Did you do something—have an affair, blow up at your partner, emotionally and/or physically pull away—that led to the end of your relationship? Following the break-up, are you living in a space of regret, sadness or even self-loathing? Perhaps you’ve already taken responsibility for your behavior, yet no matter what you say or do or how hard you plead, your ex-partner has made it clear that the relationship is over. Memories of the “good times” may be creating waves of grief that engulf you. You might feel sad, despondent and believe that you’ll never feel fulfilled in a relationship again. You may even feel a little crazy. And, at the end of the day, with no one else to blame, you may believe that you have no choice but to point your finger back at yourself.
Like all emotions, feelings of regret carry a message. While regret is an uncomfortable emotion, it signals that the breakdown of your relationship may be out of alignment with your values. It also gives you an opportunity to gain perspective on this particular relationship—and perhaps others if unsuccessful relationships have become a pattern in your life. But, what is the message of regret? It might be that you’ve fallen off of your path and need to accept responsibility for your part in the break-up, get back on track and reconnect with your values.
Whether you feel like you’re at fault for the break-up, suddenly remember things that prompted you to make the decisions you did and feel not at fault or vacillate between the two, it’s important to remember that relationships are both made and broken by two people. It’s also important to remember that there are no guarantees that any relationship will turn out that way that you want. Rather than ruminate over what you did do, didn’t do, could have done, etc., which can make for obsessive thinking, you can take this time to evaluate the relationship. What did you like about it? What did you dislike about it? In a future relationship, what would you like differently? This is also a great time to re-evaluate and reconnect with your values. What is it that you value in romantic relationships? Is it honesty? Is it intimacy and deep connection? Is it accountability? Or is it freedom? Values in terms of relationships vary, can be dynamic and there are no right or wrong ways to feel. What matters, however, is that you get clear on what is most important to you and start taking actions that are in alignment with your authentic truth.
What To Do Now?
Relationships take work. And, it can be argued that break-ups take even more work—although it’s a different kind of work, especially if you feel responsible for the break-up and collective hurt that ensued. Following the end of a partnership that you believed you caused, it’s not uncommon to experience feelings of self-loathing and believe that you have no choice but to sit in the muck of your own making. While a period of self-contemplation may be (and likely is) necessary, you also get to recognize that you are human and that life gets messy sometimes. Muck and mud can be yucky, but it all comes with messages. And, there is a way to get out of it. I often say to clients that in order to clean mud out of a glass, you have to stir it up. And, when you stir it up, the messages you uncover may surprise you.
No one grows without challenge. And profound personal growth can come through the parting of ways with a partner. Relationships are not neat and clean, and the pain of a break-up creates opportunity for radical self-evaluation. While much of what you’re feeling might not make sense right now—as humans our emotions are often illogical—there is much to be learned if you’re willing to take a look and decipher what your feelings are trying to tell you.
Get Back On The Horse
So you made a mistake. They happen. As humans, we all have a shadow side, and it’s once we embrace and accept the darker aspects of ourselves that change can occur. And, while a period of self-reflection and healing is often needed following a break-up, life is short and there are billions of people in the world. Rather than wallow in the wake of a relationship past, take this time to connect with your values, determine what it is that you really want in and out of a relationship and start dating again—even if you’re just dating yourself. John Sovec, LMFT offers some great tips on how to take care of yourself following a break-up in his Good Therapy article, After The Breakup: 5 Tips for Healing and Personal Growth. You may feel a little worn, however, you can become wiser given this experience.
And, if you’re really struggling to make sense of this break-up, relationship coaching can help. A relationship coach can help you gain perspective on your part in the ending of your relationship, past relationships and what you want moving forward. By taking time and space to self-explore with the help of a trusted guide, you can identify ineffective relationship patterns so that you don’t repeat them in the future. An effective and compassionate relationship coach can also provide insight and support as you work through challenging emotions and help you move toward self-forgiveness and self-compassion. There is no darkness without light, and the end of this relationship comes with lessons and opportunities to grow. And, years, months or even days from now you may look back at what happened with greater insight, self-love and clarity.