Post-breakup regret: the struggle can be so real. Even if you’re the one who called it quits, the reality of your life post-split can be harsh — so much so that it can cause you to start pondering whether you did the right thing. How can you know if you’re only having regrets because you miss being in a relationship, or because your breakup was a mistake?
Indeed, it can be pretty challenging to separate the two. Particularly if you were in a long-term relationship, the loss of this important person in your life can cloud your judgment. Before you know it, you could be rethinking your breakup and reaching out via text. Just know that if you feel like you’re second-guessing your split, you’re not alone. In fact, one study conducted to mark the release of the rom-com The Love Punch revealed that more than half of couples who ended long-term relationships had regrets about their breakup, according to The Daily Mail. The 54 percent of participants who experienced second thoughts about their splits cited several reasons for doubting their decision. The main reason was simply realizing they still loved their ex, followed by straight up loneliness, and discovering that the "grass wasn't greener.”
While it’s totally normal to miss your ex, it doesn’t mean that you two should have never broken up in the first place. However, there are some ways to determine that you perhaps made your decision to break things off too hastily — or for the wrong reasons. According to Chelsea Leigh Trescott, breakup coach and podcast host of Thank You Heartbreak, these are some of the top signs that your breakup might have been a mistake.
You overlooked your true compatibility.
Compatibility can be the key to a successful relationship. No matter how much you might love someone, sometimes you have too many differences to overcome. So if you broke off a relationship because you got bored, began to ponder what else was out there, or focused on insignificant “flaws” your ex had, and ultimately feel that you had amazing compatibility on your side, you may want to rethink things.
Trescott calls compatibility “your capacity to coexist, cultivate a partnership, and grow, not through each other so much as beside each other,” and she says it’s a good enough reason to circle back to your ex.
Trescott clarified that craving your chemistry “may just mean your passion was the highlight of that relationship and now it’s time to connect with someone who offers not only intimacy but practicality.” On the other hand, if you genuinely feel like you had a healthy relationship with someone who you could see a future with — someone whose beliefs and values lined up with yours — it’s perhaps worth reconsidering your relationship.
You kept a distance because you were scared.
Dating in your 20s is tough. Many of us feel pressure to pursue our passions and succeed professionally, some of us are are starting to pay off massive student loans, and meanwhile, we’re watching as our friends begin to tie the knot. There’s a lot of pressure.
According to Trescott, this can do a number on your self-esteem, causing you to keep your partner at arm’s length.
“If you were just starting out in the workforce, in between jobs, or reinventing your career entirely while with your ex, it’s possible that what caused your relationship to crack was not your future with your partner so much as your own personal future feeling so uncertain and at times intimidating,” she says. “Perhaps this stirred up feelings of shame or even dependency that felt new or unsettling, and as a result, you may have felt like you were showing up small in life, or that you were simply unprepared to devote your focus and finances to this relationship.”
Basically, if you feel like your pride got in the way of your ability to be with your partner, which caused you to withdraw, then there’s a chance your breakup was premature.
“Perhaps now you’re in a position to be forthright about the shame you were experiencing and how this put a limit on the way you were expressing your love, you can return to your ex and maximize your relationship potential,” Trescott added.
As they say, timing is everything — and this is definitely true in relationships. If you feel like your own individual struggles to find your place in the world got in the way of your bond, then your breakup might have been a mistake.
You gave into pressure.
Maybe your family had a certain idea of the kind of person you’d end up with, or your friends have their own reasons for persuading you to break it off. Either way, if you feel like you made the decision to break up with your ex because of other people’s thoughts and feelings rather than your own, then the split may have been a mistake.
“Separating your family’s vision for who you should be with from who your friends say is best for you is hard enough,” says Trescott. “Now add to the mix what you feel is best for you! Maybe you felt the pressure to live up to your own parents’ relationship, or maybe it was easier to date someone in your friend’s group because that’s all you knew and it kept things simple, cordial and fun. But, at a certain point, it probably hit you in a sobering moment of insight that it’s your heart that you’re extending, and the decision needs to be yours and yours alone.”
It’s important to separate other people’s opinions from your own inner feelings and desires when assessing whether a breakup was the right choice.
“If you gave up on your partner because your family didn’t want to give them a chance or your friends didn’t warm up to them, but you felt deeply connected, at ease, challenged and comforted, then it’s worth rising above the noise of the peanut gallery in order to explore a relationship that may not look right to others but feels right to you,” adds Trescott.
While family and friends may have your best interests at heart, they don’t always know the whole story — only you know the inner workings of your relationship and can decide what feels right. Take some time to evaluate your loved ones’ concerns were about your relationship, and then you can figure out whether they were valid or not.
You experienced a tragedy that made you run.
This past spring, one of my best girlfriends reconnected with a former flame who had broken things off abruptly a year back. When the two reunited, he finally explains his reasons for the split: he had just lost his job, he had to move home, and meanwhile, his parents were going through a nasty divorce. Sometimes, in the wake of major difficulties, we push people away instead of drawing them close. Ideally, if you were in a long-term relationship, you would be able to lean on your partner during a challenging time. Still, you may have felt like you had to get through something on your own — and that’s totally understandable.
“Tragedies can work in two ways: they can snap us awake to loving someone fully and right now or they can make us shut off and back out,” says Trescott. “Especially if the tragedy was centered in an unexpected loss, it’s likely that you broke up with your ex for fear of growing to love them too much as well as feeling like this breakup, on your terms, was the one loss you could control.”
Now that you’ve hopefully worked through your tragedy and begun the process ofhealing, you may have realized that your bond with your previous partner is worth salvaging. If that’s the case, Trescott, advises being honest with your ex about your confusion and fear during your time of tragedy — a supportive, understanding partner will likely be able to emphasize with the difficulties you faced that may have led to a premature breakup.
It can be rather challenging to assess whether a breakup was a mistake or not — mainly because it’s typical to have some regrets after ending a relationship, even if it wasn’t a healthy or totally happy one.
“The most common mistake post-breakup is to confuse emotions with signs that you should be back together,” says Trescott. “Missing your ex and refreshing their Instagram feed every few hours — or minutes — isn’t a sign that you lost the love of your life. It’s a sign that you’re experiencing the very real and natural tensions of heartbreak — emotions like longing and fixation that skew our perspective and hold our attention at a backwards glance.”
If any of these signs sound familiar, however, Trescott advises reaching out to our ex and asking to meet in person or at least talk on the phone about your revelations.
“If you’re coming from a place of clarity, self-responsibility and you feel healed and capable of returning to the relationship in a new and improved way, then the best move to make is to speak from your heart,” she says. “Be genuine, revealing, and compassionate as well as patient to where your ex might be at. And at the end of the day, rush nothing because if you really feel like breaking up was a mistake, forcing your ex to see that on your timeline would only be mistake number two.”
As humans, we all make mistakes — and that is certainly true in regards to relationships. There are many reasons why we might break up with someone. Sometimes, we realize in retrospect that our relationship was worth fighting for despite those reasons. Take some time and space to honestly reflect on your relationship (perhaps even with a therapist), and evaluate what led to your decision to end things. At the end of the day, it's important to trust your instincts: if it feels like your love story is unfinished or was ended too hastily due to insignificant factors, then it may be worth working to rewrite the ending.
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