Why Breaking Up Was The Right Choice

Why Breaking Up Was The Right Choice

Why Breaking Up Was The Right Choice

You may be asking yourself if breaking up was the right choice. One thing I’ve learned as a marriage and divorce counselor, and as the author of Exaholics: Breaking Your Addiction to an Ex Love, is that there are fundamental differences between relationships that end and repairable ones. Relationships that can be mended have higher levels of commitment, compassion, and respect than relationships that fail. And as sad as it is when couples decide to split, in many cases, it’s really a good thing for both partners. Accepting this can help to heal a broken heart.

Seeing the “Good” in Your Break Up and Why Breaking Up was the Right Choice

Of course, breakups are hard and often incredibly painful to go through – even if breaking up was the right choice. There is loss and grieving to do when your heart is broken. It’s especially difficult if you’re not the one who called things off. You have the right to be sad and hurt.

At the same time, from my perspective of walking through the “stay or go” experience with so many people, I understand that in reality, this breakup was probably a blessing for you in the long run – breaking up was likely the right choice for both of you. While you may not be ready to “get over it,” you can take comfort in knowing that there are reasons that this breakup may be beneficial to you both.

On this episode of the Love, Happiness and Success Podcast, I’ll share with you why breaking up was the right choice, why this relationship needed to end, and why your life will be better for it.

Listen & Subscribe to the Podcast

Why Breaking Up Was The Right Choice

Free, Expert Advice — For You.

Subscribe To The Love, Happiness, and Success Podcast

Dr. Lisa Marie Bobby: This is Dr. Lisa Marie Bobby, and you’re listening to The Love, Happiness, and Success podcast.

[Intro Song: Pearl by Throwing Muses]

Dr. Lisa: That, as you may or may not know, is Pearl by Throwing Muses, a mysterious song, I think, which many people of my vintage have attempted to interpret over the years. But I have always taken it to be about someone who is clearly in a not-so-great relationship in which they lose themselves and may or may not, finally, get up the nerve to leave at the very end; it’s ambiguous. You’ll have to listen to the whole end, the thing at the end, and tell me what you think. But anyway, I thought it was appropriate because today, we’re going to be talking about breakups from another point of view. I haven’t seen this one talked about that much. So I thought it might be helpful to you guys if you’re going through a breakup. There’s a lot of things about how to recover from a breakup, how to heal from a breakup. But, truly, I am a marriage counselor, right? 

So, I’ve worked with so many couples. A lot of couples who are able to mend their relationships and go on to not just heal their relationships but have better relationships than ever before. That totally happens. Sometimes, I work with couples who decide, at the end of the day, to split up. I have learned over the years that there are qualitative differences between relationships that end and relationships in which people get it together. I think—this is a strong statement—but many times when people finally do decide to break up, on some level, I think that it’s a really good thing. There are other times when people surprise me and they decide to break up. I think that they could have done something different in order to heal the relationship. But there are other times when it’s really I think for the best for both people involved. 

That’s what I’m going to be talking about today is just this different perspective, a reframe, if you will, to help you view your breakup in a positive way, as opposed to a tragedy, even though I know it’s probably very painful. But before we get started, let me do some housekeeping stuff as usual. If we haven’t officially met yet, I’m Dr. Lisa Marie Bobby. I am trained as a psychologist, a marriage counselor, and a life coach. I have a private practice in Denver, Colorado. I started doing my Love, Happiness, and Success podcast, as a way to just put more information out there in the world, thinking that more people than the 20 to 30 that I meet with on a weekly basis could benefit from what we’re talking about. So that’s why I am making this available to you. If you’d like to listen to more podcasts or check out my blog, I have written articles as well. You can find me at drlisabobby.com, which is my blog. You can also subscribe to my podcast on iTunes. You’ll see a link there on my blog; get access to a lot of other articles.

Also, take my free online happiness class, which I just launched a couple of weeks ago, and I’m super excited about it. It’s completely free. It’s about an hour long. In it, I’ll walk you through the technique that I think is most effective in helping my clients change their mood, and really learn how to be positive and feel better, no matter what’s going on. So if you’re going through a breakup or any other stuff, you might want to check that out. You can find that also at drlisabobby.com or my practice website which is growingself.com. If we’re not friends yet, please come find me on Facebook, facebook.com/drlisabobby. So we can stay in touch, and you can get updates and notifications for me when I publish new podcasts or articles that you might be interested in. 

So. Okay, enough about me. Let’s talk about breakups. And let me tell you why your breakup was probably a good thing. Again, obviously, I don’t know all the circumstances about your particular breakup, but I’m going to talk about some things that I see as being the benefits for many people going through a breakup. This might apply to you as well. Really, there are three major things that make a breakup a positive thing in the long run. 

First of all, number one, the reason that you probably broke up is that there was an unresolvable problem. There are situations, very occasionally, when people break up over solvable problems. Let me tell you what I think of as a solvable problem. A solvable problem is when people are upset with each other because their feelings have gotten hurt and they get stuck in this negative cycle of interaction. So relationships are systemic, meaning that if I’m weird and grumpy with you one day, you’ll be like, “Oh, what’s up with Lisa?” You’ll be weird and a little bit distant with me. Then I didn’t know why you just started being distant and weird with me all of a sudden. I’ll be like, “Oh, man. Why are you being like that? I don’t think I like you, anyway.” Then I act more hostile towards you. It’s just… and we’re off to the races. People start reacting negatively to each other’s negative reactions, essentially. When couples get stuck in that, it can be really hard to get out of that and see what caused it, what’s going on. Most of the time, it’s really vulnerable attachment needs that are contributing to those bad feelings. When we can get there and really start talking about what’s at the core of the issue, people are able to reconnect emotionally. The other stuff is just details. As long as there’s that secure attachment there. 

But here’s the thing. That’s not always what’s going on in a relationship. There are some times when people… Everybody calms down, and everybody feels better and sees each other’s good intentions. It’s not negative reactions. We put the fire out. The smoke clears. At the end of the day, realize that it is just not a good match. People find themselves in relationships with someone with whom they are fundamentally incompatible. That is a difficult situation to be in, particularly, obviously, if you have a family. But let me just explain a little bit more about why this can happen. 

Here’s my theory: it takes a really long time to get to know someone. You need to be able to observe people over time in lots of different situations in order to understand their character, and figure out how do they handle stress? Who are they when they’re comfortable and just being themselves versus trying to be pleasing and attractive? Who are they when they’re feeling angry or threatened? How do they solve problems? Do they solve problems by lying, or avoiding, or controlling, or getting drunk and running away? I don’t know. Or do they solve problems collaboratively? Are they able to move towards a problem and figure it out with you, as opposed to handling stress in unhealthy ways? Other big questions: how do they show affection? Or how do they expect to receive affection? It can be very different between two people in terms of those expectations. What are their expectations of you in general? Are they flexible? Or are they rigid? Are their needs and feelings uniquely special and important, like more special and important than yours are? Or are they able to make space for you and give to you as well as receive? 

These are only some of the questions that are really important. They’re also almost impossible to know, really unanswerable in the beginning stages of a relationship when people are still being really careful around each other and are still working very hard to win the love and approval of each other. It’s only over time when people relax that you can understand who it is that you’re dealing with. It’s only, truthfully, when people are stressed out or upset or in difficult situations sometimes that their true character is really revealed. When you first meet somebody, you have no idea who they are. You only know who you think they are. On first or second or third dates or even several weeks or months into a relationship, we’re still only interacting with the most pleasing and attractive parts of each other. 

This is true for me and probably for everybody. We try harder. We’re more generous and kind, and patient, and tolerant, and we give gifts and we’re excited to see each other. Flattery flows. When we have that drumbeat of intense, new, romantic love pulsing through our hearts and our minds, everything is special and intense and we think each other is wonderful. It’s usually in that space that we make commitments and we get attached to each other and we start moving towards moving in and getting married. Then, when we go through nesting and furniture shopping, and that delusional haze of smittenness is finally starting to wear off when that energy fades, then stress starts to happen. We have stuff to take care of, and work becomes more important to get, and we have to maintain our possessions, and make plans, and have friends, and start re-engaging with life again as a couple. Then, we begin to see the realities of each other’s personalities. That can be good, hopefully, but the truth is that we’re all a mixed bag. 

We all have our good points. We all have our limitations, and we have our quirks, and we have our personalities. It’s also true that some of what our partners want us to be or need us to be in order for them to feel safe and loved by us may or may not really be within our ability to provide long term. Obviously, all of us, there are some things that we can learn how to do better in service of our relationships. But a lot of who we are is simply stable personality traits that probably aren’t going to change. A big piece of having a good relationship as we learned last time if you heard my interview with Dr. Helen Fisher, who’s amazing, and she’s done a ton of research into personality and attraction, and her take is, we really need to learn how to love and appreciate each other for who we are and focus on the good stuff. Let the bad stuff go within reason because a lot of the things that we could view as being negative personality traits are simply part of the package. So to focus on the good parts and grow those strengths is really the difference between having a good relationship and a bad relationship many times. 

Here’s the deal. In my experience, when people finally do break up, as I mentioned, it’s very rarely because of those solvable problems, misunderstandings, “communication problems,” or having emotional reactions to each other. Because when those negative interactional cycles flare-up, people really do behave badly towards each other. But it’s still resolvable if we can talk about it and get to the core issue. But in relationships that ultimately end, it’s when again, that the fire goes out, the smoke of hurt feelings and anger clears. There are just fundamental differences that make two people very uncomfortable with each other. Not just uncomfortable but also that they feel unable to accept or appreciate those differences or even work with them. That’s tough because, again, we all have rough edges. We all have things that do need to get smoothed out in service of our relationships. 

I used to keep some of these lovely little river stones in my office.  I’d often show them to couples that I worked with as a metaphor for what we do in relationships and what relationships do to us. Just like stones tumbling around in a river getting bashed against rocks and bigger than them, we, too, get bashed against forces larger than ourselves sometimes, over the course of our relationships. Our sharp corners get knocked off throughout the years. That does help us. We become smoother, more accommodating, more gracious, more positive, oftentimes. But a pink rock will always be a pink rock, no matter what shape it is. A gray stone won’t ever change color and all of a sudden be blue. It’ll always be gray. Intrinsically, we are who we are. If you cannot tolerate the truth of who your partner really is, what makes them happy, what they think about, how they experience love, what their hopes are, what their dreams are, how they engage with the world, what they do when they’re stressed or feeling overwhelmed, or how they experience connection, how they show love; if you can’t deal with that, if you need them to be fundamentally different on some core level in order to feel happy, or in order to love them, chances are this breakup is really a good thing. 

Likewise, of course, if you’re with someone who is absolutely unable or unwilling to understand you, or appreciate who you are and work with that, it’s just not a match. You deserve to be loved. If this relationship is showing you that that is not possible, that there are these fundamental incompatibilities between the two of you, this breakup is a good thing. The reason why is really, that point number two, which is that this breakup may just be saving you from a life of misery. I know that sounds like a very dramatic statement. But I believe that you deserve to be loved, and respected, and cherished for who you are. That doesn’t mean that you get to be some entitled narcissist and go, “Well, you just have to love me for the way I am.” And not have to expect that you would be accommodating or care about the needs and rights and feelings of other people because you do. We all have to show up and be considerate of our partners and try to put our best selves forward. 

But at the end of the day, there simply has to be a basic liking and appreciation for what you bring to the table. Again, I’ve worked with a number of couples over the years for whom the primary core issue, after all the fighting is over, is just a deep infuriation with each other’s existence: the way they breathe, the way they walk, the way they hang a towel, the fact that they need to have some time alone, or the fact that they like to be social, stuff that’s just deeply offensive to their partner. Or, sometimes, and this is even sadder, I think, one person can just be so self-focused. It’s like the other doesn’t even exist. It’s like the one is just a train barreling down the tracks in their own direction, and their partner can run and keep up or not. 

But when there’s that level of disregard for a partner, people eventually will give up, and turn away from the relationship when there’s just nothing there for them emotionally. Again, these are fundamental things that are very unlikely to change. Imagine going through a whole life, the next 5 years, 10 years, 20 years, 40 years, raising a family with someone who is consistently disregarding you, devaluing you, degrading you, or just basically telling you that you’re never good enough in one way or another. How awful would that be? Because this is your life. This is it. Just to be with somebody who doesn’t have that basic respect or regard for you, think of going through your whole life that way. 

When I think about that, it just seems like misery from start to finish. Either you become so angry and resentful with them for not giving you the love that you do need, or it’s just soul-crushing. When people internalize that thing and take it on board, it turns into huge destruction to self-confidence and feelings of self-worth. People, sometimes, begin to feel like they’re not worthy of being loved and they start to make up elaborate reasons for why they’re being mistreated. It’s because of some personal shortcoming, that they deserve it. It can get really bad. It’s beyond the scope of this conversation. But at the end of the day, people who are in really abusive relationships, like domestic violence kind of abusive, people are always like, “Why do they stay?” It’s because, in my experience, people who stay genuinely believe that they deserve the mistreatment. If they could be better, if they could be more, if they could finally live up to their partner’s expectations, the abuse would stop. Then they would have this “loving partner” that they see sometimes. 

Hopefully, we’re talking about this on a much lower level when it comes to your experience. But at the same time, being in a relationship where you don’t have those basic needs for emotional safety and security met, it takes a toll on you emotionally. I think that you need to protect yourself from that and not spend a lifetime trying to win the love of another person who might not ever love you for yourself. I think that if you are constantly getting beaten down or rejected by the person who’s supposed to love you the most, getting out of a relationship, where there’s only contempt or rejection, can be an enormously healthy decision. Again, because that alternative is to stay in a relationship where you lose yourself completely or have to become someone that you’re not in order to stay with this particular person, which can really be dehumanizing. It’s not good for you. But it’s also not really good for your partner either. You both deserve to be in a relationship that is built on authenticity, and on mutual respect, and appreciation, not control, or contempt, or criticism. 

I also know that some people, by the time they get far enough down the road to figure out what’s going on, they have children. I have so much admiration and respect for people who do choose to sacrifice their own happiness for a period of time in order to create a more stable and happy life for their kids. I think that that is an okay decision. It is okay to stay together for the children, at least for a period of time. I know that some people don’t feel the same way. Obviously, there are decisions that people make that are completely appropriate to leave if there’s abuse, or violence, or just a super toxic atmosphere where they’re screaming and shouting. That isn’t good for kids either, to be in the context of a really toxic and conflictual marriage. That’s traumatizing for children, too. So at some level, we have to pick the lesser of two evils. 

What I’m saying is that it can be a very sad situation either way if you have to stay in a relationship where you’re unlikely to ever get your needs met for the benefit of your children to protect them to keep them in a stable home, and to not disrupt their lives, or to have to leave. Both of those are very difficult decisions. The punchline of all this is to go slow and figure out who people are before you get involved too, too deeply. But at the end of the day, if this is a really toxic situation, or if you’re in a space where you’re realizing that it’s not a good fit, and you haven’t had children yet, probably a good plan to go ahead and go.

But then, once you do, that brings us to the third and final point of why a relationship ending can be really a wonderful thing. My perspective is also that when a relationship ends, it often turns into an amazing growth opportunity, often for both people. This goes back to my philosophy. But I genuinely believe that the challenging experiences that life throws at us can be gifts that are the most amazing teachers that we’ll ever get if we can use them as a doorway to growth. Our relationships can be especially powerful in this way, particularly when they end because our relationships give us the opportunity to reflect on ourselves, on our feelings. We can observe how we interact with other people. “Why do I react that way when somebody does XYZ?” And, “Oh, yeah. Maybe I haven’t really worked through that old stuff yet. Thanks, Dad, or whatever.” 

But we also get more insight as to what we really need in order to feel valued, in order to feel loved. Our relationships also shape us. When we’re partnered with a new person, we might have new life experiences, make new friends, meet new people, have new experiences. Our relationships can really expand us in some important ways. That’s worth being grateful for. Wherever the relationship finally went, we can still be grateful for the way that it helped us grow or changed our lives. Because we wouldn’t have had that opportunity to grow had it not been for that relationship. We also can really get to know ourselves better through our relationships. We can become more aware of the areas that we need to work on and what those rough corners are that really do need to get smoothed down, no matter who we’re with. Maybe we can get a little anxious, or controlling, or rigid, or flaky, or whatever it is. That’s our stuff to work on. Especially, seeing patterns in relationships where people are telling us the same things. We’re getting the same feedback over and over. You got to say, “Oh, yeah. Okay, maybe, that is something that I need to work on.”

But, also, our relationships, I think, most importantly, can help illuminate what our core values really are. The essence is when we are in a relationship that fails, we get a clear insight into what we are not willing to negotiate, what we cannot give up to please another person, what is just us. We also get more information about what the necessary ingredients are for us to feel safe, or happy, or loved in a relationship. By being in a relationship that ends, we get a much clearer picture of what it is that we really need to be in a successful relationship. Then, we can take that understanding and self-awareness back out into the world with us if you want to have a new relationship and say, “This is what I did last time. This is the kind of person that I was with that didn’t work, or I jumped into the situation too quickly. I’m going to learn from these experiences and go slower and make sure that I have a person who has this kind of character because, at the end of the day, this is what’s really important to me.” 

Many times, the more superficial characteristics that people think are really important to them when they’re dating: they’re funny, they’re talkative, they’re outgoing, or they’re smart, or they have a good job, those are the things that are certainly attraction. Those are the kind of things that tend to become less and less important at the end of the day. Certainly, as we get older… I don’t know if you’ve ever heard that saying, “Would you rather have a friend who is interesting or a friend who is loyal?” Oftentimes, younger people are attracted to the excitement and somebody who’s interesting, and vivacious, and fun, and funny, and popular, and all of these sparkling people. Through relationships, and not that those aren’t wonderful qualities and that many people do have high-quality character and can also exhibit those qualities. 

But over time, really finding that the more subtle kinds of characteristics like loyalty, or responsibility, or bravery in the sense of doing things that are uncomfortable in service of a relationship, or in service of having a good life, or in service of love, that those are the kinds of qualities that really sustain a relationship and what people tend to look for more as they get older. But you don’t know that until you go to the rodeo and get bashed around a little bit. It’s when you pick yourself back up, and you learn from those mistakes, and say, “Okay, what about that didn’t work? What do I need to look for next time that our vision becomes more clear?” And we are able to dial into focus what love really looks like and what it really means to us. By using our relationships as a vehicle for growth and expanding our relationships of ourselves and of others, we are able to evolve. In that evolution, we become much more likely to recognize a good match when we meet one next time. That is the third benefit I see of going through a breakup is growing and having a better idea of what to do next time. 

So there it is, the three reasons why this breakup was probably a good thing is, number one, there were fundamental incompatibilities. Number two, in recognizing that and ending this relationship, you probably saved yourself from a lifetime of misery. Number three, you’re exiting this relationship with a much clearer picture of what a good relationship means to you. So take that with you. I know that going through a breakup is so hard, but I hope that hearing this perspective from the eyes of somebody who’s just been observing the process of lots of different people for a long time, I hope that helps. Because, truly, so often, in couples where there are these fundamental incompatibilities and people decide to end, not uncommon at all for me to maintain a relationship with one person in that partnership and just do individual therapy or coaching with them. I can’t think of a time that I haven’t seen people grow, and bloom, and move on to become much happier, honestly, and more satisfied, individually, than they were in the relationship. 

So, just take that, and put that little kernel of hope into the sadness that you might be feeling because I also know that the loss and the sadness of a breakup are very real, too. But I just want you to have hope that it is going to get better and that there are better things out there for you. So anyway, that’s it for today. Here is the full version of Pearl by Throwing Muses. You listen to it and see what it means to you. Okay, bye-bye.

[Outro Song]

Episode Highlights

Why Breaking Up Was The Right Choice

  • There is an Unresolvable Problem
    • Sometimes, couples break up over solvable problems, which is unfortunate.
    • However, couples can simply be incompatible with one another. 
    • When you cannot accept who your partner is, it’s best to let them go.
  • You Save Yourself from a Life of Misery
    • You deserve to be loved, cherished, and appreciated for who you are.
    • Don’t stay in a relationship and lose yourself in the process.
    • Go slow, and figure out if you are compatible before you get involved too deeply.
  • Getting Out of a Relationship Allows Growth
    • A break-up gives us an opportunity to reflect on ourselves. 
    • Our relationships also shape us. In some ways, they allow us to expand our lives.
    • Relationships also illuminate what our core values are. 
    • So, be grateful for your past relationship and know that it has prepared you for something better. 

Growing Self Counseling and Coaching

Let’s Talk: Start With a Free Consultation

If you’re ready to grow, we’re here to help. Connect with us, and let us know your hopes and goals. We’ll follow up with recommendations, and will help you schedule a first, free consultation.

Divorce and Breakup Recovery Resources


Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *