How could something so promising for you become so passe for your partner? Here are 6 scenarios that can provide some insight into what happened.
Finding out that your relationship has ended from your partner can seem like one of the most convoluted mysteries of life. How could something so promising for you become so passe for your partner? No matter how the news was delivered, the process of healing from an unrequited breakup nearly always passes through the “I just need to know what he (or she) is thinking and feeling,” and yet, any amount of in-person conversations, phone calls, e-mails or text messages ever provides the closure desired—the sting of finality is a burn only time and self-discovery can heal.
Here is a breakdown of six types of relationship fallouts that may provide some insight in to what happens when relationships go wrong, much to the dismay of the partner who still wants to work things out.
You had no clue. Everything was going so well (or so you thought!). Even the past weekend was spent in romantic bliss, and for the first time you felt as thought things were really going to work out. Then come Monday, you get the phone call that starts with a reluctant tone and somewhat hesitant, “Hey, got a few minutes?” that only ends with a welling of emotion and a box of Kleenex.
Most likely cause: Your partner likes you and enjoys your company, but got cold feet when the relationship started to feel committed and more serious. Usually this point is breached within three to six months from the start of the relationship. The notion of long-term relationship may be the furthest from this type of partner’s mind, and so when faced with the prospect of commitment, he or she must bow out of the relationship.
Take comfort in… the fact that your partner told you sooner rather than later. It may seem like it came out of the blue, and it may have, but your partner was never ready for the kind of commitment you would like, and once he or she realized it, they let you go. While it hurts now, in the long run you will move on to relationships that are more in line with what you are looking for—on all levels. In order to be ultimately rewarding for both parties, interest in and dedication to the relationship must be relatively equal. Having stronger feelings toward someone than he or she can reciprocate is a recipe for heartbreak, no matter whether your relationship has been going on for three weeks or three months. The one thing your partner has not realized yet is that by spending his or her life with a series of Mr. or Ms. Right Nows, knowing full well they aren’t Mr. or Ms. Rights is a recipe for chronic dissatisfaction not only for your partner, but also for each person he or she becomes involved with.
The Slow Burn
This relationship should have ended a long time ago, but has persisted into a slow and agonizing confirmation of one’s worst suspicions that the relationship is just not working out. In these situations, both partners have their own individual degrees of unhappiness, but the more dissatisfied person stays because it feels “easier” and “less messy” than having the courage to confront the truth and move on. There may have been recurrent communication problems that have never been resolved or are avoided if they do arise, and other potential mates outside the relationship are beginning to look like attractive alternatives.
Despite the relationship’s seriously degenerated quality, it never quite ends fully, leaving at least one partner in a hurtful no-man’s land of ambiguity, and this person responds typically by trying harder to win affections or by becoming passive-aggressive, sometimes to the extreme. Jealousies of outside parties are common, and often the relationship will dissolve only because of developed interests in other potential mates outside of the primary relationship.
Most likely cause: Not the right combination of compatibility and chemistry. Chemistry is the physical attraction component, and compatibility is composed of the personality traits and attributes that in the right combination can persevere through a lifetime. While there may be enough of both of these elements to maintain a relationship for even several years, eventually the attraction wanes, and there is not enough of these core traits to survive life changes and challenges that arise as people move through life. The same goes for a relationship founded on compatibility but lacks physical chemistry. The relationship can be rewarding for a relatively long time because both partners get along together so well, but there will always feel like there is something missing in the chemistry department. Because there are lacks in the relationship, one or both partners may begin taking on outside interests in secret, even if beginning only in his or her mind as fantasies. As the relationship wears on, though, many times one partner will stray, causing the breakup. These are tricky situations because there has been so much time invested in the relationship; even though “hanging on” in a relationship is still a relationship, it is not a healthy one.
Take comfort in… the fact that you have experienced a tremendous learning experience by having shared your life with someone who has taught you a lot about love, life and yourself. As you heal from the relationship’s end, it is perfectly normal to miss your now ex-partner, but do know that the kind of love you’re looking for—the kind in which your partner feels the same about you as you do them—is out there. Dating someone new may be the last thing on your mind, and it may feel as though you’ll never find someone like your ex, but love will surprise you if you are open to it. First things first, though: You have to heal. Cry, get angry, get support, if needed, and get interested in developing the new you.
The Distant Echo
Just as the details of good event fade into generalized warm memories, so does the relationship that fades out into the distant echo of a solitary person left completely alone asking himself or herself why phone calls, e-mails and voicemails go unreturned. Is there an echo in here? Surely when the phone stops ringing and days of silence turn into weeks, the end of a relationship is on the horizon.
Most likely cause: There are numerous possible causes that come in to play with a distant-echo breakup. Sometimes the relationship is a casual one that never got serious enough to warrant the “relationship label.” Other times the relationship may have started out intensely, but now has suddenly come to a crashing halt. (See also: Sizzle and Fizzle, below.)
Whichever the case may me, the relationship has already ended for the disinterested partner—they just haven’t told you yet. When it comes to love, communication skills are learned over time through the trials and tribulations of dating and relationships. However, some people are still climbing up the learning curve when it comes to expressing their honest feelings, especially when it is suspected that a partner will be disappointed and maybe even a little bit angry. When interest in pursuing the relationship further plummets, these guys and gals let time be their distance and silence their way of coping with the uncomfortable idea of delivering bad news.
When the phone stops ringing and the e-mails and voicemails go unreturned, there is, in fact, something going on. Someone blessed with more maturity would, of course, confront the situation head on, but the anti-confrontational sort can’t even handle his or her own “I’m a bad guy” feelings, let alone your hurt feelings, and so the silent front moves in.
Take comfort in… the fact that maturity is not overrated. You can choose to be angry, and that is okay, especially since in many cases the escape artist formerly known as your love interest probably came on pretty strong in the beginning of your involvement. After you’ve worked out your feelings, though, congratulate yourself for not dating someone with the breakup coping skills of someone in high school of early college years—you deserve more than that!
Sizzle and Fizzle
How could something that felt so right now suddenly feel so wrong, sometimes to the point of, “What was I thinking?” Not just for the urban chic, a la Sex and the City, the 3-month (or 3 week!) relationship that glides in to a breakup is a common occurrence, especially in younger age groups, and frequently, these types of experiences can be painful because one person’s feelings are stronger and clearly wants it to work.
Most likely cause: Simply put, chemistry without compatibility, combined with too fast, too soon, is usually the culprit. When physical attraction trumps common sense, and all things physical progress too quickly, the frequent fallout is an ending almost as quickly as the union began, much to the chagrin of one partner.
Take comfort in… the lesson learned that getting too close too quickly without getting to see all sides of your partner. While it is painful, the anger you may be feeling toward your now ex is mostly a projection of self-anger, and it’s okay. You got swept up in a series of moments that took your breath away, and because of their intensity, you wanted it to be the “real thing” (i.e., lasting love). Or maybe on some level, you knew that it had no chance for longevity, but you went for it anyway because it was new and exciting. The next time this happens you’ll recognize that even with the pull of strong chemistry, it pays to take things more slowly.
Demotion to “Friends with Privileges”
You’re a modern woman or man capable of being number 2 or 3 in line, right? And that’s exactly what this type of partner impresses upon you when they move on to find the person perfect for them (hint: You’re not it). Variations include “Come one, we’re both mature adults,” and “I really enjoy your company, so I see no reason to stop seeing one another because I’m not ready to settle down,” and “I don’t understand why you’re upset. I’ve been completely honest with you from the beginning.” What these statements really mean is “We’ve broken up, but now I don’t have to be guilty about your feelings, plus I get the best of the relationship that I valued.”
Most likely cause: A selfish partner who has decided that you’re not the “One,” but doesn’t mind stringing you along for the enjoyable benefits (for he or she, not you) that come with a half-relationship because they never have to give them up. Plus, they never have to fully break your heart, just appease you with the occasional gift or something sweet uttered to keep you in his or her good graces.
Take comfort in… the fact that after a while of being toyed with by this individual that you’ll realize that being a modern man or woman does not mean sacrificing self-respect or what one is looking for in a relationship. If you are seeking a monogamous, committed relationship, and after a reasonable amount of time dating one another your partner still expresses that he or she would like to see or is seeing multiple people, then it’s time to call it what it is: A breakup that ended long ago, or even before it started. You may really like how you feel when you’re with that person, but the truth is you only have a part-time “relationship,” and you and your partner have different goals. In fact, test this: ask your part-time partner if you both have a “relationship.” The answer will be “No,” or an excuse that sounds like a veiled version of “No” and includes the words, “Well, technically -” So you may have to tough-love yourself; or in other words, know (and truly believe) that it’s over. Nothing you do or say will “win” back this person as you would like them to be in your life.
Walk Down Memory Lane
You stopped dating months or maybe even years ago, but every now and then the phone will ring, a great conversation will be experienced, and part of the magic you once shared will reunite. The phone is hung up and you find yourself wondering if it could still work out and maybe even fantasizing that it could. Then over the course of the next few days, you contact that person and get the cold shoulder. What gives?
Most likely caused by: A lonely moment of solitude for your ex who finds himself or herself dialing up old memories on the phone one evening. Here’s a reality check: Nine times out of ten, he or she is still not available to you. What you’re experiencing is nostalgia and the qualities that attracted you to him or her in the first place. Should you still persist and venture down that path, don’t be surprised if the enjoyment of nostalgia is soon overtaken by more realistic remembrances of exactly why he or she repels you, and why it never worked out the first time.
Take comfort in… the happy nostalgic memories, and being able to periodically enjoy the very best qualities of that person over the phone without having to commit to getting your heart broken or yourself frustrated by your shared incompatibilities all over again. But unless you’re willing to experience a sequel to the original breakup, although this time happening much more quickly, it may be worth it to keep the past in the past and allow yourself to enjoy your old relationship only as a walk down memory lane. There are exceptions, of course, but there are reasons why someone is an ex –
For advice on getting over a breakup, read Getting Over What’s-His-Face: 8 Ways to Move On