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Ask Dr. Zoe – How Do I Learn From My Role in a Breakup?

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‘Just Thinking’ Asked:

How do you analyze past relationships in which you’ve been hurt a lot, but analyze them to see if you actually had a part or caused some of the issues? It’s hard to get past your personal bias, how can you do that?

Dr. Zoe Answered:

Most people never do this! We all assume that we were right and our partner was wrong. Although that feels good, there’s no growth in that. So kudos to you for looking at this.

First, you must always assume that you had a part in it. Blaming the other person stunts your growth. I don’t care how small your part was, it was there.

Relationships don’t happen in a vacuum. Sometimes your part was just picking wrong or staying too long. Sometimes you may have almost single-handedly destroyed the relationship. Maturity is being willing to admit it. Be nice to your future self by squeezing all the lessons you can out of this experience so you won’t have to repeat it.

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Taking responsibility is not the same as blaming yourself, though.

You can recognize your part and it doesn’t make it your fault.

The double benefit is that taking responsibility in this aspect of your life will help you take responsibility in all aspects of your life.

So, how do you do this? It’s often hard to see our behavior patterns when we are in the midst of interacting. These patterns are usually early-learned and deeply-seeded. We are in the proverbial woods and we can’t see the forest for the trees, so it helps to elicit some help.

If you ever get the chance after a break-up, ask your partner what he felt went wrong in the relationship. Pay attention to what past partners have said with an open mind. If you’re still feeling too hurt to face it, write it down and look at it later after you’ve gotten some distance from the relationship.

When we are hurt, we get defensive. We are protecting ourselves. But we don’t learn or grow from a state of defensiveness, only from a state of openness.

If there is a pattern in what your past partners are saying, you need to believe it! If he’s the only one saying it and you know he had an issue to begin with, take it with a grain of salt.

Sometimes the things people tell us about ourselves feel way off base.

Years ago, I had a few people tell me that they felt that I was cold and emotionless in a relationship with them (I’m sure they didn’t use such strong words, but that’s what my hurt self deduced from what they said).

This floored me because I know how rich and deep my emotions go. Eventually, I had to acknowledge that if more than one or two people feel this way about me, then that is what I am projecting to them for some reason and it was my job to fix it. And I did.

I realized that I was acknowledging, processing and feeling my feelings often, but mostly internally. I failed to express them in a vulnerable way to those I was in a relationship with. They were left feeling like I didn’t care for them as much as I really did and they, in turn, responded with their defensiveness.

When I was able to hear their criticism openly instead of dismissing it, I made a few simple changes and my relationships improved.

Ask your friends for honest feedback about what they feel your part was in the breakup – from their point of view. If they love you, they’ll tell you, even if they didn’t initially volunteer it.

Another sure-fire indicator that some issues in the relationship had to do with you is how easily you were able to apologize when you did wrong. If you didn’t easily say sorry but instead found a way to always make it his fault, you probably had some pretty big blinders on.

No one’s perfect. It takes two to tango. Being open to owning your part of the dance is the first step to better relationships in the future.

You’ve got this! it just takes a little grit and grace.

“Be nice to your future self by squeezing all the lessons you can out of this experience so you won’t have to repeat it.” Dr. Zoe Shaw

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Dr. Zoe is a licensed psychotherapist and relationship expert who recently jumped out of a perfectly good plane just for the experience.

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