The majority of us have loved and had our hearts broken.
Once, twice, even thrice.
Yet despite being heartbroken or not, people tend to spend a great deal of time thinking about love and relationships.
Thousands of songs, books, and movies have romantic love as their central theme. Literature from centuries ago discuss this subject. It’s a universal topic, and regardless of time, all human beings can relate to it.
When a relationship ends, we tend to blame the other party for whatever went wrong. Thus, when a new partner knocks on our door, despite our feelings for them, we carry the ghosts of our previous relationships onto this new connection.
I’m aware that there are many highly toxic and abusive partners. Plenty of people have been victims of this. In such cases, it’s crucial to seek professional help in order to address the damage created by these connections.
Yet regardless, before we embark on a new relationship, I believe it is imperative we analyze, process, and recover from whatever happened with our previous partners.
By this, I don’t mean condemning the other party while letting ourselves off the hook. It’s also about acknowledging our faults, our flaws, and our role in the demise of each bond.
It takes two to tango.
Was I Emotionally Available?
Personally, this is the most important question.
Our ex might have refused to commit, keeping things perpetually casual. Or perhaps at the beginning, they did seem eager to commit, yet as the relationship demanded more, they pulled back.
I believe that in many ways we attract a mirror of our deepest fears. Hence maybe, we were just as emotionally unavailable as them.
We may have wanted a relationship for all the wrong reasons. To get over someone else, avoid feeling lonely, strong initial infatuation, idealizing the other, boosting our self-esteem, or simply filling a void within.
Or maybe we’re just so scared of getting hurt that we keep the other at an arms-length, unable to genuinely connect emotionally and share our deepest vulnerabilities.
Thus, when one attempts to deepen the bond, the other party either unconsciously pulls away or begins to generate a range of issues, both options ultimately sabotaging the relationship.
In such cases, our connection isn’t based on genuine love and kinship, but rather on what the other has to offer that benefits us, clouded by our fear of real emotional investment.
If this resonates with you, then work on truly opening your heart to love, releasing expectations, fears, and ego-based needs.
Did Previous Relationships Get in the Way?
Your ex was hurtful and rude. Hence, you react in an explosive manner whenever your current partner says something which may bother or upset you.
You’re accustomed to being mistreated, meaning that you’re more likely to tolerate abusive and unjust behaviors.
Or you find yourself comparing your new S.O. with previous partners, at times even romanticizing other relationships.
This is why I emphasize the importance of truly processing whatever happened in the past. Otherwise, the ghost of your ex will be ever-present.
Another mistake we make is monkey-branching on to a new relationship or desperately seek a new rebound partner weeks after a breakup. Experts have shown that approximately 90% of rebounds fail within the first 3 months.
It’s a recipe for disaster as we are usually seeking to distract ourselves from what just occurred. Instead, I opt to take my time to process the situation, delving into my deepest emotions.
It’s not easy, yet it allows proper healing and closure. And this way, you’ll be able to start a new relationship with a clean slate.
What About Other Past Traumas?
To me, this is even important than the issues faced in our previous relationships.
This is usually determined by how we bonded with our caregivers, our early social interactions, and how safe we felt in our environment as children.
On many occasions, we also attract and choose partners with whom we’re able to reenact parts of our early family experiences. This is done in order to heal events that marked us at a younger age. Hence, it’s imperative to look at our childhood in order to detect what needs to be healed.
Personally, I’ve been able to identify several aspects of my parents and their connection in my relationships. I’ve sought partners who allow me to play similar dynamics to what I saw as a child, labeling this as “normal” despite the evident dysfunctionality.
And it’s most likely the same for the other person, whether they’re aware of it or not.
What am I Seeking in a Partner and a Relationship?
It is only after several intimate connections that we’re able to truly decipher this.
Relationships are great learning experiences. It doesn’t matter how long they lasted, whether they were exclusive or not, how they may have ended, and the level of formality.
The moment you generate a connection with another being you are bound to learn more about yourself as new, undiscovered parts of your core will arise.
Of course, that’s only if you’re willing to do so.
You begin to understand which qualities in another complement yours, the things you cherish in a partner, while also acknowledging your non-negotiables.
There are things that you’re no longer willing to tolerate yet you’re now open to exploring new layers which you previously hadn’t considered.
You gain clarity on the type of relationship and level of commitment that works for you. This may entail seeking a life partner, wanting to get married, having multiple unlabeled connections, or being part of an open relationship.
Or perhaps, you may realize that an intimate relationship isn’t a priority, at least not in the present. Hence, you’re able to focus your energy on whatever is of greater importance for you without feeling trapped in a partnership.
Regardless of what you’ve discovered, these learnings should be used in order to seek whatever fits you the most.
However, remember to also be honest and upfront with others. Leading on people who have different expectations will only generate pain and confusion.
Was My Ex-Partner Truly My Friend?
Your partner is supposed to be your friend and teammate.
If there was no romantic chemistry with this person, would you still befriend them?
I believe it’s a key question we should ask ourselves regarding both exes and potential partners.
Unlike with romantic partners, we don’t initially pick our friends based on physical or sexual attraction. Instead, it’s mainly on emotional connection, shared values, and compatibility.
Shouldn’t these aspects also be prioritized upon choosing a partner?
The honeymoon stage within a relationship lasts 6–12 months on average. Once this phase begins to fade, other components gain more relevance, primarily our compatibility and friendship with this person.
This is exactly why many relationships don’t make it past the 1–2 year mark. And perhaps this is why you’re relationship ended too; lacking sufficient compatibility for a real friendship to be built along with the intimate part.
And there’s nothing wrong with that. It’s impossible to be truly compatible with everyone.
Hence, before initiating a relationship, I believe it’s fundamental that we too become friends in the process.
How Did I Handle Conflict?
All relationships have their fair share of conflict. Especially once the honeymoon stage is over.
It’s normal and healthy, as long as these arguments don’t involve any form of abuse and lead to constructive solutions where both parties are willing to make an effort.
The main question here is, how did you handle conflict?
Avoiders usually bottle up their emotions, shutting out those who they perceive as instigators. This results in passive-aggressive behaviors, little effort in solving issues, and emotional disconnection from their partner.
Instigators on the other hand are explosive, short-fused, facing conflict head-on. They usually speak their mind, not fearing heated confrontation, and can become highly frustrated when facing an avoidant.
Others are collaborative and compromising, meaning that they don’t avoid honest and direct conversations as long as it entails actively finding a solution that works for both sides.
There’s no right or wrong answer, we’re all very different.
I consider myself collaborative. Yet if after several conversations I’m the only one truly making an effort, frustration then turns me into an instigator, especially when dealing with avoidants. And I wasn’t aware I could be this way until my previous relationship.
By detecting our personal conflict style we can work on solving issues in a productive and collaborative manner while also understanding the other more profoundly.
And this can greatly benefit our future relationships.
Am I Grateful for the Positive Aspects?
If your relationship lasted for more than a few months, then you must have some good experiences with the other person.
Right after a breakup, feelings of hurt, anger, and resentment may cloud any good memories. Initially, this may be beneficial as it speeds up the first stages of healing and keeps us from chasing after someone who isn’t good for us.
Yet in the long run, this hinders our chances of growth and actually moving on. I believe people enter our lives for a reason, whether to teach us something or to mirror aspects within us which we must heal.
Hence, with the exception of abusive relationships, there is usually something to be grateful for.
I’m not saying we must place our ex on a pedestal, become friends with them nor much less take them back after betrayal. In most cases, that’s self-sabotage, as trust is probably the hardest thing to gain back once broken.
Yet we must remember that sharing love, vulnerabilities, and intimacy makes us grow in ways no other relationship can. Regardless of what occurred at the end, we should feel grateful for the positives and the lessons this person brought into our life.
By doing so, we are cultivating inner peace and growth while finding closure.
Regardless of who was mostly to blame, it is also very important for us to acknowledge how we may have hurt the other, our shortcomings, and the things we’re not willing to tolerate again.
Doing so leads to inner growth, as we work on our flaws and become aware of what we truly want in a life partner.
We’re also then able to easily disqualify emotionally unhealthy or incompatible partners and to let go of those who simply weren’t right for us.
And consequently, we remain loyal to ourselves and our needs.
“You’ll never find the right person if you don’t let go of the wrong one” — Unknown
This post was previously published on Medium.
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The post 7 Questions We Should All Ask Ourselves After a Breakup appeared first on The Good Men Project.