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Why You're Not a Failure if Your Relationship Ends
Even though fans of are an inevitable part of the process, Andi Dorfman’s split from her fiancé Josh Murray still came as a surprise. On a tell-all special with host Chris Harrison, Andi called the breakup “the biggest failure of my life so far.” Girl, we’ve been there. We know how tempting it can be to blame yourself when something that seemed so promising ends. But that’s not the right way to look at it, says Jane Greer, Ph.D., creator of the media commentary “Shrink Wrap with Dr. Jane Greer” and author of . "The end of a relationship is anything but a failure," she says. "It’s really a gain: You gain the time and opportunity to figure out what wasn’t working. You get to look at yourself and what you expect in another person so that hopefully, in the next relationship, you can have a commitment that will go the distance."
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It’s hard to believe, but this perspective doesn’t only apply if the split was mutual, like Andi says hers was. It’s still just as true if you were the one getting dumped, a situation where you’re especially inclined to think you didn’t measure up. “If a relationship ends and you were somehow more invested and willing to make it work, it can seem like an indictment of you, what you lack, or where you don’t measure up somehow,” says Greer. But most times, it’s just not about you. "It could be about the other person’s limitations, anxiety, or cold feet," says Greer. Think about some breakups that you’ve initiated in the past: Did they happen because the other person was a complete failure at life? Probably not. Treat yourself with that same kindness and realize if it wasn’t true for them, it’s not true for you, either.
Of course, getting broken up with isn’t the only time you might feel like a failure when a relationship ends. “It can be as hard, if not harder, to be the one ending things," says Greer. "If the guy looks great on paper and your friends and family like him but there’s something missing for you, you have to deal with a lot of anxiety about trading something solid and secure for uncertainty." The older you get, the more you might start to question that you’re just being too picky or suspect that you’ll end up forever alone because you can’t make things work. That’s just unfair to yourself! “There’s so much self-doubt, uncertainty, and guilt about ending something that could have been okay but not good enough," says Greer. "Anyone who can contend with that is actually showing a tremendous amount of courage." Pat yourself on the back for knowing what you deserve and setting yourself free to find it.
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Even with all of this reassuring information, it can be easier said than done to remove yourself from the breakup blame equation. Anticipating heart-wrenching feelings of disappointment in yourself can lead to you putting off a breakup, even when you know it needs to happen. Know that working through that fear can ultimately lead you to happiness. If your problems in a relationship are what Greer calls interactional—like that you have horrible fights, but you ultimately love each other—consider seeing a relationship therapist to decide whether your bond can be salvaged.
But if your doubts come from how you feel about your boyfriend, that’s another story. If he never makes you laugh, you don’t look forward to seeing him, and you don’t find it difficult to be apart, focus on working up the bravery it takes to let him go. “If there’s a lack of passion, it’s never going to come into the picture," says Greer. "Ask yourself if this is the way you want to live the rest of your life." Remind yourself that the sooner you end something that isn’t satisfying, the sooner you can find something that is. “Being true to yourself about what makes you happy in a relationship and how you want to spend the rest of your life is incredibly difficult," says Greer.
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