Breaking up is an awful process - there is simply no way around this reality. Even if the relationship you were in was a bad one, breaking up is still difficult. This essay is the third in my four-part series on 'Breaking Up Gracefully,' and it focuses on one of the most difficult aspects of breaking up.
When a break-up strikes your life, you are going to have to try to be strong - no matter how counterintuitive that seems at the time. When you are ready - and this won't be on Day 2 following the break-up - you must summon the courage to resist blaming your ex for what went wrong. Hands down, the best way to carry old, unresolved issues into your next relationship is to blame your ex. Assigning responsibility to your ex for why things failed is ultimately bad for you. The reality is that it takes two to tango, and what causes relationships to fail makes no exception to the rule. Bottom line: it takes two to make it work and two to make it fail.
What should your goal be? To be able to say:
- These are the things I failed to do, and these are the things my ex failed to do.
- These are my weaknesses and these are my ex's weaknesses.
One of the most consistent things I see in my clinical work is that people don't want to acknowledge their own faults in the beginning. To an extent, this is normal. We have defense mechanisms (rationalization, denial, etc.) that kick in to protect our feelings and ego so that we don't feel overwhelmed and lost.
I emphasize that this part, not blaming your ex, is a part of the process you must get to when you are ready. However, keep your eye on the ball and remember that this must be a goal on your road to recovery from your break-up. Seeing things fairly will help you tremendously in your next relationship. After all, when two people break up, neither partner really got that they wanted. Each was hoping to find a relationship that is loving and lasting, and the dream died for each partner.
In my practice, I always asks my clients 'what does this mean about you?' I ask them 'what could you do differently next time?' In this way, we keep the focus on ourselves, the part we can control, and give up the focus on the ex. We can't control what others do, so it makes the most sense to focus on ourselves.
Life can be difficult, and it can be terribly difficult during the break-up process. After you have indulged all those negative thoughts and feelings and sat with them, you can begin to look back and figure out what your part was that contributed to the end of the relationship. Remember that blaming your ex may feel good at the time, but blame will ultimately hold you back. Accept what is and do your best to learn from the past and to move on gracefully.