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man accessing his recent breakup

What a Breakup in a Long-Term Relationship Can Teach Us

When a relationship ends it gives you the opportunity to look back and remember, the happy times, sad times, and hurtful times.

Break-ups of long-term relationships are hard. Whether you are the person who wanted the break-up, or the one broken up with, the experience can be difficult and painful. Pain often precedes growth. Take this time to reflect on your experiences and learn from them. Use what you learn as a springboard to design the kind of relationship you want.  Empower yourself to create future relationships that are more nurturing and joyful.

Learning is part of growing via our experiences, or the experiences of others.

You will learn how strong and resilient you are

Strength comes though healing. Healing won’t happen overnight and will take time. Be patient, be kind to yourself.  Let go of all blame. Care for yourself first and foremost.  Set time aside each day to do something that you enjoy. It can be as relaxing as a bubble bath, as energetic a run. It could be making time to watch a movie, walk around the block or dance to your favorite song. Take care of you!

Man Reflecting

Remember it’s ok to be single.  Almost half of marriages end in divorce, you are not alone. We all have moments when life didn’t work out the way we had hoped.

Understand the relationship that just ended.

When a relationship ends it gives you the opportunity to look back and remember, the happy times, sad times, and hurtful times. As you do this, ask yourself how you see the relationship on multiple levels. Most of us want our significant other to make us feel loved, accepted, and understood.  In close relationships, when that doesn’t happen, we can feel hurt, resentful, and insecure. As you consider the questions below, think about the quality of the relationship. Think about your part.  We can’t get what we don’t ask for.  Were you able to communicate your needs, share honestly and without blame? If not, then this is the opportunity for you to think about what that might look like in future relationships.

Understanding how you felt in a relationship will help you clarify whether you were able to communicate clearly what you needed.  Questions to ask yourself include:

  • Did you feel happy most of the time?  If so, what made you happy or unhappy?
  • Was your partner able to communicate verbally or in actions that they cared about your happiness? If not, will that be a quality you want in the future?
  • Did you share your feelings (good and bad)?
  • Were you able to ask for what you wanted?
  • Did your partner compromise or try to meet your needs?
  • What made you feel loved?
  • What made you feel accepted?
  • Did you feel understood?
  • Were your values the same?

…sometimes when we are hurt or frustrated or even just insecure, we project our feelings on to our partner.

It’s also important to understand how your ex felt in the relationship. Sometimes when we are hurt or frustrated or even just insecure, we project our feelings on to our partner. Now that the relationship has ended you can try to view you ex-partner more clearly.

  • Did they feel happy most of the time?  If so, what made them happy or unhappy?
  • Did they share their feelings (good and bad)?
  • Were they able to ask for what they wanted? 
  • Did they feel accepted and loved?
  • Did they feel understood?

Once you recognize both sides of the relationship you will start to see more clearly the challenges that you both faced. You each had strengths and weaknesses.  These traits may have complimented each other or may have strained your connection. If asking yourselves these questions sparked ah-ha moments, or highlighted relationship habits, or changes you’d like to make in yourself, write it all down. Use this list to begin to applying what you’ve learned in the non-romantic relationships you have. Start using the information to grow now.

Understand what is important for you in relationships and what might be deal breakers. This is true for romantic and platonic relationships. Below is the beginning of a list of qualities and values. Add your own and prioritize them. Know what you want and don’t settle for less!

  • Open Communication.
  • Honesty.
  • Time together engaged in activities you both like.
  • Space to pursue your own interest and allow your partner to pursue theirs.
  • Time together that is quiet and peaceful.
  • Ongoing discussions about life, politics, beliefs.
  • A person who will work side by side with you.
  • Willingness to compromise on small things.
  • Someone to initiate fun outings, conversation, sex?
  • Travel.

Summary

As you heal, as you learn, you can make deliberate choices based on understanding yourself and what you want. The greatest part of your life is ahead of you.  It’s a cliché but important to say, loving relationships start with loving yourself. Are their specific current relationships you want to improve the quality of, or get more enjoyment out of?  Start speaking up for yourself.  Ask for what you want.  Be your true self.

Kurt Cobain, reiterated a quote from Andre’ Gide (Autumn Leaves.) Kurt said “I’d rather be hated for who I am, than loved for who I am not.” Be yourself at all costs. It’s much easier than trying to be somebody else.

Self-Love

Final Note: As you work through these questions, you may feel uncomfortable, or it may bring up painful reminders. That is to be expected. Don’t let it stop you. When it happens, feel the feelings. Comfort yourself the way you would a friend.  See Self-Compassion for tips. Self-Compassion is a key part of loving yourself, healing and learning from the past. You deserve compassion, you deserve love, you deserve to be yourself and be accepted.

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