You just got dumped. What if it really, truly isn’t about you?
So … we need to talk.
You know what comes next.
We’re just not right for each other.
You know it hasn’t been good for while now.
There’s no one else, but I just need some space right now.
You know your roommate, John?
Or maybe you receive a text that simply says, “It’s over.”
Or maybe, your partner suddenly stops texting and goes the way of the ghost.
However it happens, breaking up—or more specifically being broken up with—sucks. It doesn’t feel good. It feels like shit. And it causes you to question all sorts of things about yourself.
What did I do to make her stop loving me?
What could I have done to prevent it?
Am I a lousy partner?
Will I ever find anyone else?
And even if you answer these questions with what we’ll call mature equanimity—meaning you’re honest with yourself and avoid negative self-talk—being on the receiving end of the dump is still a huge hit to your self-confidence, not to mention a person-sized tear in your heart.
But what if someone ending a relationship with you doesn’t mean you’re being rejected?
Excuse me? you ask. Exactly how does that work? She just said she doesn’t want me anymore.
Take a breath. Reframe. And depersonalize.
Your partner didn’t say she (or he) doesn’t want you. Your partner said she doesn’t want to be with you, as in date you anymore. There’s a difference.
What your partner is actually doing is making a choice, a choice that he or she believes is positive and in his or her best interest, and this choice says nothing about you.
Just how is that possible?
Because your not being right for the person breaking up with you is a statement about your partner and your partner’s preferences, not your attractiveness, your suitability as a partner, or your character.
Yes, you heard that right. Being dumped carries no judgment about you whatsoever. It’s about what the other person wants, not who you are. There may be something you can learn from your partner’s decision, or there may be nothing. But ultimately, the breakup, and most important, the unpleasant or even ugly stuff your partner may say about you during the breakup, is meaningless. Moving on with the rest of your life—in a way that works for you—is the only thing that matters.
It may be hard to believe, but there is actually no such thing as rejection, and no person is ever a reject. There is only choice—you or someone else choosing one path or another, choosing to be or not to be in a relationship, with you or anyone else. Even harder to believe, someone you love choosing to love someone else is simply that—a choice that involves two people, both of whom are not you. Of course, you may feel that your hopes and dreams have been dashed and shattered by the breakup, but your hopes and dreams are something over which only you have control. They live inside you, and no one can crush them—except yourself if you give up and abandon them.
Back when you felt great—on top of the world—because your partner chose you, those feelings arose because you are great, not because someone else validated your greatness by deciding to date you. Now, your partner has simply decided you’re not the best match—for them. That doesn’t mean there’s anything wrong with you. Though your partner may say otherwise, nothing about you has changed. You’re still the same wonderful person you were six months, or a year, or however long ago that first date was. Just because someone else’s judgment about you has changed doesn’t mean you’re any different. It’s the exiting partner who has changed, and it’s up to you to stay focused on the positive attributes you know you possess.
If you accept the truth that the decision was out of your hands, and stop blaming yourself, you might just feel a big sense of relief. (Sure, there are behaviors, such as dishonesty or infidelity on your part, that may influence your partner’s decision to break up with you. But the choice of how to respond to your transgressions is still your partner’s to make.)
Think about this. You’ve been set free. You’re now available for another, more promising relationship. And while you may not feel worthy of a new partner, your former partner’s putting you back on the market actually validates your worth. You’ve been let go precisely so you can be with someone else, if you choose—someone who truly values you and meets your needs. Even if your former partner said horrible things about you during the breakup, his or her hold on you is over, giving you the opportunity to move forward without looking back. Seize it!
As you head back into the dating world, here’s one last piece of advice. Bitterness over the breakup will only poison you and make you less appealing to a future mate. No one wants to hear about how horrible your last lover was. Your new potential partners want to get to know you and vice versa, and the last thing you need is a third person occupying your sacred circle of fledgling love. So keep the focus on your future, and the two people creating it together.