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

The thing is though, there usually is a reason, even though it might not be one we were ever invited to discuss or correct.

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).

and that:

  • 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:

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.

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12 Comments

  • Nikki
    Posted Apr 20, 2015 at 6:50 pm 0Likes

    Ugh. This kinda makes me feel worse about the way my ex broke up with me. It’s exactly this article. Blah.

  • Dale
    Posted Apr 21, 2015 at 4:14 am 0Likes

    I am in the same boat Nikki. It happened last May, and I feel I am still dealing with the emotional fallout. My ex and I had a great relationship and lots of people were envious of how we were together for the 2.5 years we were together. I was truly unprepared for this “bolt from the blue”. Reading this article has made me a bit sad, but these days I think I am getting better. I think I can move on and just try to remember the happy times I had with her.

  • Myrna
    Posted Apr 27, 2015 at 3:40 am 0Likes

    Interesting. article James.
    I always felt that my last break up came “out of the blue”.
    The fact is that there were so many problems that I stopped making the Herculean effort it took to squeeze a response out of my man. I simply grew very weary if the “one hand clapping”.
    And I believe he was either relieved or let down –
    To this day I think it was let down as he did not have great communication skills. I had to communicate for both of us.
    The takeaway for me is to be more patient. I was so weary, I made a declaration to cut it off.
    That, really, was it for him. Instead if responding with “no, let’s not do this”, he simply waited for me to reach out. A lot of time passed and he simply divested himself. There was no going back. He became doubtful, suspicious, untrusting. Those were tendencies he always had, but me telling him I was weary of it sealed the deal. He would not communicate and he shut down.
    Although I analyze this situation over and over again to see what I might have done differently, I am left with the sad reality that he is not looking back.
    That is the most difficult challenge if all. To accept the fact that there is nothing I could say or do now to change matters.
    Like I said, maybe I missed an opportunity at a pivotal juncture (3+ years) or maybe I gave him the “out” he was looking for. The only thing I can learn from this is to be a little more patient in the future. Instead if saying “that’s it” I could hold back for a few days and give myself a break. Really say nothing and see what HE has to say. Let HIM have the final word so I am not left with so much doubt and so many unanswered questions
    It may not have changed the course of the relationship, but it would likely have given me better closure, understanding and resolution.
    I never really got to hear his “real reasons”.

    • James Nelmondo
      Posted Apr 28, 2015 at 3:01 pm 0Likes

      Hey Myrna, thanks for your feedback and praise! I tend to “shut down” as well, but it isn’t due to apathy, it is because I find it the best way to protect my feelings (by taking the breakup at face value). It obviously might not be the case with your ex, but if I had cared any less, I wouldn’t have shut down the way I did because tangling with my ex would not have crippled me the way it was. The problem is that, quite rightly, it gives the appearance of being resentful, distant and uncaring.

      But you’re right, while the rationale is usually “well if they want to contact me, they can”, the reality is that the ever-increasing disconnect that this mentality leads to makes communication all but impossible, regardless of any lingering feelings. Having said that, I doesn’t sound like the breakup itself was initiated for a trivial reason, and while patience may have lead to an increased chance of reconciliation, it might not have cured the fundamental incompatibility you had.

  • Jeanie
    Posted May 19, 2015 at 7:51 pm 0Likes

    Interesting comments. I would agree that there is ALWAYS a reason. Unfortunately we may not always see it or like it. Interesting to have a man’s perspective too. Late 2013 my husband left us, four weeks after meeting someone, the day after we had reached a point where we had decided, at last, on counselling. As it was the weekend we were waiting for Monday to make an appointment. It never happened. He met her on that Saturday. Apparently, in my absence, she decided that hubby was prime fodder following a divorce. Somehow or other (they) were given the green light by ‘friends’ on the grounds that if his marriage was over, then why not? It turns out they knew far more about his problems and our personal lives and I had.The wedge was driven in far deeper with the force of a Thor-like mallet. I had been out of sorts for some time, physically (a combination of illnesses) which led to depression and had also been in debt ( counselling revealed a very low level of self-esteem, trying to cope with family diagnosis of autism and dealing with it effectively, by myself with H in denial.) I know the debt scared the **** out of H and made him miserable. I kept trying to fix things but it got worse. I knew it had to come under control and it did, eventually. I trusted H 100%, but I let him down. Him working shifts meant I practically raised the children, but I was able to do that because he worked. With all his quirks (he found parenting stressful, ‘didn’t think it would be like this’, seeing everything only in black and white -autism) etc, I wasn’t coping. Apart from the hardship that would have entailed, I couldn’t leave. I didn’t think he would cope and I just couldn’t hurt him in that way. So I looked for ways to reconcile myself with the increasing difficulties and demands on the marriage and instead, decided to adjust and accommodate. A few more years went by and the three children became young adults. The natural conflict between all the men increased and H would withdraw in a huff to our bedroom or go into work earlier to avoid confrontation with his sons (and for peace and quiet!) leaving me to deal with it. I became exhausted and the illnesses became more complex. It was enough just to get through the day at work. Then coming home and starting again, with an increasingly unsympathetic and unhelpful H who couldn’t seem to wait to get out of the door. He became irritable in the extreme: intolerant of his sons and conversation, requests for help and was more aloof. My socialising was at a standstill, in fact anything that required effort to get changed and go somewhere was now just too much. I didn’t want to be seen (middle aged and frumpy). Not long after, he walked.

  • James Nelmondo
    Posted May 19, 2015 at 8:25 pm 0Likes

    Thank you for the thoughtful story and comment Jeanie. With regards to the last couple of sentences, I was wondering whether, despite the pain of separation, the kinds of aspects of your life that had been drained clean via attempting to cope with all the added responsibility (stress, social life, etc) saw any improvement once the relationship ended? Perhaps even — dare I say it — in the face of pain.

  • Anonymous
    Posted May 19, 2015 at 11:13 pm 0Likes

    There was no immediate release, as such. In fact i found it a massive trauma and the fallout seemed so widespread, for such a long time. I detested the OW for enticing him to leave (saw the text messages) and giving him a place to go (still weekends and holidays). My biggest heartache was the weeks I kept it to myself as he proceeded to meet with her, looking back over his shoulder at me as he went each time, saying that now he was going to do what he wanted. My biggest fear was the trauma on my family. The OW prides herself on my being the ‘ex’ (my H divorced me end of last year) and has reminded me of that on occasions, including leaving voicemail. I spent many weeks hoping for reconciliation (but would not admit it to anyone). This turned into desperately hoping they would split up. He was offered a life-line maybe? And he took it. A lot of anger and frustration later, I know I can’t change anything. He may even be happy. I do feel that I’ve given my all and now he and the OW are reaping the rewards that I couldn’t have whilst raising a family – weekends away, meals out etc. things he would not consider paying for years ago. Trying not to be bitter. I will move on. But why do I still want them to break up, even though it can never go back? The best part of thirty years!

    • James Nelmondo
      Posted May 20, 2015 at 10:24 am 0Likes

      It seems to me as if they both have something to prove, which in turn makes me think that — somewhat obviously — emotions are still involved. Why would he bother telling you that he is now going to do what he wants, if not out of some vicarious sense of perceived justice? If he couldn’t care less he simply wouldn’t bother playing the “moving on” game. Nor would the OW feel threatened (and leave you messages).

      In any case, I agree with you regarding the subjective absurdity of hoping about reconciliation in the face of the objective facts. Maybe it’s the ego playing it’s own game, and if that chance were to actually present itself the pangs would fade. Or maybe it is quite simply because, despite the ups and downs, building a history with someone represents a source of familiarity and comfort (regardless of how content we are) that leaves a conspicuous hole when stripped away (and thus a sense of existential untidiness or incompleteness that has little at all to do with happiness).

  • NJH
    Posted May 29, 2015 at 5:49 am 0Likes

    Interesting article.
    I was hit what I felt was a phone call completely out of the blue 2 weeks back – and given no reason, just that it wouldn’t work long term. I had seen her that morning and no sign of any problem.
    It was still early – 2-3 months and all her actions were that everything was going Ok, no arguments, no falling out, nothing said.
    I had been really cautious, taken it slowly to make sure my expectations weren’t too high. We were planning ahead, arranging to introduce to each other’s friends etc.
    1 week before, we agreed that we were ‘official’ in terms of together as a couple.

    To go from 1 extreme to the other at the stage where things are so optimistic has been really tough.

    I’m realising that actually I was focusing on her actions and not what she was feeling. Eg. She would message me every morning without fail to say hi, we’d see each other, have good sex, arrange meeting up ahead.
    I took that all as being on track and that we were moving on in the right direction.

    I think the bottom line for me is that if someone doesn’t like conflict, they will not call out the deficiencies of another person to avoid conflict happening.
    The problem this causes in my instance is that any decision to call it quits hits you like a sledgehammer as its absolutely unexpected..the reality is that they were trying to be nice by not saying how they felt.
    If you don’t say how you feel, actions set expectations, not internal intentions/feelings.

    Feelings change, people change – if you don’t share some of those thoughts with the person you are with, if you avoid those difficult conversations – whether 2 months, 2 years, 20 years – when you eventually drop the bomb without reason it’s difficult to comprehend.
    Of course there are reasons, of course it wasn’t just a switch flicked off – it just feels like that. If someone doesn’t like conflict they’ll avoid it at all costs that includes a reason why, to the dumpee trying to rationalise such a sudden seismic shift – it’s impossible.
    Sometimes there isn’t anything to rationalise for the dumper, it’s just not for them..to the dumpee the shock factor is the killer and it just takes time… And guess what there isn’t a reason..

    Make sense?
    I like this site
    I hate being dumped!

    • James Nelmondo
      Posted May 29, 2015 at 5:07 pm 0Likes

      Makes perfect sense NJH, and you’re quite right about shock prolonging pain needlessly. It’s ironic, that an attempt to safeguard someone’s feelings (or the dumper’s feelings) ends up causing far more pain than simply communicating the root of the problem. Sure, being told why it’s over hurts, but at least you can learn from the experience, rather than being dumped into a vat of self-doubt and emptiness that might negatively impact your next relationship (potential trust issues and fear of random abandonment).

  • Kris
    Posted Jun 23, 2015 at 3:35 am 0Likes

    Hmmm. I have dealt with this situation with the same guy over and over again. He leaves me when the relationship seems to be the happiest. He was the first guy I’ve ever felt true love with. Every time he breaks up with me, I never say anything bad to him, only wishing him well despite of the pain I’m feeling inside. The recent one is the hardest and I am so tempted to email him nasty things for all the things he put me through for I have enough about him disrespecting me all the time.
    It’s so sad how people can do things like this. Life is hard enough and then someone comes along, not to be a value, but a burden.

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