Letting Go Of An Ex: What I Learned The Hard Way

Life has its ups and downs. And getting “dumped” is not only a low, it’s like a deep dark pit. Sometimes getting dumped feels more like getting buried alive. At least that’s what it felt like to me. The glimmer of hope I held onto was that one day Jim* would realize his mistake and want me again.


I held on after the break-up for days, weeks and months. After nearly a year of dating, of summer walks, hundreds of hours of texting, and endorphin-filled evenings it came abruptly to a halt. I really didn’t see it coming, and I honestly didn’t believe it. I mean, only a week before, Jim had asked me about how I would discipline my kids someday. Which I “heard” as, “How would you discipline the kids ‘we’ have someday?” See the difference? I didn’t . Sometimes women don’t hear what was actually said—they hear what they want to hear. In this case, I took a few clues and ran with them. He obviously was thinking about me as a potential mother of his kids. Right?

When Jim broke up with me, we shared similar social circles and he indicated that he still wanted to see me around, and I still wanted to see my friends. So we saw each other a few times a month, in group settings. I interpreted every little gesture of attention as undercover flirtations. Jim still made me laugh and was still attractive to me. The wake-up call finally came when Jim started dating someone else and she was around more. Then I felt dumped all over again. Only this time it was worse. Not only did I realize Jim wasn’t coming back, but in his opinion–the opinion I still deeply valued–Jim found someone better than me. She was pretty, she was flirtatious, she was athletic and he obviously was drawn to her. That hurt me. I felt insecure and asked myself, “What did I do wrong?” “What’s wrong with me?”

As weeks and months went on, I realized many things. I realized that even though my ex was a good guy, Jim really wasn’t the best for me. I had overlooked many of the problems we did have because I liked him and he had many desirable characteristics. I didn’t want to see his imperfections, but other people did and they would tell me, but I’d explain them away. Since then, I’ve learned to listen to my friends and family more and not to ignore imperfections in the person I am dating, especially if they are patterns related to anger, money and family—all of which can cause significant problems in a marriage. Of course, no one is perfect and forgiveness is part of any healthy relationship. However, dating is a time to take note of faults and potential problems so you can decide if these are “dealbreakers” or simply imperfections you can live with (because once you’re married you are committing to a person for life, faults and all). My distant uncle Ben Franklin used to say: “Keep your eyes wide open before marriage, half-shut afterwards.” I agree with him.

I also learned to not get too carried away with a single statement. This might sound silly, but in more recent relationships I’ve periodically asked guys to rate their emotional investment in our relationship from 1-10 and see what they say. At times I’ve felt an emotional investment of an 8 and he would tell me he was at a 5. It is a way for me to keep my emotions in check with where he’s at, and it works pretty well.

That leads me to my next lesson learned: don’t invest more than he does. This one was hard for me. I am a giver. I give and keep giving. This seems good, but there is such a thing as giving too much in a dating relationship, and I’ve made this mistake more than once. Giving a guy more time or energy than he gives you is not going to make him want you more, but it is going to make you want him more. And if a guy feels like you are giving more than he is, he may start to feel stuck and he won’t know what to do. I didn’t realize this. With Jim, I did invest more time, energy, and money than he did. I should have noticed that my enthusiasm for the relationship was outpacing his.

I eventually opened my eyes and saw that I didn’t really want to be with Jim if he didn’t want to be with me. Even if our relationship had continued, I probably would have felt under-appreciated and taken for granted. Don’t waste your time dating a person who you have to work hard to keep. Free yourself to find someone who really cares about you.

I realized that getting dumped isn’t always the worst thing that could happen. It’s hard, but sometimes it’s for the better.


*Jim is a pseudonym to protect his identity.

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