~ DECEMBER 2022 ~
You’ve likely heard it all when it comes to breakup advice: “try the no-contact rule,” “go to therapy,” “let yourself go through the emotional stages of the breakup.”
And while this encouragement can help a lot of people navigating the end of a toxic relationship, it’s not always so simple for people ending a healthy one.
Though there’s tons of breakup content out there on the internet, a large percentage of it assumes that points toward helping people get over a toxic partner. And though it may be easy to default to calling your ex a narcissist or gaslighter when things are over, the reality is that not every relationship ends because one person has turned into — or always has been — a jerk. Sometimes, it just simply doesn’t work out with someone who’s really great, and who you really like, or even love.
Breakups are all different, and most are difficult in one way or another. But for those of you who have been through the end of a healthy relationship, you know just how hard it can be to process a split with someone who wasn’t a total piece of sh*t. Which is frustrating — wouldn’t you think that a healthy, amicable breakup with a truly good person would be easier to accept?
So why does it sometimes feel significantly more difficult to get over a person who treated you well than it is to get over someone who had the same superiority complex as Andrew Tate?
Ahead, Akos Antwi, a psychiatric mental health nurse practitioner, explains why breakups with nontoxic people can be the hardest breakups of them all — and how you can work through. (Hint: healing from a healthy split can look a little different than recovering from a nasty one.)
Why Is It So Hard to End a Nontoxic Relationship?
While breaking up with a jerk can feel awful, it has one positive: you can usually put most of the blame on the other person for things going south. Not so with a healthy split, or a breakup with a great person. “Blaming the other person makes us feel justified in our feelings of anger, sadness, and pain about what happened,” Antwi tells POPSUGAR. “It’s easier to hate someone than it is to feel sorry for them. It’s easier to blame someone than accept responsibility for your own actions, and it’s also a lot less painful to feel like you’ve been wronged by someone else than it is to see yourself at fault.”
Not that a breakup with a good person must mean you did something to derail the relationship — sometimes loving relationships end because one partner is moving, or you realize you have different long-term values. But the same holds true in these situations: it can be harder to find comfort for sadness and hurt when there’s no one to point fingers at during the post-breakup period.
There may be some guilt about why things had to end, adds Antwi, especially if you were the one to initiate the breakup or it was mutual. (If your ex was the one to end things, you might be more prone to self-blame.) “You may wonder if there is something wrong with you for wanting out of the relationship when things have been going well for so long,” she says. It’s easier to question whether breaking up was really necessary because it’s less obvious than if you were in a toxic relationship. Your friends might even interrogate the decision, which can make you feel worse.
How to Get Over Someone Who Isn’t Toxic
First, it’s important to remember that just because someone treated you with respect and kindness doesn’t mean they’re deserving of a relationship with you. In reality, this is actually just the bare minimum. You don’t owe any person your time or love solely because they weren’t manipulative, mean, or unable to utter the words, “I’m sorry.”
Once you understand this, then it’s time to take responsibility for your own actions and feelings. “We all have our strengths, but we also have things we could stand to improve upon or change about ourselves,” Antwi says. Take the time to reflect on your relationship — what you learned from it, what you can do better in your next relationship, and what you need in your next partner.
Then, “consider that this person had their own issues and struggles that made them incompatible with you in some way,” says Antwi. Again, compatibility goes deeper than respect and kindness. Maybe they were more of an introvert than you liked. Maybe their five-year plan didn’t align with yours. Understand that while one person can be a great partner, it doesn’t necessarily make them a great partner for you.
One of the best pieces of advice I’ve ever heard from a therapist is when you’re unsure about your partner, ask yourself, “Could someone love this person better than I could?” If the answer is yes, rest assured that even though this particular person may be great, there’s someone else out there who’s better aligned for you and your needs.
Also useful for any type of breakup: prioritizing a self-care routine, Antwi suggests. “It’s easy to forget about your own needs when any relationship is being dissolved. But it’s still important to set aside some time for self-care — whether that means a trip to the spa or just spending an afternoon watching Netflix.”
Lastly, make sure you’re grieving the relationship on your own timeline. There’s no rush to get over someone, and the amount of time it takes to work through your breakup is going to look different than the amount of time it takes your friends. Trust the process, and trust that you will know when you’re ready to move on.
Ultimately, breakups are breakups. No matter how toxic or nontoxic the relationship was, it never feels good to go through one. But if you happen to find yourself with lingering feelings over an ex who wasn’t a toxic POS, hopefully you can find some reassurance in the above. And even if the healthy ones might suck the most, you, too, can get through this.
A version of this article originally appeared here on popsugar.com