Mutual break-ups are one thing, but if you’re the one on the receiving end of a break-up you didn’t expect, then it’s totally different. The shock, the hurt, the ‘why me?’ questions can cause real hurt and pain. The trick is, to accept rather than ignore those feeling, but also allow yourself to develop a ‘growth’ rather than ‘fixed’ mindset, so the break-up doesn’t define you forever.
I constantly say that dating is something that should be enjoyed. It should be a blessing. But learning to date well may, unfortunately, mean learning how to break-up well too. I passionately believe learning to communicate clearly and gently why you think the relationship needs to end is important.
A lot of the damage in our dating culture is because of bad break-ups. Which can affect our next relationship negatively. Learning to do it well is therefore vital if someone wants to end it.
However, once when I was talking about the importance of breaking-up well and treating the other person with respect, someone raised their hand. They asked me ‘but what do you do if you’re the one who got dumped?’ It’s an important question.
This is important because if two people who date realise they aren’t suited for whatever reason, and communicate that and go their separate ways, is very mature and helpful. Ending a relationship is never fun or enjoyable but doing it like that is the healthiest way. But one person may not want or expect the break-up.
So what do you do if you’re on the receiving end?
Fixed Mindset Verses Growth Mindset
I came across an idea recently from a piece of research, which said that people who have a break up essentially fall into two categories. One is a ‘fixed’ mindset and the other is a ‘growth’ mindset.
People who have a fixed mindset believe that the reason why their relationship ended is fixed. It will always be a problem. It will never change. It will define who they are in every other relationship they have.
Dealing with a break-up and knowing that the reason doesn’t define you
Whereas the growth mindset says that while this experience is hard, and not enjoyable, because breaking-up is never fun or easy, it will not always be like this. The reason why the break-up happened doesn’t need to define you. You can even learn from it. You will move past it (and it will take time), but your next relationship will be different.
The growth mindset is crucial. Dealing with a break-up and knowing that the reason doesn’t define you, and seeing it as a potential to learn and grow, is what we need to do to make sure we don’t let a relationship that’s ended have ongoing and far-reaching effects on us.
So what did I say to this woman who asked this important question, and what would I say to others like her?
Three Things to Remember After a Break-up
- You can be sad and upset.
- Head towards a growth mindset
- Your relationship status cannot define your whole being
Firstly, you can be upset. If the relationship ending wasn’t something you expected or wanted, then you can be upset. You don’t need to say ‘They were not worth it’, or ‘I have no regrets’ or ‘Plenty more fish in the sea’ or any other cliche bits of advice we may have heard. We can say this is hard, we can be angry, we can accept we are hurting.
Secondly, despite all of these feeling and emotions, we need to head toward the growth mindset. This break-up does not define who we are. It may even be something we can learn from, but it definitely will not be a problem forever. We are not unlovable or unwanted, this relationship just didn’t work out. (Read ‘What Makes Relationships Work? What Makes Them Weak?’)
It may take time to get to this place, but that is why being upset is important. Until we work through the pain, we will not be able to look at our break-up without a fixed mindset.
We need to realise that we are bigger than our relationship status
Thirdly, whether we are dating, just been through a break-up, or are single and have been for a while, we need to realise that we are bigger than our relationship status. We are sons and daughters of the king (Galatians 3:23-4:7). We are loved by God (Romans 5:8). We are friends of God (John 15:13-15). This is the constant, this is what defines us, not our relationship status.
If we are going through a break-up, the need to be upset, angry, shocked is understandable. But we need to head towards a growth mindset, and remind ourselves that this does not define us.
Do you think this advice is better than what we often get told? Why?