How to cope after a “it’s not you, it’s me” kind of break-up
Perhaps the main problem with “it’s not you, it’s me” kind of break-up is you simply don’t believe it. Even if, logically, you know it most likely is them who’s at fault, it’s unlikely they’d have the clarity, honesty and generosity to express it. Because let’s be honest: how many people in the world are genuinely that empathetic?
If you find yourself on the receiving end, ask what you can do with the information. And the answer? Stop yourself from having to go through it again – if you’re willing to ask questions and are open to honest answers.
GET YOUR EX TO SPILL THE BEANS
To begin with, if you can get more information or details from your ex, that’s a great start. “Sometimes ‘it’s not you, it’s me’, is an attempt to avoid conflict from a person who believes it actually is you,” says clinical psychologist Dr Lisa Firestone, co-author of Sex and Love in Intimate Relationships. “We do our exes a disservice if we don’t give real feedback about what we found troubling. Sometimes, it may be hard to pinpoint, but the more honest we are, the better it ends for both of us.”
It’s worth remembering though, that if you ask your ex to be honest, what they say will hurt. How you process these revelations can make the difference between experiencing more heartache, or enjoying a healthy future relationship.
IT’S NOT YOU OR THEM
All that said, it’s also true our obsession with laying the blame firmly at one person’s door must come to an end, because it’s simply not logical. “When we fall in love,” suggests Dr Ian Kerner, author of She Comes First, “we never think to suggest the love occurred in a vacuum. We would never say, ‘I fell in love with you, but it was absolutely not because of you at all’.
“Yet when we fall out of love and say, ‘it’s not you, it’s me’ we’re trying to suggest they’re not involved.” The fundamental law of relationships is there are two sides; two interpretations; two sets of feelings, so it’s important to separate blame from cause. What they’re actually trying to say is they don’t want you to blame yourself.
“Sometimes, a relationship simply doesn’t provide the connection needed to keep it going. This can be chemical, and there are studies showing we’re sexually attracted to those who have different immune systems to our own, for example. Or it can be physical: a person’s idea of what they find attractive is shaped by genetics and environment, and while they may find you attractive in an objective sense (she’s pretty, he’s handsome), you somehow don’t fit into their subjective or maybe subconscious feelings about what is attractive. Finally, it can simply be emotional.”
“The most important thing a person can do is to try and explore the patterns they adopted and the styles of relating they learned from their earliest relationships,” says Dr Firestone. “The adaptations we make to get our needs met in our families often persist in our relationships, even though they are rarely adaptive in our adult life.
“The negative expectations we have around how others will treat us, which we all too often contribute to making come true, are also shaped by how we were treated early in our lives. By feeling the pain, and making sense of, early relationships, we can change how we feel about ourselves and our romantic liaisons for the better. This exploration can impact everything from partners we’re drawn to, to the way we interact and the behaviour we elicit.”
IT KEEPS REPEATING ON YOU
When relationship after relationship ends, regardless of what you do, it’s actually quite likely that it is you, just not in the way you think. “Without meaning to, we subconsciously choose the wrong people to date or have relationships with,” says Dr Kerner. “People with low self-esteem might zone in on those who treat them as they feel they deserve to be treated: badly.
“Anyone who experienced certain negative behaviours as a child may seek out partners with those same behaviours as an adult. This can be a subconscious thing, where you attempt to rectify what went on during childhood. If it happens more than twice, ask yourself whether your choice of dates or partners share similarities. If they fit a certain ‘type’, you may be stuck in a rut, choosing the wrong people.”
TIME FOR A REALITY CHECK
This, suggests Dr Firestone, is an opportunity to understand and change. “We can challenge our defences and adaptations, stop listening to critical inner voices which are the language of the defensive process, be more loving toward partners and more kind to ourselves.”
Sometimes, though, the line is genuine. “There are times when it is said because the person sees their struggles and limitations realistically and they are being honest,” says Dr Firestone. If your ex has issues unrelated to your relationship (past trauma, for example) and they express this to you, it’s safe to assume they’re not just looking for an easy out.
While the cliché suggests you’re part of the problem, it doesn’t mean you’re doomed to a lifetime of failed relationships. Take a good hard look at your choices in relationships, work on addressing past traumas, and get back out there. Because for someone, it is all about you – in the best possible way.
FIND YOUR BALANCE – RECALIBRATE YOUR BRAIN POST-BREAK-UP
Give your happy hormone a helping hand by hitting the gym to get your blood pumping with a high intensity aerobic workout. A spinning, HIIT or dance class will do just the trick.
NOURISH YOUR BODY
You’ll probably be feeling stressed after a breakup, causing your cortisol levels to increase. Snacking on fruit high in vitamin C, such as blueberries and cherries, can help reduce this stress hormone, helping you feel more level-headed.
Positive affirmations have been proven to help reduce anxiety, negativity, guilt, fear and pain. Spending five minutes a day thinking about, and saying aloud, the things you are grateful for will help you keep a balanced perspective.