When relationships end with significant others or friends, we are often left wondering how to pick up the pieces. We turn to friends and family who offer kind messages and sage advice on how to move on with our lives, but there are overlooked lessons we forget about as we process our breakups. Below are key lessons about failed relationships that no one will tell you about.
1. Over analysis is the enemy of progress.
When a relationship ends, we may spend countless hours dissecting countless situations in an attempt to discover what went wrong. Our minds act like detectives, revisiting scenes and hypothetical situations to find clues and witnesses that attest to what caused the relationship’s end. We recruit friends to become therapists, as we relentlessly analyze our feelings about the one who is no longer a part of our lives. The hours we spend examining and re-examining the past are part of the healing process, but overdoing it can prevent us from living in the present and moving toward the future. Instead of spending hours trying to understand why a relationship ended, we can spend some of that time better understanding who we are without that person in our lives.
2. Treat yourself how you want others to treat you.
If we leave a failed relationship feeling demoralized, disheartened and undervalued, we may also question if anyone will ever love and value our qualities, quirks and specialness (of course the answer to that is yes, someone will). Rather than looking to others to validate what makes us lovable and unique, we have to look in the mirror and start with ourselves. Treating ourselves the way we want others treat us means that we give ourselves compassion, love, patience and care. It also means that we create moments and experiences where we are able to shine and be our best selves.
3. Don’t fall into the blame game trap.
When we end a relationship with someone, we may try to assign blame by pointing fingers at ourselves or the other person involved. When we blame the other person, we can find ourselves getting angry or feeling justified for our own mistakes and transgressions. When the finger is pointed at ourselves, we feel guilt and shame, wondering if it was our own doing that caused the breakup. Yet, each perspective prevents us from understanding the key factors that contributed to a relationship ending, and from learning important lesson that can be used to strengthen current and future relationships.
4. Healing is not a linear process.
The end of a relationship brings with it a spectrum of feelings where our emotions go from grief to relief, sadness to joy, and anger to excitement. As we travel along those spectrums, we may find that one day we feel like we’re on top of the world, to then feel instantly distressed when we see reminders of a past relationship. In that moment, we feel as if all of the progress we’ve made has gone down the drain, which is further from the truth. The healing process does not follow a straight line. Instead, it is more like a roller coaster where we can experience a multitude of feelings all at once.
5. You may relapse, and that is okay.
After we break off a relationship, we may vow to never see the other person again, and throw away mementos and keepsakes that remind us of him or her. However, a situation may occur within our lives that only that person will understand, or a holiday arrives where we feel compelled to see how he or she is doing. Infrequent text messages turn into phone calls, which become coffee dates, which lead to hanging out on a regular basis. Then old harmful issues arise, which cause us to feel so naïve, guilty, and ashamed for trying to rekindle something that should’ve remained in the past. When beat ourselves up over our relapses into old relationships, we should remind ourselves that each step back teaches us about recovery, as they give us the opportunity to know better in case there is a next time.
6. Remember the good, and not just the bad and ugly.
Thinking about a failed relationship often causes us to recall how it ended and not how it began, or we focus on the other person’s negative qualities rather than appreciating the good ones. Sometimes, even if we have something more positive to say about our former friend or partner, we add a qualifier to our statement—“Marsha is a so creative, but was a horrible listener.” Focusing on someone’s negative qualities shows that we are still holding onto the anger and hurt that the relationship caused. Remembering the good allows us to keep a healthier perspective about the relationship. It also indicates that we’ve truly moved on from our failed relationship because we are no longer holding on to those negative feelings.
7. Forgiveness is the greatest gift to give yourself.
True forgiveness is one of the greatest gifts that we can give to ourselves because it means that we can let go of past hurts that impact the potential for present happiness. In forgiving ourselves for our mistakes or perceived transgressions, we give ourselves permission to recognize our humanity. We realize that life goes on, and that tomorrow is another day to learn a brand new lesson. In forgiving others we are able to release the power they have within our hearts and minds. That is not to say that we should try to be best friends with someone that’s done something hurtful to us. However, it means that we should let the anger, hurt, and disappointment be transformed into something brighter, lighter, and more meaningful so we do not carry that pain within us.
8. Happy diversions are great, until they are not.
When a relationship ends, we may immerse ourselves in work, household projects, or hobbies. We become more social, trying to find new experiences, activities and people to fill the space in our lives left empty by the person we lost. In those moments we feel happy and excited to explore our interests and undertake new ventures. However, if we have not coped with the pain of a failed relationship, these happy diversions can bury feelings of hurt and sadness, until the day comes when they rise to the surface, putting us in a place of despair. Therefore, we should do those things that make us feel good about ourselves, while also processing the pain of a failed relationship.