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How to Get Over the Shame of a Breakup

It’s tough when women come into my office suffering from a recently-ended relationship.

They want to get over it, they want to move on and meet someone new, but the pain of loss keeps tripping them up.

I admire these women greatly. They’ve gone through a terrible experience, but they’re already looking ahead to the future. They’re going to do things better next time. They’re not going to make the same mistakes.

Having a growth mindset, where you choose to learn from difficult experiences rather than remain stuck, helps you succeed in life and love.

What have your past breakups taught you?

Here are some lessons that DON’T count:

  • “My ex was an idiot.”
  • “All men are jerks.”
  • “I’m never going to love again.”

In the immediate aftermath of a breakup, those are the kinds of conclusions that are easy to draw. They make you feel better. They paint the breakup in black-and-white terms: you were right, and he was wrong.

Those thoughts don’t help you grow, but they do serve a purpose. They make you angry. That anger helps burn away some of the shame and embarrassment of what you just went through.

Most people don’t associate the emotion of shame with the experience of a breakup. Yet shame is what makes breakups so difficult to process.

It’s what makes breakups hurt so much.

That’s why, when a heartbroken woman comes to me, I know she needs to release any shame she feels before she can truly heal.

Shame makes us feel awful. It clouds our vision, so we can’t see clearly. It prevents us from learning the lessons we need to learn.

We don’t have to feel ashamed just because a relationship ended. There’s NOTHING we need to feel embarrassed about. And here are 3 reasons that prove it.

1. Breakups are not a personal failing.

The first thing many of us think when a relationship ends is:

“What did I do wrong?”

Regardless of why the relationship ended, we blame ourselves. If we’d only been more attractive, more attentive, less demanding, etc, the relationship might still be thriving today.

Of course, that’s not true. Relationships end for a constellation of reasons, most of which can be summed up in just one sentence: “It wasn’t a good fit.”

You don’t blame a puzzle piece for not fitting where you think it should go. Nor would you try to cut the puzzle piece into the right size, just to make it fit.

But popular culture tends to make women responsible for holding relationships together. Have you ever heard someone say, “She can’t keep a man”? The implication is clear: if she just worked harder, the relationship wouldn’t have ended.

But the fact of the matter is…

2. Breakups are the normal outcome of most relationships.

When you get into a relationship with someone, the most likely outcome, statistically speaking, is that you’ll break up.

Consider a woman who’s had 4 serious boyfriends before she meets her husband. That means only 20% of her relationships succeeded, if success is defined by staying together forever. Not a great success rate—but that doesn’t stop her from living happily ever after!

A breakup doesn’t mean that something has gone wrong. It’s a normal part of relationships.

Breakups are actually a good thing. You don’t want to stay with someone who isn’t a good long-term fit. The sooner you can spot a relationship that isn’t working and end it, the closer you’ll get to your forever love.

Have you ever stayed in a relationship long past its due date—or known someone who did? Being afraid of breakups can actually put your life on hold.

You’ll probably never feel positively about breaking up, but consider the possibility that it might be working for you and not against you.

3. Breakups aren’t anyone else’s business.

We tend to be fairly good at treating a relationship between a man and a woman as their own private business…

Until they split up.

Suddenly, every detail of their relationship is hashed out in the gossip circles. Who was at fault? Did you hear what he did? Who’s she dating now?

Friends who never offered you a word of relationship advice have plenty of advice for you now. “You’re better off being rid of him. Stop feeling sorry for yourself and get over it. I know a guy who’d be perfect for you!”

Your breakup is no longer your own private experience. It’s a public affair, with everyone weighing in on why the relationship ended and what you need to do now. And folks aren’t always careful with your feelings.

That needs to change.

Processing a breakup is something you have to do on your own. No one can make meaning of that experience for you. Although you’ll want to share with trusted friends, be wary of oversharing on social media or with people who talk more than they listen.

Your breakup is your business. It doesn’t reflect on who you are as a person. And it certainly doesn’t mean you’re unworthy of love.