The Gift of Getting Dumped
Finding the silver lining in romantic rejection.
Posted Oct 05, 2019
Nobody likes to get dumped in a romantic relationship. Romantic rejection is often a huge blow to our self-esteem and is a frequent trigger of depressive episodes that send us to see a psychotherapist. It seems like we weren’t good enough to hold on to a great catch or even worse, a not so great catch. We have to recover from romantic rejection, and it seems we need all the emotional support and reassurance from our friends and family that we can get to prop up our failing self-esteem. The reassurance is usually along the lines that the rejecting lover wasn’t so great, and you deserve and can do better. You don’t really believe the reassurance but it’s good to hear anyhow. What your friends and family won’t say but what they might privately think is why you stayed in a relationship for so long with someone who wasn’t really right for you. Nobody wants to make you feel badly about yourself so out of fear of offending you they won’t say why they think you stayed in a bad relationship when you could have done better.
Most likely, though, what your friends and family see but don’t want to say is that you were too accommodating to someone that didn’t treat you as well as you deserved to be treated or appreciate you as much as you deserved to be appreciated. Your friends and family saw the things about your partner’s personality that you thought would eventually get fixed or perhaps were your fault, like your partner constantly finding fault with you in public, were just your partner’s basic personality and would never get fixed. Friends and family might appreciate that love is blind, so they don’t want to judge you for your seemingly irrational romantic preferences.
Of course, sometimes we get dumped for good reasons because we’re not treating our partners that well but deny that fact. There is always some ambiguity in a romantic breakup as to whose fault it is. Officially, all breakups are “no fault” as everyone shares some responsibility. Yet deep down inside we can’t help but feel that one person’s personality flaws are more to blame for the breakup than the other’s.
So why do people stay in relationships that aren’t right for them and tune out the obvious that everybody else seems to see, that you could do better? And why is getting dumped the only way some people can be liberated from a bad relationship?
The Psychology of Security Blanket Relationships
Sometimes we stay in a bad relationship because we are frightened of being alone and have doubts that we can do any better. Maybe staying in a bad relationship is better than being all by one’s lonesome. There’s a certain sense of security in at least having somebody and one can daydream that someday the problematic features of our partners’ personalities will get fixed to our liking so we can live happily ever after. Our faultfinding partner will become an accepting partner, a sexually withholding partner will become a sexually indulgent partner, or an uncommunicative partner will become a big talker. One lives in hope of radical transformation at some point in the future to console ourselves for the frustrations and disappointments of the present.
To Dump or Be Dumped? That is the Question
To take the initiative in ending a relationship is hard to do. We have self-doubts if we are making the right choice. Maybe we are being too perfectionistic and too picky. Maybe we have unrealistically high expectations. Maybe we really can’t do any better, so we are making a serious error of judgment. And then there is the issue of guilt. We know what it feels like to get dumped and we are reluctant to inflict that misfortune on someone we care about. Maybe our partner can’t do any better than us so in dumping them we are forcing them to face that tragic reality and we feel their pain. We stay in a bad relationship out of guilt and also obligation because we don’t want to disappoint friends, family, and children who will be upset if we dump their friend, their parent, their son or daughter, or their son or daughter in-law whom they love.
Being dumped evokes self-flagellation much of it irrational. First of all, anyone who dumps you is going to need to justify their decision to themselves and probably is going to want you to validate or at least understand the rational basis of their decision to dump you. Of course, we don’t want to feel that someone is ever justified in dumping us. That just exacerbates our own harsh self-criticism. Even if we acknowledge our imperfections, we would like to think that they weren’t that bad that we deserved to get dumped for them. There is probably someone out there who wouldn’t think our imperfections are so insufferable. Once you get dumped you are free to find a person that could accept you as you are; warts and all. In the meantime, we can cultivate self-compassion for our imperfections and forgive ourselves for anything we might have done that contributed to the break-up.
Find the Silver Lining
You deserve someone who is as excited about you as you are about them. If someone dumps you, that means you had been settling for someone who was not as excited about you as you were about them. You deserve better. The gift of getting dumped is that now you are free to find someone who is as excited about you as you are about them and someone who doesn’t find your character flaws insufferable. We all have to learn from our mistakes in the school of hard knocks. The lesson you should learn from being dumped is this: Don’t settle for someone that isn’t as excited about you as you are about them! So, best of luck in your quest and stop being so hard on yourself.
Josephs, L. (2018) The Dynamics of Infidelity: Applying Relationship Science to Psychotherapy Practice. Washington, D.C.: American Psychological Association.