What’s worse than seeing a relationship you worked hard to construct collapse in a broken pile of what ifs? If you ask me it’s undoubtedly watching it evaporate senselessly without any discernible cause.
Without the benefit of reason on our side, we’re left to piece together an emotional jig saw puzzle that’s missing half its pieces as well as deal with the inevitable grief. Talk about a parting gift from hell.
If They Don’t Seem To Know Why
Sometimes the reasons given make little or no sense, or worse yet, vary from day-to-day like a game of wheel of romantic misfortune.
So what’s going on here?
Quite simply, if you ask me, it’s because feelings are not logic based. You can no more reason your way into a deep state of love, than you can reason your way out of one. Logic can certainly influence love, but it has to contend with the part of us that does not assess intellectually, but reacts primitively and impulsively.
The bottom-line is that a dramatic reversal in feelings can happen, with or without our objective consensus or understanding.
This is a point I feel needs to be considered before looking at what went wrong and how, because while there are probably reasons that set the breakup in motion (and lessons to be learned), there is never a guarantee that they will make any real sense to us. Not now, not ever. And that moving on in most cases will involve an unconditional surrender to this simple, but illusive realization.
If It Was Sudden And Impulsive
Before jumping the gun and self-diagnosing your ex with bi-polar disorder or clinical depression, keep in mind that while the act of breaking up often appears manic and sudden (due to the emotions involved), the thought process that leads up to the moment itself rarely is.
The key word here is obviously “appears”, because there’s really no telling what was going on under the surface.
Unfortunately, there’s a vicious cycle going on here. The more convinced we become that the relationship isn’t sustainable or desirable, the greater our tendency to internalize our doubts rather than attempt to find a solution with our partner. After-all, if we’re past negotiating, what’s the point of provoking another confrontation?
What follows is a continuously worsening drop-off in meaningful communication, so much so that when the breakup finally occurs, the dumpee often feels blind-sided and confused by the decision, because the reasoning and feelings that led to the final act were hidden from view. But just because they were hidden from view, does not mean they were not present.
Picking Up The Pieces
As time passes we might begin to accept that perhaps the breakup wasn’t just an acute and impulsive stress response, but was the physical eruption of an introspective process that began weeks or months earlier than we imagined.
And the guessing game begins: When did it start? What did I do? How could it have been prevented? Why didn’t I pick up on it? The longer we obsess over the perceived causes, the deeper the rabbit hole goes.
While I am a firm believer in assessing past relationships as objectively as possible so as to learn from mistakes (in terms of what I can improve), the process can be taken too far. So much so, in fact, that the continuous self-criticism from obsessive self-analysis can lead us to begin to identify only with our perceived failures. The result is a case of low self-esteem that catalyzes grief and remorse even further.
If we consider the two points about out of the blue breakups I’ve previously mentioned, this is where I hope it all begins to tie together. Namely, that:
- Feelings can, and usually do change regardless of logic, reason or will (either relationships evolve to accommodate the shifting sands of these natural emotional changes, or they collapse).
- The internal debate the dumper has about moving on from a relationship is often secluded from view and held privately.
We begin to see that, regardless of our faults and mistakes we are only ever partly responsible. In short, there isn’t all that much we can realistically do about it once it happens other than accept that isn’t an act of temporary insanity and proceed from that realization.
Distrust Popular Scapegoats
It can be heartbreaking to accept that perhaps the breakup wasn’t as impulsive as it initially seemed, because it means being forced to accept a new (if admittedly painful) reality rather than indulging in potentially false hope. And by hope, I mean indulging in scapegoats such as:
- The grass is greener syndrome.
- A case of mid-life crisis.
- An uncharacteristic bout of depression.
While there is always a chance that the breakup was an impulsive mistake, we are far better served by accepting the breakup at face value. In any case, if these is a real, tangible change of heart we’ll usually know about it anyway.
As always, the upside to accepting that it wasn’t “out of the blue” is that we are essentially sacrificing our short-term well-being for long term stability, peace and growth. Acute grief doesn’t last forever, and if we stick to our objective guns rather than hold onto potentially misguided hope, we will soon be in a position that makes every future romantic scenario palatable. And we’ll be actively negotiating our romantic future from a position of strength, rather than waiting on the strands of fate to weave in our favor.