Make It Stop: “I Feel Guilty For Ruining A Great Relationship”

Help! I dated a terrific guy for nearly two years. I’m ashamed to admit it, but I took “Jack” for granted and he broke up with me a month ago. I didn’t realize how much I was pushing him away, and now it’s clear I’ve lost him forever. My friend told me yesterday that he’s already in a new relationship and I’m beyond crushed. I know I have to move on and work on improving myself but it hurts so much. He’s gone and it stings because I know it’s my fault. What can I do to stop beating myself up about this?

I know it seems like you’re in a black hole. Not only do you feel the heartbreak of losing your dude, but you feel the guilt of putting these events in motion.

Yes, you were a knucklehead, and yes, you’re going to have to pick yourself up and move forward. There’s no shortcut to doing the hard work of self-reflection. This experience has humbled you, which is a terrific thing! That’s what separates children from adults. It’s gaining life experience, it’s earning wisdom. One day—in a month, in a year, in 10 years—you’ll be grateful you learned these lessons because it ultimately made you a better partner.

Darling, you just earned a master’s degree in Relationships (and a minor degree in Wishing You Could Go Back in Time and Slap Yourself for Being Such a Ding Dong). Let’s recap what you learned:

  • Taking your partner for granted is a shitty move.
  • Sometimes there are permanent consequences to your actions.
  • You can’t control other people.
  • You can only control your behavior.
  • The most important relationship you’ll ever have in your life is the one you have with yourself.

As incredible as your boyfriend was, you weren’t in a place to honor your connection. Although it’s painful right now, this experience is a gift. Yes, a gift. This breakup taught you what you need to do to be a better partner. Everyone makes mistakes. Don’t be so hard on yourself. We don’t zoom out of the womb knowing how to be a perfect companion. It’s through these trials and errors that we learn how to operate when it comes to matters of the heart.

Relationships are a complicated soufflé. They need a variety of ingredients to have any chance of baking correctly. Aside from physical chemistry, they need solid communication skills, shared lifestyle compatibility, tender intimacy, and deep respect. And most importantly, they demand perfect timing. If you lack any one of these factors, well, your relationship soufflé collapses.

The way to stop beating yourself up about this is to forgive yourself for behaving badly and vow to never repeat the same mistakes. That’s the secret.

In the meantime, surround yourself with positive people. Maybe you should take a break from dating for a while, like at least a year. Commit to working your on personal issues so when you’re ready to date again, you’ll be in a more stable place.

One day you’ll meet another guy, and you’ll not only recognize the connection you have, but you’ll protect it better precisely because you’ve worked through this tough time. You’ll go out of your way to cherish him and honor the love you share. And it will feel wonderful, I promise.

Make It Stop is a weekly column in which Anna Goldfarb — author of “Clearly, I Didn’t Think This Through” and the blogger behind the blog, Shmitten Kitten — tells you what’s up. Want a fresh take on a stinky dilemma? Email [email protected] with the subject “Make It Stop.” She’ll make it all better, or at least make you laugh. Girl Scout’s honor.