I’m not proud to admit it but after one 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% 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.
If you’ve never been prone to dwelling on the past, or trying to get closure this might not resonate with you. From my experience with coaching people through their breakups, it’s common to get stuck on a few weird things that could have changed everything if you had just done them differently.
Often when people contact me to find out where their relationships went wrong, or how they drove someone away, they are really trying to figure out if whatever it is that they are stuck on was the real reason for the breakup.
It’s as though they believe knowing the past real reason will change something about the present reality.
At some point they decided that they messed up.
Most of the time, they are going through a bunch of what-ifs.
They ask themselves questions like:
- Should I have said something different at a specific time?
- If I had had “the talk” would that have made them commit?
- Was my hair, body, outfit the real reason we broke up?
The desire to figure out what we did wrong is healthy and helps our growth in the long run. Letting your imagination run wild while coming up with reasons that your ex left or a promising date went badly, is not.
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 of your relationship.
And you shouldn’t want to.
Every relationship experience contains a lesson. Either the person was for you or wasn’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 bring a relationship down.
This is why it’s likely that if you’re stuck on what you said, or not being blonde or anything else, you miss the real, bigger picture reason that it didn’t work out which could actually help your 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 in the past. 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 lesson gets lost while you’re beating yourself up. You might have big regrets, and these might make complete sense, given the circumstances.
I know I’ve stepped away from a few relationships thinking, “wow… I messed that up pretty monumentally” (and this is honest. I do mess up monumentally sometimes. We all do).
However, there is a big difference between recognizing that you screwed up, resolving to move on and getting stuck thinking that if you had just done or said that perfect thing, it would all be different.
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, ie, “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. For example, what you said during the breakup.
The finer details were not the problem.
I promise, getting stuck on your hair color, or whether you should have said or done some specific thing differently does not serve you in the long run. It’s also a good way to derail yourself and get stuck in the past.
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.