What Can You Learn From a Break-up?

So your relationship didn’t work out the way you had hoped, and you and your intimate partner have now broken up.  How many adults can say that they’ve been through at least one intimate love relationship that didn’t stand the test of time?

If you have recently ended a relationship, or if you are currently in a relationship that is ending, here are some questions that will hopefully guide you to learn the lessons your break-up offers you.  Answer the following questions in writing and be as thorough as you can.  Consider the questions from different vantage points.  When you have finished answering the questions, go back through and answer the questions as you think your ex would—if s/he were being fair, reasonable and honest.  These questions come from or were stimulated by Karen Kahn Wilson in the book Transformational Divorce (New Harbinger):

  • What did you think you wanted from the relationship?
  • What attracted you to your intimate partner?
  • What warning signs did you miss when you chose your mate?
  • How well did you foster connection and partnership?
  • How did you handle the differences between the two of you?
  • How did you cope with the hard times?
  • How would your ex describe you?
  • How would you assess your overall behavior as a mate?
  • What feelings and thoughts has the ending of your relationship brought up for you?
  • What are some valuable lessons you have learned from the relationship?
  • When did you feel the most vulnerable in the relationship?
  • When did you feel the most empowered?
  • What gifts did you bring to the relationship?
  • How and when did you contribute to the difficulties?
  • What were the most difficult times for you in the relationship?
  • What circumstances brought up your anger?
  • When were you not as honest as you could have been?
  • To what extent were you able to share love openly?
  • To what extent were you able to disagree openly?
  • Within yourself, what blocked you from expressing yourself?
  • What activities, interests or special dreams did you not pursue because you were in a relationship?
  • In which areas did the relationship help you grow?
  • What do you wish you had done differently?
  • What made you a “good” partner?
  • In what ways were you a nurturing partner—and in which ways were you not?
  • To what extent were you an open, sharing partner?
  • In which ways were you a selfish partner?
  • How often were you walled off to being close, connected and vulnerable?
  • When did you offer your heart?
  • When did you close your heart off?

If you don’t learn the lessons the break-up offers, you won’t learn how you could have been a better, healthier, less demanding, more compassionate, less defensive, more responsive, less reactive, more loving and wiser intimate partner, and then you are likely to make the same painful, short-sighted, self-absorbed or boneheaded mistakes in your next relationship.

Do I have your attention?

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