.
I don’t know about you but I would do everything in my power to snap her out of it.
You deserve to snap out of it.
Know the difference between learning from your mistakes and punishing yourself for them.
So, do this little test and figure out if maybe you’re being too hard on yourself.
If you are talking to yourself in a way that you wouldn’t allow your best friend to talk to themselves, that’s when you know you need to get it together.
As with most things, it is easier to see a situation clearly from the outside looking in rather than trying to figure it out from within. And it’s easier to be honest with someone else than with ourselves.
How Easy is Too Easy?
That being said, you might find yourself on the other end of the spectrum.
Things didn’t work out and you have just given up. You don’t care who is to blame. You don’t want to think about it anymore.
You’ve resigned to believe that it’s all your ex’s fault and you were just a poor helpless victim.
You don’t want to be around people, but when you are, you paint yourself as a victim. It’s been a while since the two of you split and you are started to hear eyes roll when you start talking about your ex. Your ex did you wrong and you can not seem to stop whining.
When you are home alone, you spend your time eating junk food and wallowing in self pity. Or you start putting less effort into life because you “failed” at this one thing. You might feel as if it is the end of the world. If you once cared about your education, you might find yourself letting your grades slide and skipping classes. If you were really into staying fit and all of a sudden you can’t find the the motivation to go to the gym or stick to a diet.
Self pity and self criticism are a hard rut to get out of. I find myself constantly pulling other people out of them. And most keep falling back in.
Why? Because it takes effort to stay out of it.
But who’s going to do that for you?
Who will tell you that it’s time to shake it off and take care of yourself rather than punishing yourself or letting your feelings swallow you whole?
Well, here’s your wake up call. It’s time to find that middle ground.
Finding A Healthy Middle Ground
So, how do you find a healthy middle ground where you aren’t constantly berating yourself with self loathing and you aren’t drowning in self pity?
Where is the halfway mark?
And the harsh truth of it all is that you have to find it for yourself. Everyone’s middle ground is different.
For me a healthy diddle ground leans a bit towards the harsh, tough guy side of things.
I respond better to that.
But, as with everyone, there is a point when toughness becomes just another reason not to move forward.
We all know at least one person who does it.
They see themselves as the problem so they refuse to give themselves permission to move forward because “they’ll just screw it up again.”
I hope that you recognize when you find yourself in a holding pattern of dwelling on the past and punishing yourself for things that weren’t solely your fault or responsibility.
This is why I spent so much time at the beginning of this article showing you how short of a time you are dwelling on.
Even if you were in a 10 year relationship, compared to an optimistically long life, you’re relationship lasted an eighth of your lifetime.
To put it in perspective…
Why would you waste a single minute of the rest of your life punishing yourself or playing the victim?
As with any situation, being aware is the most important thing in this process.
Being aware isn’t just about waking up in the morning with your eyes open.
It’s about recognizing the situation in which you find yourself, seeing it for what it is, and being honest with yourself about it.
If you are unsure about the reasons as to why your relationship ended, a predicament I found myself in repeatedly in college, I can understand a certain sense of confusion.
However, take a step back and ask yourself this question. In what way will knowing the reason things didn’t work out change the situation you are in?
Will you suddenly understand it all and suddenly the clarity will make you accept it and move on?
Although most people lean into this idea that knowing this information will fix everything. This couldn’t be further from the truth.
In fact, most of the time, the answers that come from a situation like this simply create more questions.
You’re human. You’re ex is human. (Presumably, although I know some people just come from another planet and are just jerks.But let’s assume your ex is human. I have a friend whose ex might qualify as a lizard.) And sometimes, things don’t work out.
I know that isn’t easy to hear. But seeing as you’re reading this article, as opposed to the many others on this site that lean more towards the “Get Him Back” side of things, I am going to assume that you can handle this simple truth. Sometimes things don’t work out.
As much as that sucks to hear, I guarantee that if you talked to anyone in a glowingly perfect relationship, they had other relationships first that just didn’t work out. I assure you that if they staying a state of self-loathing or self-pity, there’s a great possibility that they may have missed out on the relationship they’re in now.
I’m certain that if you asked Chris or Jennifer about any of their relationships before they found each other you’ll probably get the same answer from them as you would from anyone else who has found that person who makes them unbelievably happy.
“Thank goodness none of those other relationships worked out, because they brought me to a place where I found this love that I have now.”
Getting to a place where you see a breakup as positive isn’t easy though. It takes time and forward motion. You definitely won’t get there if you are just sitting on your thumbs feeling sorry for yourself or blaming yourself for everything that has ever gone on in the world.
You have to realize that yes, some relationships just don’t work out. And no, you won’t ever get all of the answers to the questions you have. The only solution is to accept it for what it is and move forward.
There are no losers in life, only those who give up on themselves.
As long as you stay positive and continue to see possibilities ahead of you, you can’t fail.
Finding this perspective is as easy as simply considering the possibilities.
No, I’m not saying jump back into the dating pool. Heck, I’m not even suggesting you get over it. I’m simply suggesting that you consider the possibility of finding happiness again.
Doing this will nudge you toward that middle ground we were talking about.
Over the years I have seen people bounce back from the most awful situations, divorce, devastating loss, even horrifying circumstances. And even though what you are going through right now might seem like the end of the world as you know it, there is an end to the pain you are going through, I promise. It may not be today. It may not even be tomorrow, but eventually you will find happiness again.
The key is to continue living despite thing not going the way you planned.
So recognize the way you feel. Be aware of your feelings, whether they are anger towards, your ex, sadness about the loss, or just general disappointment.
After making yourself aware of the situation and aware of your emotions towards it, it’s time for the hard part, accepting both of those things.
There are three things that keep us from accepting the truth of a situation.
- Holding out for a miracle – are you waiting for circumstances to change? Or fo the “timing to be right?” or maybe your waiting for you or your ex to become the person that makes the relationship work?
- Getting stuck in a pattern of self-loathing – taking all the blame isn’t realistic
- Getting stuck in a pattern of self pity – just feeling sorry for yourself and playing the victim is also is not realistic.
So, what is the truth?
If you’re not to blame, and he’s not to blame, then who’s to blame?
The answer is both of you AND neither of you.
Sometimes relationships just don’t work out, not because of anything specific that anyone did. It just happens. Sometimes people grow apart. People get busy with life. People grow in different directions. And sometimes someone or both of you literally do everything you can to screw things up.
When you get stuck in a pattern of self-pity and see yourself as a victim, it is quite easy to fall into the blame game and get stuck there. That isn’t going to fix anything. It will put you in a holding pattern where you can’t move forward.
But, generally speaking, when people get it into their heads that their life is supposed to go a certain way and it doesn’t, they tend to give up or shy away from moving forward. I don’t subscribe to this kind of “meant to be” mentality. I think that this is a major lending factor to my ability to keep moving forward in life in the face of adversity and relationships that didn’t go the way I thought the should have.
Now, I’m not saying that you should give up on your idea of romance. I’m simply saying that, in order to move forward, you have to be willing to accept that you might have been wrong about your ex being “the one.”
That’s the key to acceptance, admitting that you might possibly have been wrong.
The reason this is so hard is because, when it comes to love and relationships, we tend to choose to place more trust in our hearts than in our rational mind.
Why is this?
Well our hearts (also commonly known as our gut-feeling) is more likely to tell us what we want to hear.
I mean here I am telling you to maybe consider that your ex might not have been “the one” for you and I am willing to bet that everything in you is telling you that you are the exception to what I am saying.
Don’t worry. That’s what every single person reading this is thinking right now.
It’s okay. It’s good to be optomistic.
I mean, who’s to say your ex won’t decide to give it another go later.
But that’s not the point.
You know the best way to make that happen?
It’s to live your life and stop chasing after him.
This is why No Contact is so effective.
So, instead of focusing on your ex, what went wrong, and how to get him back, like most women do, I’m going to ask your to do something else. Yes even after making a definitive decision like, “You know what, I’m going to move past this. I won’t let this keep me from living my life,” everyone still one finds themselves stuck in the past from time to time.
It’s like reading a book that is missing chapters. Even if you are dying to know what happened, would it be wise to spend your limited on on the same book even if you know they are likely to also be missing the same chapters? A ended relationship is like this book lacking an explanation as to why things didn’t work out. And like you wouldn’t waste money by buying the same book over and over. The same goes for your time and your thoughts. Don’t waste your limited time and your thoughts on why things didn’t work out.
It takes will power.
Time is a limited resourse. As you saw earlier, your relationship, even if it was a long relationship, the rest of your life is finite, meaning it will end at some point. Would you rather try and figure out what went wrong, which is likely to make that time unpleasant. Or would you rather spend that time building your life into something worth living?
You need to complete a litlle self-assessment. But first, you should start No Contact if you haven’t already. Putting distance between you and your ex will allow you to redirect your thoughts more easily. I mean have you ever tried to not think about something that was standing right in front of you? Not a simple task. And we want to make this as easy as possibly.
So, No Contact.
I’ve noticed this a lot in the comments. You don’t have to tell your ex that you are doing No Contact. It isn’t something you just announce to get a rise out of someone.
I mean, in trying to get an ex back, it is part of a grander scheme, where the point is to make your ex think that you are getting over him. In this case, it was part of an actual plan to get over him.
If you are attempting to convince someone you are over them, what is more likely to convey that message? Saying you are? Or actually doing it?
Would it be you dancing around them going “I’m not talking to you! I’m not talking to you!” or would it be you just suddenly not being there and seemingly not caring?
This brings to mind a little boy my mom used to babysit when we were kids.
I wanted so badly for him to think I was cool and to let me hang out with him and his friends. He was several years older and I was still kind of little.
Do you think me pouting after he told me I couldn’t hang out with them and yelling, “Well fine, you can’t hang out with me either!” was the way to go about getting what I wanted?
I didn’t realize it then, but I was just an annoying little kid to them. If perhaps I had acted a little less petulent.
That desire to announce your intention is really just a desire to get a rise out of him. You want to see a reaction. It would be impatience and a fear of being forgotten no matter how you look at it.
Basically, what I’m saying is, you’ve already broken up. You don’t need to announce your lack of presense. Trust me, your ex will know, and you’ll come off a little less petty. He may not announce it but he WILL notice.
That being said, don’t waste your time waiting around.
There was a story they told us when when were kids and I can’t imagine it being used to make a finer point.
There were three men, and each was given some money and told to do what they wanted with it. In a year, the person who gave them the money would return and take back the money he gave. The first two men went out and invested it. The first double his money. The second tripled it. And the third man put his in a safe and left it there to keep until the man returned, afraid that if he did anything with it the mane would return and he would not be able to repay him.
No, I don’t remember what happened in the story. It was such a long time ago.
But right now you are one of these three men. You have been given time and ability to do with what you will. Say your ex notices that you have taken up No Contact. Say he gets nosy and decides to check with friends and online to see what you’ve been up to. Even if he doesn’t want you back, he WILL check. I promise.
What would he find?
Would he find you crying on the floor, life at a standstill, and sad song lyrics on your social media?
Or, will he find you thriving, living life to the fullest, and not caring what he thinks?
The only way to do this is to stop focusing on the past and look towards building a better, happier future.
I’ll write more on that next week.