It might seem counter-intuitive, but taking responsibility is the best way to get over it and move on.
Breakups and divorces hurt - a lot. About all you can think about doing is making the pain stop. You might try drinking, going out with whomever you can and blaming your ex to make you feel better.
There is a certain logic to all this. The distractions of self-medicating and attention from the opposite sex will certainly take your mind off of your immediate pain, but no distraction will ever eliminate it. Also, blaming your ex for what you're feeling can make it seem easier to deal with because it's not your fault and there's nothing you can do. (Besides maybe get even with them or make them hurt as much as you do. But these are bad ideas no matter how appealing they might be right now.)
However, distracting yourself and placing blame are the fast track to more misery - not the relief you really want.
The only way to quickly and completely move on from a failed relationship is to take responsibility for it. Yup, you read that correctly. You need take responsibility for the breakup or divorce.
Now before you start down the trail of "Yeah, but..." or "No way in H#LL!", hear me out.
I get that your ex cheated on you or that they were crazy clingy and insecure or that they just didn't appreciate you anymore or that they just suddenly changed and became someone you hardly recognized. But that isn't the whole story. Is it?
This is important.
The whole story must include you regardless of what their actions were or are. Because if it doesn't, then you're just a powerless victim. A victim who has no control over his life. A victim blown about by the whims of her ex. A victim who lacks all hope that a better relationship is out there.
I seriously doubt you really want to be a victim hoping that someone else will do something to make you feel better.
So what if the real story of your breakup is that you played an active role in it? As uncomfortable as that might be, it's probably a whole lot closer to what really happened.
What if you took the time to take stock of what you did that helped your relationship and what you did that helped your breakup? If you do, you'll be taking your first step to REALLY getting over it.
Before you start thinking that they decided to end things out of the blue and you can't think of anything at all that you could have done differently to make your relationship better, STOP! If that's truly your situation, your responsibility for the breakup was getting into a relationship with them in the first place. Even accepting this bit of accountability will give you back some control over the situation.
Assessing your part in the death of your relationship is the only way you'll be able to completely get over it. And believe me you want to get completely over it. You don't want to be one of those people that others think are great until you tell them about your breakup. Then, all they hear as you tell your story is how bitter you are.
(I can tell you that every time I went out with a man who was bitter, I couldn't get away fast enough and I certainly wouldn't give him a second chance. I know I'm not the only one who quickly steers clear of victims who keep throwing themselves a pity party.)
Once you know the part you played in getting you where you are today you can start doing something about it.
Let's say the only thing you can think of right now that made you culpable for the breakup is that you fell in love with her/him. Obviously that doesn't mean that you need to never fall in love again - although that might seem like the best short-term answer. What it does mean is that you have a bit of detective work to do to figure out what you can learn from this relationship to choose your next partner more carefully.
Think back to when you first met and the early days of your relationship. And ask yourself questions like:
- Were there any warning signs that it would end badly?
- What did you find especially attractive about him/her?
- Did any of these qualities contribute to where you are today?
- Did you give it enough time before you jumped into a relationship?
Hopefully, you're getting the idea. You need to analyze what you can do differently next time.
Thoughtful action away from what didn't work and toward what does will always help you move on from your breakup.
As you continue your assessments, you'll probably discover more things you did that contributed to the end of your relationship. That's a good sign! It means that you're moving away from the hurt and victimhood and toward healing.
With each new responsibility that comes up, ask yourself what you can and will do differently in the future and then do it. Although all this work won't guarantee that your next relationship will be perfect, it does guarantee that you won't be making the same mistakes. And fewer mistakes usually mean fewer problems.
So as counter-intuitive as it may have seemed initially, taking responsibility for your breakup or divorce really is the only way to stop hurting so much.
I’m Dr. Karen Finn, a divorce coach and advisor helping people just like you who are dealing with the stress and pain of divorce. You can join my newsletter list for free weekly advice. And if you’re interested in taking the first step toward working with me, you can schedule an introductory private coaching session.
This article originally appeared in Wingman Magazine.