How to Process Being Blindsided by a Breakup

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How to Process Being Blindsided by a Breakup

So, you’ve been blindsided by a breakup. I am so sorry, honey. Losing a valued relationship is always painful, but when it happens seemingly out of the blue, you have a particularly bad breakup experience that can be hard to process and move on from. 

I’ve worked with many clients in breakup or divorce recovery counseling who genuinely did not see the ends of their relationships coming. They end up reevaluating the entire relationship, wondering when their partner started feeling so unhappy and how they missed the signs. 

It’s like you were walking along a serene path, only to be shoved off a cliff by the person you loved and trusted most. Many breakup therapy clients feel betrayed, and some even experience betrayal trauma after a blindsided breakup. It’s common to wonder if you’ll be able to feel secure in relationships going forward. 

That I can help you with. The key to healing from a breakup, especially a blindsided breakup, is growth. It’s gaining the skills and awareness to stay tuned into yourself, your partner, and the relationship (or, to recognize when that’s not possible so that you can make other plans). This helps you rebuild trust in yourself, so the next time you get close to someone, you will feel confident that you know where you stand. I hope this article helps you build that confidence. 

If you’d prefer to listen, I’ve also created an episode of the Love, Happiness and Success Podcast on this topic. You can find it on this page (player below) or on Apple Podcasts, Spotify, or wherever you get your podcasts. 

Why Blindsided Breakups Happen

When your partner dumps you without warning, you learn a few things about your relationship that you didn’t know before. 

First, you learn that you did not know what was happening in your Ex’s emotional world. They didn’t just wake up one day and decide to end your relationship. They were struggling with doubts, fears, grievances, and/or resentment for some time in the lead-up to the breakup. You just weren’t hearing about it, and that means you weren’t as close as you thought. 

You learn that your experience in the relationship was different from your Ex’s experience, and that, for one reason or another, you were not discussing those differences openly. Maybe your Ex was a conflict avoidant people pleaser who couldn’t bear to talk about anything that might hurt your feelings (a common profile of someone who ends relationships this way). If so, they may have even said or done things in the months, weeks, and days leading up to the breakup that seem at odds with the relationship ending, which makes it all the more confusing. 

You may be ruminating on some variation of this question: “Why were we making plans / saying ‘I love you’ / being affectionate / having sex JUST YESTERDAY if he was already thinking about dumping me??? Was it all an act???” 

Here’s how: When you were sharing those moments, your Ex was still ambivalent about calling it quits, until they weren’t anymore. They were still partially in, until they were all out. In a perfect world, they would have been communicating those mixed feelings with you. But they didn’t. So here you are. 

It’s also possible that your Ex was communicating their unhappiness, in subtle or not-so-subtle ways, but you didn’t understand how serious it was, and so you feel blindsided. Many people miss the signs that their relationship is failing, either because they don’t want to face the possibility of loss and so they look away, or because they are truly naive about what causes relationships to fail

Blindsided Breakup Trauma

Blindsided breakups aren’t just heartbreaking. They can actually be traumatic. An unexpected breakup sets off a powerful emotional experience that can feel unmanageable, especially if you are someone who has what is sometimes called an “attachment wound,” insecure attachment, or a deep fear of abandonment. Many people require support from a good therapist to heal from a blindsided breakup and move forward. 

Growth Opportunities after a Blindsided Breakup

After a blindsided breakup, it’s easy to get overly focused on your Ex. And that is fair enough — if you think they’re a jerkwad dingbat for handling your breakup this way, you won’t hear any arguments from me.

But, obsessing about your Ex is not going to get you anywhere. They have rendered themselves irrelevant to your future. There are things they should have done and things they shouldn’t have done, but none of it matters. What matters is whether you can locate the nuggets of personal growth in the rubble of this failed relationship. Those little nuggets are going to help you create a much healthier relationship the next time around.

So, here are some questions that I want you to answer, as honestly as you can:

Blindsided Breakups — How Did This Happen?

First, this relationship was not what you thought it was. Why is that? 

I can hear you shouting that it’s because YOUR EX IS AN EMOTIONALLY IMMATURE, NON-COMMUNICATIVE, SAD SACK WEASEL. Fine, but putting that aside for a moment, how is it that you were able to be in a relationship with someone who was not communicating openly, who was conflict avoidant and to some extent emotionally unavailable, without noticing that anything was off?

Maybe you did see these things, but you didn’t know what they would mean for your relationship. Maybe instead of turning away, you thought it was your job to help your Ex work through these issues. Or, maybe you have a tendency to project your own hopes, feelings, and intentions onto others, making you blind to what they’re actually thinking and feeling. To be truly close to someone, you have to acknowledge your separateness, that you and your partner are different people who feel, think, and want different things. When you aren’t making space for that, you’re not being emotionally intimate

Were you afraid to ask how your partner was feeling, how they thought the relationship was going, or whether they could see a future with you? If so, getting more comfortable with dark emotions, including the possibility of rejection, will serve you well in the future. The truth sometimes hurts, but it is always your friend. Never avoid it. 

Was Your Partner Communicating Something

Next, think back to the conversations you had with your Ex over the course of the relationship. Are you sure they never told you something was bothering them? 

It’s possible that they did try to address issues here and there, but you didn’t realize how important they were to your partner. This is understandable — some of us are calibrated to make our feelings known, loudly and as many times as necessary, and others will only emit the faintest peep before giving up and scuttling off down the road. 

Like it or not, many low-conflict people will break up with you before they raise their voice or sit you down for a Serious Conversation. But they usually make some attempt at communicating, however feeble. Bear in mind, most communication doesn’t happen in words. People start acting withdrawn when they’re unhappy, or they get a little passive aggressive. Did you notice the energy shift? If so, did you ask about it? It’s not your job to make someone else communicate, but it is your job to acknowledge problems when you see them and to speak up for your own feelings. 

Finally, if there truly was zero conflict in your relationship, that was a red flag in itself. It’s a signal that you and your partner did not feel safe sharing your feelings with each other, openly and with vulnerability. 

Healing from a Blindside Breakup

So, how can you get over your Ex, and more to the point, how can you get over the uniquely awful experience of having been blindsided by your Ex? 

The path to healing is growth. Only growth in yourself will help you feel safe in new relationships. You need to feel confident that you know how to show up and be your vulnerable, authentic, whole self with a partner. You need to learn what it feels like when someone else is doing the same, and what it feels like when they’re not. You need to be brave enough to have courageous conversations about how the relationship is going and your intentions for the future — and you need to be open to hearing it when your partner’s feelings differ from your own. 

Doing breakup recovery work with an experienced, relationship-focused therapist can help you build confidence in these skills and ease your relationship anxiety. I have a team of clinicians who would be happy to meet you for a free consultation

Once you have wrung out all of the personal growth from this unfortunate experience, you can toss what your Ex did aside, onto the trash heap. It won’t matter anymore. You are writing your own story and only you get to decide what happens next. 

Make it beautiful. 

With love, 

Dr. Lisa Marie Bobby

P.S. — For more advice on healing and moving forward after a breakup, check out my “Healing After Heartbreak” collection of articles and podcasts. It’s all there for you!

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Music in this episode is by Butthole Surfers with their song “Hey.” You can support them and their work by visiting their Bandcamp page here: Under the circumstance of use of music, each portion of used music within this current episode fits under Section 107 of the Copyright Act, i.e., Fair Use. Please refer to if further questions are prompted.

  On today’s show, we’re talking about how to process a breakup that you didn’t see coming. Because getting dumped is hard enough when you know your relationship is on the rocks, but when you think everything is going okay, only to be blindsided by a surprise ending. That’s an experience that can be really difficult to get over because not just are you mourning the relationship, there’s like an emotional trauma involved.

So that’s what we’re talking about on today’s show and setting the mood for us today are the butthole surfers with the song. Hey, which is how I felt was appropriate. And also I wanted to share before we move into today’s topic that we’re going to be doing things a little bit differently starting today specifically.

I am taking this show to YouTube. I have resisted this for so many years and the time has come though to actually show my face and be more public and and I hope to make this a nice experience for you. So every week, not just going to be recording an audio version of this, which is, my preference.

I enjoy hiding behind my microphone, but really putting together a presentation for you. I’ll have additional resources that you can get to right from the episode itself on YouTube. Of course, we’ll be talking to fun guests and you’ll be able to see those conversations. And I think I just hope that it’s like a more interactive experience.

You can come and hang out in my office. with me. So I hope that this format feels nice to you. And of course you can still always listen to the audio version wherever you like to listen, we’ll be doing that as well, but you’re going to see more of me on YouTube.

 You can follow me on YouTube at DrLisaMarieBobby and thank you in advance for the state of my YouTube channel. We’ve been like pushing audio versions of the podcast there but it’s basically like an abandoned parking lot currently and I hope to make it nicer for you.

So thanks for coming and hanging out with me in the meantime and if you have ideas or comments or if you’re a big YouTube person and have thoughts about things you’d like to see on this page. Let me know. This is a growth area for me and I value your thoughts cause you probably know more about, about YouTube actualization than I do, but I’m learning.

All right. So that is my news. But but thank you for joining me for today’s show. If this is your first time listening, I’m Dr. Lisa Marie Bobby. I’m the founder of Growing Self Counseling and Coaching. I’m a marriage and family therapist. I’m a licensed psychologist. I am also a life coach. And for a number of years now, I have really had a sub specially specialty in assisting people with.

through particularly traumatic breakups and divorces. I am really, my, my trade is as a couple’s counselor, which you know, subspecialty in breakups must mean that I’m not a very good marriage counselor, but I do. Okay. And the reality is that, relationships. end. There are relationships that really should end and there are also relationships where it’s like too far gone to fix them by the time people show up in the virtual or in real life marriage counseling office.

Which, cautionary tale for those of you listening, get into couples counseling before you think you should because if you wait too long. Things can become very difficult, if not impossible, to put back together again. But, so you know, it was just being a couples counselor and being in this situation so many times, I was often left with one person on my couch who was just devastated.

, particularly those people where they really didn’t see it coming. I think the hardest of those situations for me personally was, having a couple come in the door where they have mixed agendas,, one person believes that they are here coming to see me to work on their relationship, that the intention is to make things better, and that their partner.

already knows that isn’t going to happen. They’re not coming to see me. For my help in repairing the relationship. And that’s often the partner that is initiating it. That partner wants to come and do this with me because they want to leave their partner that they’re breaking up with in my office.

with me to assist, support, process, work through this. And it’s relieves them of their guilt a little bit that they’re dropping them off with me before they, skedaddle on out of there. That is something that happens. It’s happened to me more than once and those situations were always very challenging to me, at least in years past as a counselor, as a coach, because knowing how, believe it or not, to really assist people In breakup recovery, heartbreak recovery was not anything that I was ever taught specifically in counseling school, how to do.

So I did a master’s degree in marriage and family therapy, and then four, four plus year PhD in counseling psychology at the doctoral level. Never once. Was it explained to me what is going on in these situations and how to move someone forward? That is just not what we’re trained to do. So what that turned into, after me feeling frustrated and helpless, certainly can process grief, process trauma, feel the feelings, all the things.

But, there was also like this stuck quality to clients that I was working with in that space and it led me to start doing a lot of independent research. I actually went outside the field of counseling psychology to find the answers that I needed. My undergraduate degree is actually in biology and I found a lot of the answers that I was looking for in that realm.

Serendipitously, I met Dr. Helen Fisher, who has done a fantastic amount of original research exploring the physiology of love, actually, but also the physiology of breakup, heartbreak. And when I put those pieces together, what I understand as a counselor, a therapist, a coach, combined with that.

biologically based, like how people work when it comes to love and relationships in terms of their brain wiring, in terms of their chemistry and this like evolutionary drive to bond. That’s when things really came together for me and I was able to create I think a much more effective path forward for people to understand what was going on with them, but also really to understand how to move forward.

And so since that time, I wrote a book, Ex aholics, Breaking Your Addiction to an Ex Love. And also that has become like a specialty of my practice, growing self counseling and coaching. So I do, an online course. But I think the more important thing is that I work with really amazing therapists.

That have worked closely with me and have learned, the ideas and the ways that I’ve found to be effective with people moving through this process. So that’s just a little preamble because what I am gonna be saying to you in this podcast may be a little bit different than some of the things that you have heard before, and I want you to just have a basis as to where I’m coming from.

Why I’m saying the things that I do so we’re going to be talking about blindside breakups, how they are uniquely different and they do have a bit different of a path to growth and healing on the other side. I think they’re more traumatic than even a regular horrible breakup. They’re harder in a lot of ways.

So going to be throwing a lot of resources at you through this podcast. And then I also have other online resources and different things to send your way. So you’re going to get all of it. Anyway to dive into this topic when we talk about blindsided relationships, just like to understand what they are and why I think they are as challenging I think that a lot of it has to do with that like shock value first of all, because when we are blindsided by a breakup by definition, you, you don’t see it coming.

There is a genuine surprise, a shock that It is not only like a shock in and of itself, but I think it also creates this new like uncertainty about the way you are experiencing the relationship itself. Nope, I need to get out of the way of my presentation a little bit. I’m going to scoot over. For those of you listening on audio, I’m doing like a little video presentation right now, and I have slides and everything, and they were covering my face.

So I had to get out of the way. But. But, the experience when people are blindsided by a breakup, they are wondering what happened, like why did this happen, and we’ll be talking about that on the show, but also It damages their sense of trust in themselves because they were, until very recently, living in a relationship that they believed was a relatively secure, enduring relationship, like maybe not without its problems, but To be surprised by a breakup.

It’s like they thought that it was a lot better than it was and it makes them almost question their own Senses like how could I have thought it was okay as it was and then this happened. It’s like it’s Yeah, it makes them doubt what they’re taking in, which then, and this is the hardest part, results in having it be like harder to trust in new situations because if they missed something that big before, it can be difficult to then trust themselves to know if something like that is going to happen again.

So again these things stack up. It’s yes, moving through the breakup and healing from that processing the loss, but it like carries on into future relationships in a way that’s very consistent with this idea of betrayal trauma that I talked about on a previous podcast episode. So there’s a lot here, but the good news is that there are things that you can do to help yourself through this experience and also a ton of things that you can learn and use as really, I think, positive self development opportunities that helps you feel more secure.

in new situations because of the growth and learning that you’ve done. It’s, hard work, hard one. Nobody wants to learn and grow through that particular path. If life offers you the opportunity to do it on the other side, it’s going to be yours to keep, and that’s worth something. So the path to healing is really digging into these lessons and growing from them so that the next time you get close to somebody you can feel more confident in your ability to gauge how your partner is feeling in your relationship and have that be more like reality based for you because if you did miss things previously, you’ll be better able to see them coming next time.

So let’s dig in just a little bit more about the question that if you’re listening to this podcast, I’m sure you are very eager to have me discuss, which is why this happens.

So why do you Blindside breakups happen because that’s like the big question, your partner has just announced that they don’t want to be with you anymore. You didn’t see it coming and that’s like usually the number one thing on most people’s minds and honestly like what people want to talk to me a lot about is why, like trying to put the pieces together, trying to make sense of it in the aftermath and so I mean at the very most basic level The reason that blindsided breakups happen is that you didn’t have the whole story.

There were things going on in your ex’s experience that were different than what you thought was happening. And there are a variety of reasons for this, and understanding what it was in this situation can be really helpful, not just to process the loss of this relationship itself, but it also points you in the direction of your growth work.

And to help you figure out exactly what it was in your relationship is obviously behind the scope of a podcast. However, this is the kind of thing that would really be worth unpacking with a good therapist or coach who could dig in a particularly like a marriage and family therapist who has a lot of expertise in relational dynamics.

specifically because they can help put the pieces together and understand what was going on and also how you may have missed some things. But reason number one is that your partner was having experiences that were different from what you thought that they were either because they were not telling you.

What was happening inside of them. They weren’t talking about their feelings. There may have been some avoidant Tendencies, so if you’ve listened to any of my podcasts previously like on avoidant attachment style Which is rarer than you might think when you look through social media. But somebody with a serious, for real, avoidant attachment style will have all kinds of things going on inside of them that is extremely self protective.

And so they will also have all kinds of very well developed reasons why they can’t talk to you about how they feel, which may or may not actually have anything to do with you. It is part of their… Core concept of other humans being dangerous, . Just take that for what it’s worth.

But either you were with somebody who was having these experiences and wasn’t saying them out loud, was actually concealing the way they were really feeling inside. Again, through avoidance sometimes like passive aggressive or even people pleasing folks can, be like . Yep. Smile and nod.

And on the inside be, increasingly resentful and angry and, particularly if they have a lot of fear, anxiety, discomfort around having courageous conversations, they can begin to develop all of these reasons in their mind about why, it won’t matter anyway. If they. say it out loud.

You are irredeemable. There is no possibility for growth or change, which again, may or may not be true. But are the kinds of things that conflict avoided people tell themselves. Because as uncomfortable as it is to feel as badly as they do about their relationship, and certainly as uncomfortable as it is to end a relationship, it is actually more comfortable for them to do that than to have open, honest dialogue about how they’re feeling.

What’s going on? Because it brings up a ton of anxiety. I’ve recorded past podcasts on the subject of authenticity, vulnerability in relationships related to emotional intimacy, and it’s really scary for people to do that. So if you have been partnered with somebody who has really struggles, hasn’t yet developed themselves in that area, maybe let’s say it a little bit more nicely, that could be one of the reasons why you’re going through a blindsided breakup.

But, another reason is that you did actually know what was going on. I have often, too, had the experience of working with people who have been in relationships, sometimes for many years, with a partner who was unhappy and who was saying they were unhappy and who was saying, I would like for X, Y, Z to be different, who was maybe fighting to be heard, who was…

Looking for solutions. Let’s put up chore charts. Let’s have a family clean every Saturday. , let’s have a date night. Let’s do all these things. Or could you please talk to me differently? Or when you X, Y, Z, I feel blah, blah, blah. Like trying really hard to get through to their partner.

Over and over again, maybe even trying to get them into couples counseling. I think we should go talk to somebody. I think our relationship could be better. I love you so much. Let’s, work on things and was met with a kind of obstructionist mindset that was, no, couples counseling is too expensive.

No, everything is fine. No, it’s not that bad. or why do we have to have a date night again? I really want to, watch this show. What, whatever it was the person on the other side, perhaps if you’re going through a blind blindside to breakup this person was you who was minimizing what your partner was trying to communicate to you for a long time.

And legitimately maybe. What they were saying or what they were wanting didn’t feel that important to you. Maybe you didn’t understand why they wanted what they wanted. It didn’t make sense. It seemed kind of weird. Uh, it didn’t sound like something that you wanted to participate in. Um, but, at the end of the day, the, the, you missed what a big deal it actually was to them.

And over time, what happens is that when people are met with resistance and obstructionist thinking and, um, minimization and a refusal to engage in courageous conversations or work on a relationship together, what that teaches the person on the other side is that I can’t trust you to hear me or to understand me.

You do not seem to care enough about how I feel to be, working on things on your side. I’ve done everything I know how to do to improve the situation. I’ve tried to make this better. It isn’t getting better. I don’t have a partner on the other side who’s willing to work with me on this.

And so my choices then become either I continue, having this relationship on your terms, which I don’t like, it doesn’t feel good to me, or pack up my chips and go home. I’ve talked to a lot of people in individual therapy or coaching over the years who have come and wanted to talk about, they’re still in their relationship, but what they want to talk to me about is, can this get better?

These are all the things that I’ve tried to do to get through to my partner to help improve the situation. And they’re just not listening. They won’t come in here and talk to you with me, so that’s why I’m here by myself and so that, the work is really helping them. Make a decision of is this situation good enough for a variety of different reasons, Yes, maybe you have kids and a family and you are actually going to prioritize that for a while.

That’s okay Or maybe there are other reasons for you to stay in the relationship that are completely legitimate That’s fine. But also sometimes, doing some real grieving around these are the things that are not ever going to change because I’ve been trying real hard to have these conversations with somebody and it’s like talking to a wall and is that okay?

And sometimes at the end of that work the answer is No, actually, that’s not okay. I can’t keep doing this. There is a long off ramp of relationships. The person on the other side doesn’t know that this is happening while their partner is coming in and talking to me and like in so much angst around their relationship.

They’re busy minimizing and no, it’s fine. It’s not that big of a deal. You just need to calm down. While their partner is talking to me about all these things that really are a big deal for them and sometimes over the course of years are deciding that they need to be done, then it turns into a conversation, sometimes a dramatic conversation about how they’re done and they are really done at that point.

They have worked through all these feelings with me. They have separated themselves emotionally before they separate literally or physically. And they’re really done and quite resolved about all of this. And then they will tell their partner, who feels like they are being blindsided with this terrible situation that they had no idea about and is begging, can we please go to couples counseling and, shows up to couples counseling, caffeinated with little notebook with pen, ready to write everything down.

But it’s honestly it’s too late. But it isn’t because they didn’t know. It is because they didn’t hear. They didn’t let it in. I recorded, I think it was a really good and honestly moving podcast episode with an author. His name was Matthew.

I think it was last year we titled the podcast, Why Relationships Fail. And in it, he was talking about this book that he had written about his own experiences with this, that in his relationship, his wife was talking to him for a long time about things that she wanted to have be different.

And. He had all kinds of reasons for not participating in that with her. It accumulated in a divorce and ultimately, he wound up learning and growing a lot of a lot of very important life lessons that transformed him as a person, really and honestly, so the next time he is in a relationship, he is going to have a very different experience because of that.

But, that was probably a situation where he may have felt blindsided by the ending of his marriage when it finally came. That’s why blindside breakups happen. Either you didn’t know because information was actively being concealed from you like they were avoidant. Or you were avoided.

You did have all the information and for whatever reason preferred your own narrative about what was happening over your partner’s and that is why it surprised you. One last reason why you could be in a blindside breakup situation and that is because, and this I think happens more like in early stage relationships rather than a long term relationship, so that the It’s the story that I was just describing that’s how a marriage ends, like it’s the arc of the ending can exist over years, but newer relationships can sometimes end in a blindsided kind of situation.

So you know, you’re dating somebody, maybe you’ve been together a year or so, and it is because of a kind of a different reason. Which is that they are having a different internal experience than you are having. And I just wanted to say out loud that all of us are quite vulnerable to projection.

Meaning that we… feel the way we feel. We think the way that we think. And we make assumptions that other people are more similar to us than they actually are. That the way we feel is how somebody else feels. The way we think about a situation is how somebody else thinks about a situation. And that’s really not true.

And so I have also, worked with Many people over the years where perhaps they are really excited about somebody they like this person a lot, they, see all these positive qualities in them, they see a lot of hope for the relationship, and fail to appreciate how differently that other person feels about the relationship and about them.

Yeah. Because, the person on the other side might want different things, maybe prioritizing different things, may also just have a different metric for what a relationship is. Okay. What the kind of relationship that they want to be in looks like. So you know, it’s not anything that the person on the other side has necessarily done.

It’s just that it’s a disconnect and they didn’t know it. But often again, a little, it can too be like this Sigh. Their. internal experience was so big that it eclipsed their accurate empathy for what was really going on the other side. And there are ways of managing this.

Next time, particularly if you’ve had this experience once where you were like, Oh, that person felt differently about the situation and about me than I felt about them unpacking that and understanding why that happened can be just a phenomenal growth opportunity. And so let’s talk about that.

These are some of the reasons why blindside breakups happen, but let’s also talk about the path of growth and healing. And also, the fact that true healing and like recovery and feeling not just trusting, but like confident going into relationships next time comes from the growth process.

It doesn’t come from just some kind of like. passive healing. If you cry a whole lot, it’s going to be different next time. That’s not true. What will happen is if you use this as an opportunity to gain awareness around how did that happen? What did I actually do or not do that contributed to this outcome?

That is phenomenally constructive and empowering work. The first thing to understand about the growth process when it comes to healing and recovering and moving on from a blindsided breakup is to just accept that this situation was not what I thought it was. Maybe you thought the relationship was better than the person on the other side did.

Maybe you thought this person was more interested or committed to you than they actually were. All kinds of different things. You thought that the person’s intentions or feelings were more similar to your own. And It’s very important to do some real digging and unpacking into how did I see this situation and how was that different than the reality?

This is difficult work to do on your own, you can certainly journal about it talk to your cat about it process it out loud, but truly, I would recommend that it’s, if it’s within your means, to connect with a really good therapist or breakup recovery coach who knows what they’re doing, who has a background in relationships specifically, so ideally a marriage and family therapist, to be able to come in vulnerably and authentically and say, I was in a relationship where the person on the other side was having a really different experience that than I was, and I would like to understand how that happened and what I missed.

So because when we have the answers to that, we can then begin to develop ourselves in different ways that we wouldn’t have been able to before. And also, just to say out loud, I think. at this point if you’re still listening to this, because, what I’m saying is pretty radically different than what I think a lot of people in my sphere might say about this situation.

It wasn’t you. It was them. It had nothing to do with you. They just weren’t emotionally available, whatever. All of which might be true. Maybe you did connect with somebody who wasn’t able to have a relationship with you, but in, from my perspective, to put all of like blame on other people or all of the responsibility on other people is so limiting for you, it deprives you of you.

Empowerment and of growth opportunities that were so vital. So what? I think many of us can like flee to when we’re in these really difficult situations are things that Help us put our self esteem back together and it’s also true You know that when you’re going through a breakup your self esteem takes a nosedive, right?

like it’s so easy to beat yourself up and these are all the things that I did wrong and if I was smarter, funnier, prettier, like whatever, all the things, then it would have been different. Then I would have been loved, and nobody’s asking you to do that. That is not actually productive work.

What is really productive is to be asking yourself, how did I miss this? Did I just get really excited about the situation and because of that fail to have accurate empathy for how this person on the other side was really feeling. There was an empathy disconnect because empathy is just that. It’s really like understanding accurately how another person feels.

So that’s something to explore. Another thing that can be very productive is, when I think back, my partner was trying to talk to me about things. I think I may have interpreted it as they’re being chronically unhappy or mad at me or critical or, like trying to get into fights with me about stuff.

But actually, maybe those were the moments. when they were trying to address things with me. Maybe they didn’t know how to do it perfectly. We weren’t in couples counseling, because I didn’t want to go to couples counseling. But, so maybe that’s the best they could do. But what was going on with me that I had such a hard time, letting that in?

When I reflect on my own experience, I would, shut them down. I would say, oh no, it’ll be okay. Yes, we’ll change these things. But then I didn’t follow through. What was going on with me during those moments? Because Getting the answer to that question and being able to do some personal growth work around that is going to be vitally important for you to have a successful and happier and enduring relationship the next time around because if you go into a new situation doing the same old thing, you’re likely to have a similar experience that you did this past time.

And I think we can both agree that what you’re going through right now is horrible. You don’t want to do it again. So it’s really important that you do this work. maybe on the other side you will be a better listener. You will be able to engage in constructive conflict in a more direct way.

It will become perhaps easier, or if not easier, maybe more important for you to be Prioritizing somebody else’s experience as much as your own. Again, I know that this may be hard to hear, but I want to be a good friend to you. My, my job here on the Love, Happiness and Success podcast is to really be your partner in growth.

And growth comes from challenge. This is why it’s important to get into therapy or coaching with somebody who knows you and cares enough about you to challenge you and ask you hard questions and encourage you to think about, what was it? about the way that I was showing up or the things that I were doing or not doing that contributed to this outcome.

If I was in a relationship with somebody who was avoidant and concealing information from me, how did I do that? How could I have gotten a better read on who this person really was, because I was missing stuff? What kinds of questions would I be asking somebody next time? And just to say I have never been in a therapeutic or coaching relationship with somebody who really Had zero idea that something was off.

People are incredibly powerful, more powerful than they know. And your brain is vast. It’s like the cosmos. 10% maybe of our brains are what is thinking and, constructing ideas and envisioning things and, solving problems. Very small. Most of our brain exists for the purpose of understanding our environment in non conscious ways and particularly understanding other people.

And there’s a lot of information that gets transferred back and forth between humans that is non conscious. But is very real and legitimate and I, when I am able to sit with people and unpack things, have commonly found that even if they didn’t know what was going on, they felt that something was going on.

It didn’t informationally add up the facts weren’t there. And so when they turned the spotlight of their rational mind onto the situation, I was like, oh, okay, maybe it’s nothing. But there was this other part of their knowing their system that, that was having a different experience, it could feel.

It could feel it. And so what a huge opportunity for growth is right there is learning how to pay more attention to that part of yourself that knows things that you don’t know. Have a reason to know and following up on that something. Something does feel off. I feel like we’re a little disconnected. I feel like maybe I don’t know the whole story.

How can I broach that as a courageous conversation? And it often involves, I think, using a more emotional and intuitive part of your mind. Because particularly if you are in a relationship with somebody who is working pretty hard to conceal information from you, it’s very difficult because this intellectual part of your mind will be fighting with this feeling part of your mind.

And also just to validate this experience. If that situation is happening in the context of a relationship where you’re like really excited about that person and really like them and really want it to work out, there is also like this emotional part of you that is obscuring both of those things, the informational part, but also that intuition part that can be very difficult.

To get a read on. So I just wanted to validate that’s an experience too, but part of the growth opportunity here Is to gain awareness of what are my own patterns? What about my way of being made me vulnerable in this situation? What could I do differently next time potentially? And also, I am aware that maybe I project my thoughts and feelings on to other people I need to be more careful about that next time.

I need to be more curious about other people Especially if my little whispering voice in the back of my mind is telling me somebody’s off, here’s an opportunity for me to practice trusting myself. And then also, and I think we can all benefit from these strategies in any of our relationships, but I think whenever you’ve gone through a blindsided relationship, people on the other side, who are doing this growth work, often come to the conclusion That if they had a more emotionally intimate relationship with a person on the other side, they would have not been like able to protect themselves more, but like they would have had more information.

Maybe they were taking things at face value, they weren’t broaching conversations, if their partner wanted to change the subject or didn’t feel like talking about something, they would just let it go and, emotional intimacy is an art of, there are ways of developing emotional intimacy.

That’s a lot of what we do in couples counseling and relationship coaching, but even that in itself. If you’re in a relationship next time with somebody who is holding you at arm’s length while you’re trying to have a more emotionally intimate connection with them, that in itself can be a sign that there are other things going on that you don’t know about, perhaps that they don’t want you to know about, and that right there might be good enough for you to say, I’m gonna go now because this feels off to me.

I’m trying to have authentic conversations with you. You’re not really engaging with me. I feel like you’re telling me what I want to hear, but this isn’t like really going where we need to go. Let me know if you would like to have the kind of relationship that I would like to have with you.

But until then, I’m, I don’t think I’m going to do this with you anymore. You will be better able to have those kinds of conversations with somebody else in the future. And then of course, if in listening to this, you’re coming to the conclusion that what was missed was, just not that you didn’t have all the information, but for whatever reason you were your partner was trying to communicate with you, trying to share, trying to work on this with you, and you had a lot of reasons why what they were saying wasn’t true or that it didn’t make sense or you didn’t want to engage with it. That is fantastic for you to be working on really actively with a relationship counselor who can help you understand what is going on with that and what.

Does that need to look like differently next time so that you can have a different experience and a healthy, enduring relationship going forward? So with those things in mind, that, that is what the growth process will entail if you do this seriously and you do it well. And from that growth comes healing.

If you don’t do that growth, there’s going to be a lot of unfinished emotional business. It could be five years later and you will still feel skittish in new relationships. If you skip over the growth work because you won’t have figured out what was really going on, you won’t have figured out what maybe you did miss and needed to do differently in order to protect yourself or you have a different outcome.

And even if it was a long time ago and you spent a lot of time crying and you convince yourself that wasn’t the right person for me, there’s always going to be a part of you that is. going to feel like in a new situation because you will not feel genuinely confident in your ability to manage this differently next time because the work hasn’t been done yet.

So just, you have to do the work. There’s no other way. People all the time, they’re like, give me advice about this situation and I feel like I turn into a broken record. This is not a situation in which advice is helpful. This is you gotta do the thing. It’s experiential. It is making contact with formerly unknown parts of yourself and thinking.

Oh, I didn’t realize that about myself, or this makes sense. My mother was a powder keg, and whenever she was upset when I was a kid, I needed to work real hard to just calm that down, make it better, here, have a cookie, like whatever I needed to do. Because if I engaged with her, it would have been World War III.

So then, when I grew up and got married and was with somebody, when they got elevated, all this old mom stuff came up for me and I couldn’t hear it. I had to shut it down, fine, here’s a cookie, I’ll be in the garage. And in doing so, missed opportunities to have really important conversations about my relationship that were necessary and that would have allowed me to have a different outcome.

So it’s time to dig in to the thing. It’s time to dig in. Then, once you have done all of that fantastic growth work, you will come out the other side having been transformed because of the experience. When we do legitimate growth work it changes us. We shift from being somebody who missed things or who, didn’t know what they didn’t know about things we will, because of that growth work, be able To achieve more secure and solid relationships going forward because we now have the capacity to do that with people.

The growth work that you will do. On the path of healing will help you be more curious about other people will give you more confidence in broaching difficult conversations. It will help you understand how to develop more authentically emotionally intimate conversations so that you really do know people on deeper levels.

It will help you identify any avoidant tendencies that you may have in yourself. And also avoidant tendencies that other people are coming to the table with like you’ll be able to spot those more easily. Additionally, it’s going to help you get comfy with dark emotions, either your dark emotions.

So anger, fear, anxiety. Pain that may have led you to avoid conversations or not speak up or whatever it was Maintain relationships with people who weren’t good for you. Like I don’t know what’s at the bottom of that particular but getting comfortable with your own dark emotions will help you swim your way through those and not let them stop you next time.

And also getting comfortable with the dark emotions of other people, when other people are hurting or trying to communicate with you or having a problem, it becomes much easier to stay in the ring with them and be like, okay, tell me more about what’s going on with you. That really upset you. I feel bad that upset you, but I care about you and I want to hear more about this so that I can be a better partner to you next time.

It takes a lot of comfort with dark emotions to be able to have those kinds of conversations and, working with a really good counselor or coach will help you be able to do that. So that is the growth work. Because of having been transformed, you will feel more secure and safe in relationships going forward.

And you will also, I think, be better able to see the work that people need to do when you have done your own work. So for example if you have dug in to your own tendency, maybe to avoid conflict or let things go or, minimize things to try to manage big emotions, you’ll be able to see that a lot more clearly in other people.

So if you do start dating again, be able to understand that. Oh, I have connected with a person who works really hard to avoid conflict, maybe not just with me, but being able to see the way that they avoid conflict with other people could give you just a heads up. This is how they operate.

I need to be much more curious about what’s going on inside of this person because a very low conflict person. Would rather break up with you they will give up on the relationship before they will fight with you And that’s why I also say on this podcast which also surprises people, you know that Having a relationship with open conflict is a very positive thing.

It means that people care enough to fight with you about it. Now obviously there’s a difference between destructive, toxic, abusive kinds of conflict, but courageous conflict where people are authentically talking about difficult things that bring up a lot of feelings for other people. If you’re in a relationship like that, it is a gift.

Just wanted to say that out loud while I have the opportunity. And also, one of the relationship warning signs that many people experience like that look back of what happened in that blindsided relationship is that, particularly at the end, there was not a lot of conflict in the relationship because the person had already given up.

And they didn’t realize it yet. So like when conflict stops, that could be a bad sign, particularly like if nothing has changed that would warrant conflict stopping. So growth in yourself will help you feel safe in new situations. And in order to do that, to do your own growth work, you cannot make it all about the other person as tempting as it is to do that.

They were a narcissist. They are avoidant. They’re incapable of love. Maybe that is all true. I don’t know. But you are still in a relationship with a narcissist who is avoidant or did all the things. So you have to be able to tolerate the discomfort of asking yourself that, that power question, what was it about my way of being, my hopes and dreams, my communication or lack thereof, my, vulnerability to getting Connected with people who weren’t able to have the kind of relationship that I want to have, what’s going on with me and what can I work on now so that I grow and develop myself so that I am better able to manage that differently next time, that is the definition of empowerment in order to have empowerment.

power. You need to be in control of yourself and your own process, not giving all the power away to other people to decide what kind of relationship they’re going to have with you. You get to decide this because when you know what it was about your process or way of being in this past relationship, then you develop this authentic confidence in yourself to say, I know for a fact that I am better equipped to manage, a relationship next time.

And that is what will ease your anxiety going forward. Yeah, you know what? There might always be part of you that wonders I had a blindsided breakup once before. Is there something else going on that I don’t know about? There can always be that kind of tentative feeling, but the degree to which you do your own work and gain confidence in yourself and trust yourself.

self to be able to navigate these situations competently next time to the degree you do that work is the degree to which you will feel more secure and comfortable going into new relationships and also the degree to which they’re likely to have better outcomes. Even if you learn enough to identify a relationship that you don’t want to continue.

That’s great. Go ahead and do that rather than have it turn into a situation that wound up being a surprising and traumatizing blindside breakup because you don’t need to do that again. Once is plenty, right? So anyway, so I hope that this was helpful for you. I feel like we talked about a lot of different things.

We talked about blindsided relationships, why they happen, the growth process, and then how real authentic healing is tied to that growth work. So I hope that gave you some clarity and direction on what to do with all of this. And of course, if you would like to do any of this growth work with me or with my practice.

I invite you to come to growingself. com. You can schedule a free consultation with me or one of the clinicians on our team. We have a lot of experience in helping people with this through breakup recovery work, but also the fact that everybody on our team who does relational work is a licensed marriage and family therapist or licensure eligible marriage and family therapist.

I should say we do have some fun. early career clinicians who are working towards licensure, but they’re very competent. I would not work with anybody who isn’t. And then hey, also, I promised you resources. So now, because YouTube is so exciting, I can actually share my screen with you and show you a couple of things.

Okay, so if you come to my website, come to growingself. com and in the main nav, you will find the healing from heartbreak. So come into therapy and life coaching, the divorce and breakup recovery section. And in here you’re going to find so many different resources,

also, we have a online breakup recovery group that is. a live online group that is facilitated by one of my colleagues who specializes in divorce and breakup recovery. She is fantastic. You’ll also find access to a lot of the articles and advice that we have on our blog at growingself. com for you. If you come to the blog and podcast section over here. So growingself. com forward slash blog hyphen podcast, come into the happiness collection. And from there you will find healing after heartbreak. If you enter into this collection, you will find all kinds of. articles that we have written for you, some by me, some by other experts on our team, with all kinds of different facets of the relationship ending experience.

You’ll find new posts, you’ll find old posts, you’ll find links to the past podcasts that I’ve mentioned here. And you will also find a Spotify playlist that I have put together for you with all kinds of different episodes of the podcast related to this experience of going through a hard breakup. Because I want you to have all of the support that you need and deserve.

Of course, come and find me on. Instagram as well. I’m trying to be more Instagram present and show my face there. So you can come hang out with me. And I’m dropping little tips and short videos about what to do in these kinds of situations. So I hope that those are helpful for you too.

You can be part of the conversation if you leave comments or DMs, I will write you back. And of course, thanks for subscribing to the podcast, either on YouTube or following us on Spotify, on Apple, wherever you like to listen.

Okay. Thank you so much. And I’ll talk to you next time.

In the meantime, here’s more butthole servers.

Therapy Questions, Answered.

Our expert therapists have generously created an entire library of articles, activities, and podcasts to support you on your journey of growth. Please visit our “Happiness Collections” to browse our content collections, and take advantage of all the free resources we have for you. Or, if you’d like to educate yourself about the process and logistics of therapy, please help yourself to our “therapy questions” knowledge base below. It’s all for you!

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If you have a loved one who is struggling in their relationship, you can help them get help by “gifting” therapy. Here’s how…

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