Breaking up is hard to do. Unrequited love has inspired more works of art than anything else on earth. For many, letting go of a relationship is a lot more than just detaching from a person. It can mean having to let go of an ideal, a dream or fantasy, a lifestyle, or family and friends. For other’s, it could be as difficult as getting over an addiction, or something so painful that it leaves us feeling emotionally crippled.
The way we behave in a relationship and after someone breaks up with us, says a lot about our mental health and our level of self-esteem. It’s a good indicator of what parts of us we need to heal and where we should focus our attention.
A big part of my, ‘Skype with Savannah,’ practice deals with helping people get over the ending of their toxic relationships and I’ve noticed that most people, whose partners have left them, tend to fall into one or more of the categories I’ve listed below.
Healthy Break-Up Style: You usually find individuals with a good level of self-esteem here, included in this group are recovering Codependents. They recognize instantly when their relationship is not healthy and that their needs are not being met. They are not afraid to act when the situation calls for it. They maintain separate interests and friends throughout their relationships and see the relationship as another part of their lives – not their entire life. While saddened at a relationship’s ending, they are not destroyed by it. They live fully in reality and are not afraid to call a spade a spade. They recognize that their development is a top priority and that their self-care is their responsibility and they look for partners that have the same beliefs and values.
The Typical Break-Up Style: You usually find individuals who try to make their relationships work, even if they are having problems and are not happy. They are often more trusting and willing to give others the benefit of the doubt. They have a moderate level of self-esteem and tend to mostly live in reality. Once it’s clear to them that their relationship isn’t going to improve, they will eventually take the necessary steps to break free. They are often heartbroken at a relationship’s ending, but they know they will battle through it and be okay in the end. They put themselves slightly above their relationship, but they aren’t afraid to sacrifice in the name of love on occasion. The majority of individuals in a relationship are this type.
The Indifferent Break-Up Style: This type know and fully accept that their relationship is over. They are completely detached emotionally and are basically living separate lives, while still married or cohabitating. They stay together for reasons other than love, typically finances, kids… and may or may not end the relationship when something pushes them in that direction. Their level of self-esteem is typically low. Their behavior is often driven by some type of fear, be it fear of abandonment, fear of not being able to support themselves, fear of change, fear of being alone….
The Ruminator Break-Up Style: Here you find people that have a hard time letting go. They know on a cognitive level that their relationship is never going to work out and that it’s over. They refer to themselves as single and go for long stretches of time being okay and focused on their own life, yet at times they ruminate over the good times with their ex and can slide back into their old, unhealthy relationship, for short stretches of time. Once back in it, they see the same old tricks being played over and over again. They know the score and quickly remember why it didn’t work. It ends again, either by their hand or their ex-partner’s, who was just dipping back in, to make sure they still had an option. They tend to live mostly in reality, but take brief visits to fantasy land. They often have moderate to low levels of self-esteem, but find they feel much better when they are away from their toxic ex and out of the relationship.
The Chaser Break-Up Style: The Chaser, also known as, the clinger, hasn’t accepted the break-up and will keep trying to win back their partner. They keep finding reasons to call, text, email or show up at places they know their ex frequents. They don’t know when to quit and tend to lack self-respect and self-restraint. They’re impulsive and act from emotion rather than logic. Their behavior can be over the top and they can be obsessive, when bent on finding a way back into their relationship, despite obvious signs and advice from others. Chasers often suffer from a Personality Disorder such as Borderline Personality Disorder, Narcissistic Personality Disorder or Histrionic Personality Disorder, though that is not always the case. It can often take the intervention of police or some authority figure to get them to give up the chase.
The Perpetual Merry-Go-Round Break-Up Style: This type typically stays in a revolving door type of relationship. One minute their partner is with them, the next they’re gone – often with another person. This dosey-doe keeps repeating over and over and over again, with no end in sight. The individual is constantly crashing and soaring and caught in a trauma bond. They have low self-esteem and are hoping that their partner will change and choose them over any other, they might be involved with. They bend over backwards trying to out-do the competition, with what they’re willing to do and give. They try to be perfect – to keep their partner happy. They want the relationship that was promised to them, even if it means giving away their self-esteem. While they still hold out hope that their partner can change, they’ve had the same con run on them so many times, that the appeal is starting to wear thin. They still want their abusive partner and that need has taken on an addiction-type feel, that seems to defy reason. They typically feel that no one else will want them and they believe that being in a relationship is better than being alone. They are Codependent and engage in fantasy-type thinking. They are other-person focused and have a very difficult time letting go of the relationship. It often takes a significant event to occur to get them to give it up, though very often they do tire of the same old tricks and their desire for getting their ex back may begin to wane.
The Denier Break-Up Style: Deniers exist in highly toxic relationships. I don’t think anyone can be fully in denial with so many dysfunctional bells and whistles going off. The Denier is more of an avoider. They don’t want to talk about anything unpleasant and they certainly don’t want to rock the boat. They want to live in their own little bubble, where they can fantasize that things are as they wish them to be. While this isn’t so much, a break-up, as they consider themselves, still, fully, in the relationship – it is however, so toxic and lacking what most would consider normal relationship behaviors, that many would question its authenticity. The Denier is fully Codependent and their identity is so intertwined within the relationship, that they cannot see themselves as separate from it. They are not happy per se, but they are not willing or capable of doing anything about it. They live from a place of fear and spend a lot of time inside their own heads, daydreaming of how they wish their lives would be. Deniers are in it for the long haul and only an external force would have the ability to push them out of the relationship.
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Great article! Right now I could say than I’m between healthy and typical although I feel like I get something from every category. This has been a long string of lies and deception going for over a year and it ended because I decided to, not because the other part wanted.
I was in a relationship with a Narcissist, pathological liar, sex addict and manic depressive person for 6 years. I found out about the diagnosis only three months ago. My life was a roller coaster for several months, well it kind of still is because we are not done with dividing stuff although she took almost everything we owned, but now I have control of my life. I came across this article looking for help to cope with the betrayal and humiliation that I was subjected to. So far, I have found every article that’ve read, very helpful.
I think part of your “Break Up Style” has to be related to your “Relationship Style”. I have friends (mostly female but that could be a coincidence) who are able to easily move from one relationship to another and are always “in love”. They let go pretty easily because they form bonds as easily as they break them.
On the other hand, people who form attachments much more slowly or frequently tend towards at least I’d say Ruminator as the relationship was usually hard found and long formed and ‘replacing’ it is generally not on the horizon and the person knows that it is going to be a good long while before anything similar comes along. It can be worse when one of them has dated one of the aforementioned ‘people since while they ‘ruminate’ their ex is happily in a new relationship ‘in love’ and not upset. It is a bad combination for a Ruminator to be sure.
One thing I’ll add here is we often talk about how much longer it takes men to get over a relationship; I think at least part of it has to do with the above dynamic, not so much as gender-based personality traits but access; women generally have far more access to men to date simply due to our social dynanamic; almost all women I know are pursued relentlessly on Tinder, at bars, at work, at the gym and have if not a phone full of options access to those options.Again just the way our society works and I’m not just talking about my ‘hot’ female friends I mean almost all of them, young, old, hot, not. On the other hand when (most) men break up they can’t just choose from 1000 Tinder ‘Pokes’ or go sit at a bar and have 1/2 a dozen women hit on them. It isn’t the way it works and then men are forced to, while in a highly vulnerable and generally low-esteem state, try to pursue women who are being likewise pursued by other men. So the cycle for men to get into a relationship and past the old one is slower one.
I’m not saying btw that access to more options means good options but let’s face it after a break up some validation never hurts anyone. I think more men end up alone w/o that validation which is a recipe for rumination.
I’m not saying a new relationship necessarily helps get over the last one (in some cases merely delays processing it) but it certainly helps to not be alone ruminating and with somoene else in your arms adoring you.
So I’d restate that I think your Break Up Style is closely related to this and I’d guess that more men fall into Chaser/Ruminator. Just a guess though…
Andrea Whimpenny, well done you and Happy 71st Birthday many more!
These are the kind of stories that helps to give the rest of us confidence in life! Thank you for sharing.
Tara, as I have already said, I totally understand you. It all goes back to our childhoods/parents. We have to believe our parents even if somewhere in our minds we knew they were wrong. (Never underestimate children) We have to believe them because they are our guardians and if they’ve got it wrong we are in deep, deep shit. Well, we were whatever! And the problem is when we continue that into adolescence/adulthood knowing something isn’t quiet right but not having the knowledge, experience to understand it completely.
I knew when I married my ex something wasn’t quite right. I talked to so many friends about it but they were young too. None of us could understand, we all tried to figure him out but hey we all so open minded. So I married him. Disaster! He is everyone in my family mixed into one…the good, the bad and the ugly…I go between thinking, ‘what a little C…t to poor him that I love. Having said that, take Savannahs advice, look after YOU!
I haven’t been leaving any messages lately because…it takes time for your posts to sink in. They all make sense and slowly I’m trying to incorporate them.
I’ve been clinging on because he’s been clinging on, we know each other and in that there is comfort. However, I also know the minute he finds another, I’m gone baby, gone. I’ve also had to learn to live without him but with him through phone calls and the occasional visit. With that much distance you learn about the person and as much as I Iove him, like a pesky brother,(well, MUCH MUCH MUCH worse) he’s so demanding and exhausting.
I wonder if I will meet ‘Mr Right’? Right now (I’m recovering from major surgery) I’m lonely but don’t have the energy to invest. Sad really as I would love a companion. But not knowing myself properly means I can’t meet the right person, at least not yet.
Margret thanks for writing this, I can relate and that’s the thing that has helped me the most. Reading that this isn’t some unbelievable situation that goes on in my life only. When I read Savannah”s article and the people who write in I am still shocked that this is happening to others. Its not something I did its not some mistake I made its not a punishment. I have been in a relationship alone but with someone with a mental disorder, I can mentally understand that but I still have a hard time believing that he truly has no feelings. He has shown me this to be true it is in black and white and I have experienced it over and over and yet, I have the hardest time accepting that a human being could have no compassion,, like he is just hiding it. When I can truly except that is the truth and un-fixable I hope to move on. I go weeks and think I am doing so much better than I can tell you exactly what will happen. The silent treatment followed by messages showing interest or concern about something going on in my life then refusal to talk about his cruelty then back to the silent treatment and every single time I wait for the words and actions I want always to be disappointed. I feel like I am the one with the mental disorder. Expecting a different outcome but knowing on an intellectual plane that it is never going to be good. Emotionally I am very sick and need a long time to heal.
Tara, I’m really sorry.. I totally understand. I’ll write soon but right now I am so deeply in shit financially, just had my electricity cut off…my own fault. But will write .
I fit in right along withDenial. I was so sick and tired of his games. I tried everything to keep him from leaving. But he has 3 of us. So he has to keep the other 2 happy also. Well he is gone for 4 yrs now and needless to say I miss him. Is that sick or not. But that fear of being alone. I write him. Tell him I miss him ECT. I thought this is my way out. But I continue to live in my own bubble as you say. I know it’s wrong but I have alot of issues to deal with. Maybe someday I can get the courage to say I’m done. I dont know. I thank you for all your nlogs it does help alot. I didnt even know he was this till I read your stories. And knowing I’m not alone helps also. God Bless all of you.
This was such a fascinating read. I have wondered why I have kept a certain lover as an option when I knew he was really just a harem collector who would contact me only on his terms. I believe there was a type of trauma bond in that. I am in therapy and learning that I crave the chaos and cruelty of my childhood in order to feel “safe.” It is a backwards non-logical belief system but it makes emotional sense to me now that I understand that I am craving the familiar. So as I read about the merry-go-round break up it helped me to see that I kept the chaos going by pursuing a man who was selfish and never going to change. It gave me the same impossible task as I faced in childhood: to get attention from the cruel narcissist. I know that game. I got good at it. Being healthy and calm and safe…what was that? I am starting all over in life in a way. Having to learn some basic self-protection and safety. Mostly that seems to mean simply saying “no” to this type of relating. I can’t picture healthy yet but at least I am saying no to unhealthy.
Thriving, think I’m in exactly the same situation and I think I know what you mean. Sometimes I question myself and ask, wth?! I’m giving up so much of myself for that? No man is worth that but then I ask, why am I so lonely? Must be my problem. Always looking for the same situation when in reality I have no trust in men. Also a lack of attraction to kindhearted men
Wow! I fall in two. Healthy & Typical. I refuse to be a member of The Eight Times club. ( this is the how many times an abused partner goes back before leaving permanently. Either on your own or in a body bag.)
My father stayed because when I was growing up courts rarely gave full custody to the dad.
He & I would have been a whole sight healthier off if my mom had been a weekend visit mother. I guess this is where I learned get out at the first warnings. Most relationships I have ever been in last no longer than 9 to 18 months. That seems to be the longest anyone can keep their mask on.
Thanks for the insight & Have a Wonderful week everyone!
Hello Savannah Thank you for an insightful article. I never saw myself as a clinger but then realized that months or years after both my divorces, I tried to get back with my exs. That lets me know that I had more trouble letting go than it seems. There was relief at first but as time went on, I convinced myself that both had changed and gave them another chance! It did not work out with either of the husbands and was wasted time that I could have spent on recovery of me.
Thank you Savannah, for confirming that I am at last, a recovering co-dependent. For 10 years I was a Denier style…… then I just decided one morning that I had had enough, that I was worth more.
The night before I made the momentous decision I lay in bed thinking to myself that the only way out was suicide!
Then I heard my mother speaking to me, telling that there is another way but it requires strength and the desire to put yourself first, she said ‘there is no one more important than you, just get up in the morning and tell him to go’……..that was over two years ago and I’m alive and living a wonderful life and about to celebrate my 71st birthday.