Nobody ever looks back on a relationship they were in before their current partner and says “That was better than what I have now.”
Ask the people you know. It never happens.
You may be able to get them to admit that they felt a more intense attraction to that other person; that there was “more of a spark” or “chemistry.”
But it’s rare you’ll find someone saying that the relationship they were in before made them happier than they feel with the person they ended up with.
Getting dumped by someone you had fallen for is hard. It hurts for a few days or weeks; longer if it was a long-term relationship.
And you should let yourself feel your hurt. Attempting to avoid or delay the grieving process isn’t useful in the long-run. You’ll end up carrying your unacknowledged pain into your new relationships, usually by putting up defenses.
Accepting our anger, sadness, and frustration is an exercise in delayed gratification. But in my experience, it’s also the biggest investment in our future relationship health and happiness.
After I’ve been dumped, and if I was in love, I keep imagining I’ll run into the person on the street. Even when they aren’t in the same country! That’s just something weird my brain does to process the fact that they aren’t going to be in my life anymore. I know that now, and so when it happens, I can smile along with my sadness.
Feel your pain, but don’t believe the thoughts that say, “They made the wrong decision.” If someone broke up with you, they obviously had their reasons. It’s arrogant to think you know their needs and values better than they do. Or for that matter, that you know what would have happened in the future. If you were being your real and honest self in that relationship, then you have nothing to worry about. Their decision to break up with you was based on reality, or close to it.
On the other hand, if you behaved in ways that you know aren’t really your best self, then it’s that which ought to be the focus after you’ve grieved the end of the relationship.
I’m not talking about blaming yourself. I am talking about improving your self-knowledge and awareness and learning about why you do the things you do, what triggers you, and how you can avoid your past from defining your future.
Forget proving anything to the person who doesn’t want to be with you anymore. This is about you and your happiness and ensuring that you don’t make unnecessary mistakes, and cause yourself unnecessary pain, further along.
You can’t protect yourself from being rejected by other people any more than you can say that you won’t cause someone to feel the pain of rejection again. That’s because love is a big scary game, where we let ourselves be vulnerable with people in the name of intimacy and connection, which is among the highest, purest feelings in the world. And that by necessity gives us the ability to hurt each other. You wouldn’t want to avoid that because avoiding that is like avoiding life.
The correct defense strategy isn’t being on guard around other people. It is taking responsibility for your emotions and developing your inner resources so that you can know you can handle all of the other elements of a relationship, including the pain of one that has ended.
Once you have learned that, then you will know how to love.