Learning from a Relationship Breakup During COVID: An Opportunity for Personal Growth

This article accompanies a YouTube video I currently did after a breakup. I provided context as to why he broke up with me and discussed what I learned about myself from being in that relationship.

He explained that I’d triggered childhood trauma stemming from his father, that he realized he still had a habit of not dealing with problems by pushing them aside in his mind, as well as not feeling his “heart isn’t safe with me anymore.”  

A situation he mentioned was one we discussed when it happened in January and because of that conversation, I thought the issue was resolved. I was surprised he brought it up again. He did acknowledge he should’ve been more communicative with his emotional struggles at that time. However, he also said he pushed it aside and it resurfaced again when he felt I was unsupportive of his feelings when a close friend of his needed to put their dog to sleep. I thanked him for sharing his feelings, told him we can further discuss it (which we did during the call), and that I didn’t think my unintentionally triggering his childhood trauma was a reason to breakup.

He said he knows our history shows when we discuss a problem our relationship becomes stronger, which made it hurtful to me that he was saying he longer wanted to work on our relationship. I didn’t understand why he wouldn’t want to work on something when he knew, if we worked on it, our relationship would become better.

As a clinician, I was reminded that some people aren’t emotionally or psychologically equipped to deal with more than one major issue at a time. That thought occurred to me when he told me he didn’t want to work on communicating better with me while also working on resolving his childhood trauma stemming from his father.

My concern is that he won’t work on his past trauma, especially since it stems from his childhood and he acknowledged he tends to push his issues aside versus working on resolving them. It’s known in the psychology and sociology field that if you have an issue you leave unresolved, it’ll continue to resurface over time until the effort is put in to dig out the root cause and then work on healing from it. I told him, “As always since our relationship began and as I’ve always told you … I want you to be okay.” I added, “And, if you need to not be with me to work on being okay, I accept that. And, I really do hope you work on your issues.”

I later wondered if he was having trouble differentiating between me and his father. Because I’d triggered childhood trauma stemming from his father, I thought maybe when he thinks of me, he thinks of his dad.  And, since he’d pushed the trauma aside in order to not face it, that meant pushing me aside as well.

As I typically do, I began analyzing myself, my behaviors, and my actions to determine what I could learn about myself from being in the relationship with him. Ironically, though I did cry a few times during the call, I was feeling better about the breakup after about ten minutes for the following reasons:

One: I knew he was breaking up with me due to a childhood trauma trigger. I was not the initiator of that trauma, so therefore, it wasn’t my issue to attempt to fix.

Two: I realized there’s the possibility he isn’t equipped to deal with more than one main issue at a time.

Three: I realized our communication wasn’t as good as I’d always said it was. I used to say, “Our communication is really great.” I realized this statement is more accurate, “When we communicated about issues, our communication was really great.” Even now as I type this, I think that’s also a falsehood because, I remember times we’d discuss something and I’d think it was resolved and later find out for him it wasn’t. Case in point, the situation we talked about in January which he brought up during this call at the end of April.

I was still sad and concerned for his well-being and decided it was time for me to look inward. I learned some things about myself:

One: I was a hypocrite. I wanted him to be transparent with me and I wasn’t transparent with him. I had reasons for not sharing my feelings and thoughts, however that’s counterproductive to having health communication in a relationship. I’d withhold my feelings and thoughts due to not wanting him to feel bad. There were other times, I’d express a desire for something and when a change didn’t manifest itself, I didn’t mention it again. I know now it was wrong of me to not be more expressive. I’ve realized the importance of both persons being transparent.

Two: I’ve learned one of two things would’ve happened if I did express my wants, needs, and desires. Either he would have attempted to meet them or he wouldn’t have. If he didn’t, I’d then need to analyze why. Would it have been because he didn’t care to try OR because he was psychologically unable to? Either way, we’d have been incompatible to remain in a relationship.

Three: I make it easy for someone to be with me in the sense that once I commit to a relationship, I’ll allow myself to be in uncomfortable situations for the sake of their comfort. I’ve learned to not consistently put another person’s wants and needs ahead of my own; there should be a balance, a reciprocation. Each person should be putting in equal energy and commitment to the relationship.

Four: I can be too considerate of someone else’s feelings. I need to be realistic in what they’re offering and able to provide for me intellectually, emotionally, and physically. And, if my feelings, wants, desires, and needs aren’t being met (or they’re not able to meet them) to accept we’re not compatible.

Five: I need to not allow the good aspects of a relationship to far outweigh the bad. Again, this is about balance.

Six: I realized the purpose of a relationship is to help each other navigate life, support each other, make each other’s life more enjoyable, and to learn and grow together. A stagnant relationship will eventually die. I think that’s part of what happened here, largely due to my not being transparent.

To sum up all the things I’ve learned, the main things are my needing to be more transparent, and for me to not forego my mental and physical comfort for the sake of someone else’s when it’s not reciprocated.

I believe, whatever the situation, there’s something each person can learn in order to be a better person in general. Not wanting to be better for the next relationship, simply learning and working on being a better person for themselves. Being a better person will naturally filter out into healthier friendships and relationships.

Knowing I need to be transparent with my feelings will help the other person know what I want and need, and give them the opportunity to work on fulfilling those things. If they’re not able to, we’re incompatible and that’s okay. In either scenario, at least they know how I feel and I’m not being a hypocrite wanting them to be open while I’m not.

What are your thoughts on breakups? How do you manage breakups? Do you analyze the situation? Do you analyze yourself to figure out what you can learn from it to be a better person? If you know you have unresolved issues or triggers, what have you done to resolve them within yourself? Are you able to compartmentalize a trauma or trigger so that when someone does trigger you, you don’t see them as the person who initiated that trauma?

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Thank you!

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I journeyed from GED to a PhD in Psychology. I decided to focus on my writing once I retired from the clinical field. I write in various genres and have several WIPs for publication once edited. I post articles on this website for intellectual and entertainment purposes.

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