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When Your Partner Blames Themselves for The Break-Up, Believe Them

Have you ever experienced a break-up and heard “it’s not you, it’s me?” It’s such a common phrase that it evolved into a cliché. Yet, if you have ever heard this said to you, you may be like many and only hear that there is something wrong with you. You totally disregard the responsibility that your partner is trying to accept for the break-up. 

If you find yourself mired in self-blame after a break-up, read on. My goal is to share some reasons why you might be trying to shoulder all of the blame. My second goal is to give you reasons to consider letting them accept some of the responsibility. The goal is not to vilify your ex, but to look at some of the real reasons they may need to end the relationship that are not malicious. The objective is to consider the possibility that it was what they really just needed to do for their own personal growth at the time.

The Reasons We Try to Blame Ourselves

It is common for us to look for ways that we have control in this world. If we can find how we caused something, then the world can seem more controllable because we can work on changing what we do. Therefore, if you find yourself looking at what you did to cause a break-up, that might help you to feel empowered to possibly un-do the break-up. It might help you to feel empowered to make your next relationship last forever if you can convince yourself that you have that ability to control relationship dynamics. 

While it is very beneficial to look for anything you can learn from your relationship so that you might choose to do things a little differently next time, you might be over-blaming if you try to assume all of the responsibility for the relationship ending. That is especially true if they specifically tell you it was not because of you.

Sometimes we self-blame out of self-protection:

If you blame yourself for the break-up completely and you decide there is something flawed about who you are, this could be your way of protecting yourself from future rejections. In the cognitive theory of psychology, there is a focus on the tendency of people to overgeneralize and to personalize. Most people do not do this for the purpose of intentionally sabotaging themselves. There is something goal-directed in it, even though it can cause emotional pain in the long run.

An example of overgeneralizing and personalizing would be if you decide that because the person you thought was the love of your life broke up with you, that means you are unlovable or incapable of a long-term relationship. Deciding this could mean that you do not date again and that you protect yourself from future break-ups. It is a form of personalizing if you make it all about who you are. It is overgeneralizing if you make a broad assumption that your life is going to consist of a pattern of everyone you date eventually breaking up with you. If you make that overgeneralization, it might help you to protect yourself from a future rejection. However, it can also mean missing out on the rewarding aspects of being in a relationship.

If you catch yourself overgeneralizing and personalizing the break-up, then simply noticing this can help you to take some of the power out of those beliefs. You can still notice what part of the break-up was in your control or related to your behavior, but you can also notice what parts have nothing to do with you.

Reasons for the Break-Up that are Not About You

The following are a few of the infinite number of reasons relationships end that really are not about who you are or what you have done. Please notice that the reasons are not focused on blaming your partner. They are simply reasons that could help your partner’s exit to make more sense. It is possible that you are not the villain and that they also may not be the villain.

Reason # 1: Your partner may be an intimacy avoider:

Some people fear getting too close to others because they fear being truly known. They may have insecurities that you know nothing about. They show signs of wanting to get close because part of them really does want connection. However, just when you think the relationship is really getting strong, they abruptly exit the relationship. That does not mean the relationship was terrible. They just panicked.

Reason # 2: They may fear losing their identity in the relationship:

Some people work so hard to be who their partner wants them to be that they start the relationship not being fully their authentic selves. If they are naturally a people-pleaser, they may not fully realize they are doing this. They might go along with their partner’s ideas or ask their partner to make the decisions. Part of them finds this dynamic to feel comfortable because they don’t have confidence in making decisions. It can feel hard to change that pattern if you have been doing it for so long.

Reason # 3: Your partner really might just want to explore the world of dating:

Since many people date different people over the years before they are ready to be in a long-term relationship, your partner may just want to have that experience. If you are a person who finds casual dating stressful, this may not make sense. However, to many the world of dating is exciting. They enjoy meeting new people and the rush of a new relationship. If you find first-dates stressful and you just want to find your partner for life, it is possible that part of your confusion is that you are assuming your partner thinks like you and that the only reason they would want to break-up is because of you.

Reason # 4: Your partner could be drawn toward certain relationship struggles:

Some believe that we are drawn to certain relationships because that particular relationship dynamic brings up some type of relationship rupture from our past that we wish we could have fixed. By being in a similar type of relationship, we can be drawn toward fixing that same type of dynamic. For example, if your partner grew up with a family who was emotionally distant, your partner could have become drawn to you because you, too, were initially emotionally distant. Once you got close, they felt affirmed and there was no longer that glue that comes from them having that draw to heal that wound. While some could feel better from getting close to you, others keep chasing that same problem that needs fixing all over again. This theory could seem controversial. I’m not trying to convince you to think that this must have occurred in your situation. The goal here is to just consider different possibilities instead of blaming it all on yourself.

Reason # 5: The timing really could be off:

Many people do seem to reach a point in their lives where they no longer want the rush of dating and they are ready for the stability of a committed relationship. Since this does not occur at a specific age, you could decide that since you feel ready at age 27, then your 30-year-old partner must be ready too. Some don’t decide they are ready for this until they are 40 or 70. Sometimes it is hard to tell who is wanting to casually date and who is looking for someone to spend their life with. 

Timing really could be the deciding factor. When a person is ready to commit, they might be willing to work through some of the other things they were dealing with in order to make the relationship work. All relationships are about imperfect people committing to working things out together.

The take-away:

If you find yourself on the receiving end of the statement “it’s not you, it’s me,” there are reasons to take them seriously. Relationships are about imperfect people trying to create healthy connections in spite of the fact that we do not tend to get a blueprint on a single right way to maintain healthy relationships. 

This is a tough topic and there are many exceptions to what I have discussed here. My hope is to help those who are pained by self-blame to consider other viewpoints so that you can reduce that natural rumination on everything that you think you did wrong. This will give you more time and energy to focus on creating the types of future connections that you want to have with people who appreciate who you are.