Stop obsessing already!
I’m not proud to admit it, but after one bad breakup, I was completely stuck on the idea that my ex didn’t like my hair color. This sounds ridiculous, but stay with me.
I built this up in my mind to be a big part of the reason we broke up. I was 100 percent willing to ignore the fact that we were totally incompatible, and deep down, didn’t really have chemistry. Instead, I got totally stuck on hair color. As embarrassing as that is to admit, it’s a big mistake that people make after breakups.
People often contact me to find out where their relationships went wrong, or how they drove someone away. Most of the time, they are going through a bunch of "what-ifs", and at some point they got the idea that they messed up.
If you’ve never been prone to dwelling on the past or trying to get closure, this might not resonate with you, but from my experience, it’s common for people to get stuck on weird things that they think "could have changed everything." Like, if they had just done something differently, things would have been OK.
The desire to understand what we did wrong in the relationship is totally healthy, and actually helps your personal growth in the long run. Letting your imagination run wild with things that, in reality, had nothing to do with your relationship — that's not healthy.
Unfortunately dwelling on any part of a breakup is an exercise in futility.
Even if you did figure out the correct, non-polluted, totally true reasons why the breakup occurred, it still doesn’t change the reality. You can’t go back. You can’t use the realization to rewind back to the start. And you shouldn’t want to.
Every relationship experience contains a lesson. Either the person was for you or they weren't, but getting to the point of breakup means that both people have something to learn.
These lessons likely weren’t trivial or specific moments where one person said the wrong thing. When a relationship starts to go badly, it erodes over time. Relationship conflict doesn’t happen because of any specific, one-off thing — it really does take two to tango.
This is why it’s likely that if you’re stuck on what you said or didn't say, you're missing the real, bigger reason it didn’t work out — which could actually help your post-relationship growth.
For conversation’s sake, maybe you DID drive them away. Maybe you were a total jerk. However, there is a difference between beating yourself up with hindsight and calmly recognizing your part, resolving to change and moving on (whether you try and patch it up with them or not).
The obsession with the "what-ifs" is not healthy or helpful. It also serves as a powerful temptation to keep you stuck. If you are focused on the past, it makes it pretty darn hard to move forward in the present. Most of the time, the obsession serves as a placeholder for rational self-examination.
The key to continuing to date in a healthy way (whether it’s with your ex or not), is to be able to shorten the cycle between relationship blowup, recognizing what needed to change or be different and then trying again.
The difference between a big realization (i.e., “I cheated and turned this into a giant mess, that was a huge mistake,”) and obsession is that obsession usually focuses on a few trivial details. I promise, getting stuck on your hair color does not serve you in the long run.
So if you’re telling yourself a story about why you broke up, I challenge you to drop the story. Let it go.
Resolve to do better next time and mend bridges, but don’t stay stuck.
If you're going through a breakup, find out what might have gone wrong with a free copy of Elizabeth Stone's book Why Men Lose Interest and her daily email series. Get your copy here and start sorting out why men pull away and freak out.
This article was originally published at Digital Romance Inc. Reprinted with permission from the author.