One of the hardest things in my work is telling someone who so badly wants his or her ex back that the relationship may be too damaged that it can’t be put back together, or does not have anything left to build on.
Some people want so bad to hold on to their beloved that they’re willing to “do anything” even keep arguments, fights, drama, conflicts etc. going just as long as they have some kind of “relationship” with their ex (even a toxic, destructive and pain-filled relationship is better than no relationship at all).
Even those that know in their gut that there is really no chance that things will work out will quite often get stuck spinning their wheels – today they’re over an ex and want a new life without him/her… tomorrow they’re still in love and want him/her back… then the next day they’re again over him/her and want to move on. This can go on like forever!
Hard at it may be to accept, moving on — as in it’s over, find someone new — is sometimes the only option left in a relationship that has been irreparably damaged.
But how do you know a relationship is irreparably damaged?
1. Your ex sees and treats you like an “enemy” or “evil” person and reacts to everything you say and do with suspicion.
2. Thoughts and memories of the relationship still hurt so bad that anything that was good or positive about the relationship pails in contrast to all the bad and negative things that happened in the relationship, at the time of the break-up and post break-up.
3. Criticism, suspicion, resentment, putdowns, mind games, power struggles, threats, drama/conflict, hostility, distrust, misunderstanding (and in some instances abuse) is the “normal” and only mode of interaction between the two of you.
4. Something terrible happens to either of you and the other feels “vindicated” even happy; hearing that the other is suffering, sad or not happy is good news.
5. Something good happens to either of you and the other somehow feels like it’s not fair; hearing that the other is happy or has had some success/achievement feels like something has been taken away from you and given to someone who does not deserve it.
6. Distrust and mistrust runs so deep that being seen as still caring and/or still having feelings for the other (which used to be all you wanted the other to know and feel) is now a weakness – and a bad thing. It’s gotten so bad that you can’t trust your ex to act in your best interest or do what’s right by you (and your ex may feel the same way).
Under these conditions, re-establishing a “normal” relationship is not only very difficult but close to impossible. The longer the destructive dynamics goes on the worse the relationship gets, and the harder it will be to rebuild any kind of “healthy” relationship.
Occasionally, a seemingly damaged-beyond-repair relationship gets another chance, but only if and when the destructive dynamics is stopped, both parties take time to heal and grow before attempting a reconciliation and if and when a collaborative reconciliation strategy is used to resolve the issues that create the destructive dynamic, re-establish trust and credibility, and re-introduce warmth and good feelings.
Cultivating good feelings and friendship to counterbalance the damage and hurt from the cumulative effect of constant misunderstandings, anger, suspicion, distrust, resentment, power struggles, defiance, hostility etc., is a critical part of reconciliation in these types of relationships.
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