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Dumping toxic people from our lives is an important step toward making healthy changes, but what does it mean when the person being dumped is you?
Being dumped hurts. There’s no pretty way to say it. A long time ago, within the span of a single week, I got dumped—twice. One dump came at the hands of a trusted friend who basically didn’t like the direction my life was taking. I did. The other dump came from a boyfriend who didn’t like the fact that I liked the direction our relationship was taking.
I could tell you how wrong they were to edge me out of their lives without warning and how they were scared to face the feelings I brought up in them. In fact, it would be easy for me to tell you all of that, that wouldn’t be the whole story.
Being the dumper is never fun, and it’s rarely graceful, no matter what we tell ourselves and our friends. There’s that time I chose to drop a guy in an email without giving him the chance to say his piece in person. For various reasons I decided he was a big doofus who didn’t deserve another minute of my time, so I figured an in-depth email was the tidiest way to end it. I convinced myself he wanted out, too—he’d been acting funny for weeks—so the only thing left between us was to figure out the best time to pick up our respective shit and get on with our separate lives. Needless to say, things didn’t go as planned when I showed up on his stoop. It was messier than I’d bargained for, and neither of us ever got to express how we really felt.
There was that time I stopped taking calls from a good friend because I suspected she was in an abusive situation that she refused to leave. I had a whole lot of ideas about how she should have been living. I thought she was weak for not doing what I believed was good for her, while she believed I was poorly informed, judgmental and pushy.
In these experiences as the dumper, I walked away rather than tell the people I was close to what was really bugging me. Mainly because I didn’t have tools to move me beyond my own feelings of betrayal and drama. For my part, I felt awkward and hurt by the things we said and didn’t say. And I was frustrated at our inability to see past our differences. The same goes for the people who dumped me, I think; they couldn’t find their words either.
We owe it to ourselves to try and understand why our relationships fail. If for nothing else, an examination of our actions can help us avoid dragging our unresolved issues and old baggage to new relationships. In my case, going into the unpleasantness of being dumped showed me that I was still capable of having close relationships, even though a couple of them had crumbled. Here are a few more things I realized:
1. We get dumped. We can’t control when and why people quit us. This one’s a doozy because, when I got dumped, I can’t say I was entirely surprised, but I was like C’mon, It’s me. Haven’t we been through tough times before? It’s a real stinger, but just like we can behave in ways we don’t always understand, so do the people we’re in relationships with. It’s everybody’s right to go off the rails, period.
2. We can’t love with strings. That’s another great reminder for anyone who prefers to be liked and loved in return by the people they care for. That’s why it’s best to love with no strings attached. Have you ever tried to make a shaky relationship work because the other person wasn’t that bad, or because they had amazing potential and they just needed someone to understand them? And then you get tangled up in your expectations, upset because you’re not seeing any return on your loving investment? Been there. Not fun and definitely not healthy.
3. We are not defective. So, we get dumped. Think back to the ungracious ways you may have dumped people in your past. No need to cringe over it now—and I’m certainly not suggesting you track your dumpees down to repent over your behavior—but I am saying that granting yourself the gift of looking back over your actions might help you have compassion for that person as well as yourself. Communication can be tough and we don’t always get it right. We’re all works in progress, remember?
4. We can always choose. As I contemplate my own relationship disappointments, I try to review them with a broader perspective than my bruised ego ever could. Where I was tempted to blame others for being petty, stubborn or otherwise clueless, I’m learning to focus instead on my own actions while keeping in mind that everybody really does want to be loved.
5. People change when we do. Not to be confused with the false idea that we can change people, but when we begin the work of reshaping our lives, we’re no longer the same. Which means we’re not the same in our relationships. Which means our friendships and partnerships shift, too. And people simply can’t respond to us the same way if we’re not the same anymore, right? Being happy about the changes I was making in my own life didn’t bode well for those relationships I mentioned. Interestingly enough, that’s the upside of being dumped: getting the shaft can be a tremendous gift and we don’t even know it.
If you’re feeling devastated by a disappointment in your own relationships, remember that change is the only constant, and we can’t control that. On the face of it, being in the dumps isn’t a great space to be in at all. But the next time you feel emotionally trashed, instead of ignoring your feelings, take time to investigate this jagged emotional terrain. I guarantee you this: you’ll find treasure where you least expected it.
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