I’ll start this essay by saying that it’s been a while since I’ve had a breakup. A big part of this is that it’s been a long time since I dated someone new, and while it’s possible for a long-standing relationship to end (and devastating when it does), it’s typically active dating that invites in a spat of breakups.
And it’s been years since I’ve actively dated. I know it’s funny because I’m considered a polyamorous relationship expert, but I don’t like to date. I especially hate online dating.
But there’s one breakup I do think of from time to time with some amusement. A time when I was dumped.
That fact alone — the fact that I was dumped and did not do the dumping — makes it memorable. I have mostly been the person who ends a relationship. I typically am not surprised when a relationship ends, having figured out there was trouble for a while before one of us (normally me) initiates the breakup.
In this circumstance, I did know there were some issues, but I didn’t necessarily think they were unmanageable. And I was waiting for an opportunity to address this, since we were both quite busy — and some of it involved other people, and I had to wait for everything to line up.
But before that could happen, I got the dreaded “I’m breaking up with you” text. And when I did, I didn’t argue with my now-ex. Because, yes, it was a little abrupt. Yes, there were things we probably could have talked and/or worked through to stay together. But she didn’t want to.
This meant that either: a) she had good reasons for breaking it off or b) she did not have good reasons for breaking it off.
If it were scenario A, why would I argue with her? She had good reasons. If it were scenario B, if she didn’t have good reasons, then why would I want to beg to be with someone who breaks up with other people without a good reason? Someone who does that likely has other things they do that won’t mesh with my values system. There’s no reason to fight to stay with someone who discards others without a good reason. It’s a waste of your commitment.
So in spite of my strong feelings for her, I accepted it. And I wrote back and said I understood.
This was apparently the wrong thing to do. It would become evident later that the breakup was intended as a kind of ploy. A way of garnering some attention. I was supposed to argue. To fight. To prove my affection in response to being abandoned.
And she was deeply wounded that I instead respected her decision. Because to her, it meant I didn’t care about her.
The Toughest Breakups Are the Ones that Make You Doubt Yourself
But I certainly did. It’s just… once she broke up with me, I realized that she was no longer a person I should pursue a relationship with… because either she meant it, and she saw an incompatibility I was unaware of, one I should respect, even if I didn’t see it… or she was playing games.
And if she was playing games… well, I am just not in a place in my life where game-playing is a good focus of my love, attention, and commitment.
In any event, it ended up not being a tough breakup, even though I’d been quite excited to date her and quickly bonded with her in a way that I wasn’t used to. And here’s the reason why: I never doubted myself because of our relationship. I didn’t do anything in the relationship — or after it — that conflicted with my core values or that I regretted.
I gave it my best shot, and it didn’t work out.
Did I miss her? Yes of course. Did part of me wish it had gone differently? Undoubtedly.
But nothing about dating her or her breaking up with me did anything to erode my trust with myself. So I got over it, and I was fine.
I can look back and see other breakups that were much harder to get over… ones where I initiated the breakup and I didn’t even feel as close to the person I was dating. But in which I ignored my instincts or did things that were in conflict with my core values… and those were a lot harder to get over.
Anyway, what I think I’ve learned about all of this is that the most important relationship I have is with myself. And anything that damages that self-trust takes a lot to get over.