Was Your Breakup Actually About You?

03/14/2011 01:18 pm ET | Updated Nov 17, 2011

A few years ago I went on what you might call a kamikaze mission. I felt like I was having a lot of conversations in my head around my past crushes and relationships, and I was coming up empty. Looking back, I spent a lot of my high school and college years in what I like to call the "pseudo-relationship": I would meet someone, and without ever really discussing anything, we kind of tripped and fell into a relationship -- not much differently from the time I tripped and fell on that bar dance floor in college after losing the battle to margaritas. Awkward.

These pseudo-relationships would last anywhere from two weeks to six months and would usually be a roller coaster ride -- not the fun kind, but the kind where you end up feeling pretty sure you are going to throw up your funnel cake. It would start with some flirting, which lead to hanging out, and then at some point kissing would follow. Being really nervous, I would never talk about my feelings or what the heck we were doing (I didn't want to scare them away, right?), so I just kind of waited around, hoping for it to turn into something that I would recognize as a relationship. Usually, somewhere along the way, someone would hurt the other's feelings, and it would either end abruptly or fade away, into the night.

The end of those pseudo-relationships was always terrible because I really didn't know what happened, and it left me to my own devices to create reasons that it ended in my head. None of those reasons did me, or my confidence, any favors.

So, one day I woke up and did something about it. I started calling all of these pseudo-exes and asking them why we broke up. Starting with some small talk, I moved toward sheepishly asking them the question that had plagued me for years: "So, why exactly did we break up again?" I braced myself for answers that had been running wild in my mind. They usually had to do with them losing attraction to me or that they could see "the crazy" I was feeling because I never really knew where I stood. And do not underestimate "the crazy."

As I awkwardly asked the question, they usually paused for a moment to think, and then the big moment happened, the one where I finally found out that -- guess what? -- I was totally and completely wrong. In every single case.

It turns out that they didn't wake up one day and find me unkissable, and most of them knew I was a little crazy (in the good way) when they started dating me. The funny thing is that most of the time it really wasn't about me at all.

Here is what I have figured out -- stay with me here, smart stuff a'comin'. We are all just moving through the ebb and flow of life and trying to do the best we can. Relationships start and then end for hundreds of reasons, and most of the time when they end, it really isn't about you. We all have millions of experiences that help us decide who we are attracted to, who we want to date and what we think love and relationships look like. Good or bad. When something happens that registers as similar to a former experience in our/their brains, it can either help us move forward towards a relationship and stronger feelings, or it can have us stopped in our tracks scratching our heads because it goes against what we know or are OK with.

It is why someone who has been abused usually finds an abuser. It is why we find mates similar to one of our parents. It is why all of our past relationships and crushes may look different and even act different, but probably play a similar role in the relationship. We naturally gravitate towards what we understand and know of love and relationships, but it is also what helps people gravitate towards or move away from us. It is why we "literally" can't be upset or offended when someone doesn't choose us. It usually has nothing to do with you, but instead what they know and have learned of love.

So, if all of this isn't about us, what can we do to find love and create a great relationship? Be in charge of what you can control: you and the way you respond to it. Here are a few other things:

  • Be yourself. It is going to show up at some point, anyway.
  • Take a look at who you are gravitating towards and see if it is a good thing or not.
  • Don't take it personally if something that has potential doesn't work out; you just might not be their potential. So what?
  • If you find yourself always feeling "the crazy" or insecure in every relationship, step back and ask yourself why -- and take care of it! Are you choosing people who are not giving you what you need, or are your needs so big that you need to talk to someone about it? Do what needs to be done for the sake of love, happiness and future relationships.
  • Keep your expectations realistic so that if it doesn't work out, you can be ready to look for a better match instead of spending three months recovering from the last possibility.
  • When you find yourself in a relationship that doesn't feel right, step back and ask if you are uncomfortable because someone is treating you badly or because this is a new type love that you haven't experienced before but that it is healthy. If it the second one, give it a chance.

With this knowledge you can start to beat the system, learn about how you view love and gravitate towards the right matches with whom you want to take love to a whole new level. Isn't that what it all about?