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Lessons in love

Date

I learned more from being heartbroken than I ever did from being the heartbreaker.

Rejection hurts ... but, it doesn't have to be all bad.

Rejection hurts ... but, it doesn't have to be all bad. Photo: Getty

Recently, I was chatting with a couple of guys about love, about life, about relationships.

One asked me whether I'd ever been in a relationship where I thought I would get married. I said, yes I had, once.

He asked me what happened. Before I had the chance to say anything, he clarified the question. "Who broke up with who?"

"Yeah," his mate echoed, curiosity sparked. "Who got dumped?"

It was a loaded question and clear by the expressions on their faces that the answer mattered -  whether I was worth pursuing, whether there was something wrong with me.

I squirmed and then, shamefully, I settled on a lie. "It was mutual," I said.

They both looked visibly relieved.

It wasn't the first time I had seen the reaction that the question - and answer - evoked.

The first man I dated while still reeling from said break up was asking about my last relationship one day as we were driving.  "So, what happened? Who broke it off?" he asked.

I told him the truth. "He did."

He looked at me sidelong, in the car, sizing me up. Searching for what craziness must lie beneath the calm exterior to have caused it.

I didn't like the look, but I got it. One study by the University of Michigan titled Rejection Hurts: The Effect of Being Dumped on Subsequent Mating Efforts looked at how we weigh information about potential partners.

"The ending of relationships is potentially information rich because the decision to terminate a relationship entails a loss of investment from someone with a great deal of information about the person in question," the authors said.

"Dumping can be seen as similar to selling a car... sellers have a lot of information about their cars, and the fact that they are selling it is itself information that buyers ought to take into account."

Unsurprisingly, they found that "male and female participants' ratings of how much they would like to date [a] person ... decreased significantly after learning he or she had been rejected."

It makes sense and I would venture that there's even more of a stigma attached to female dumpees.

This is because women tend to initiate break ups more often than men. In fact, women are said to initiate between 60 and 90 per cent of divorces.

So, I was in the minority and could see my fellow in the car was wondering, "what's wrong with you?"

The worst part was, I was wondering it too.

I had spent far more than my fair share of time pondering that exact question, examining every flaw, turning over every quirk and aspect of myself that might explain the unworthiness. The wrongness.

But, within that search, I found something right too. I found myself amongst the shit I was sifting through.

As the dumper, in the past, I'd never had the inclination nor the impetus to really look at myself. Now as a loser in love, I took a good, long look at the gunky sides to my soul.

Uncomfortable and ugly as it was, I learned and grew more out of being heartbroken than I ever did from being a heartbreaker.

By all means, those who do the dumping can be reflective and evolve after an important relationship ends. Similarly, those who are dumped can dig their heels in, resisting change and the great chance it provides to reflect on who they are and how they are in relationships.

More often than not, both sides play a part in the demise of a relationship. Dumpees and dumpers can be right and wrong, wrong and right. It is not mutually exclusive or absolutely deducible.

Gauging people by their previous relationships is natural. But, if we want to gain insight into someone, perhaps we need to dive a little deeper and discover what lies beneath a break up - not who did the breaking up, but what, if any, lessons a person has learned from love.

And, if we take the car example from the Michigan study, information about the car we are potentially purchasing is important. But, surely what we want to know is not whether the car was ever flawed, as virtually every second hand car is, but whether and how well it was ever fixed. Right?

119 comments so far

  • All except one of my relationships has ended with me being dropped but in order to be replaced by someone else who was waiting in the wings. I have never been dropped by a boyfriend who was letting me go and then going off to lick his wounds and reflect and recover from the craziness that is Me. All the replacement models were orders of magnitude 'better looking' than me though, but that has not made me go out of my way to make myself better looking. I am perfectly OK, not overweight, perfectly fine looking and well educated, it's just that they wanted more/ different/ better than 'perfectly fine'. I didn't feel I could learn lessons from that other than to chose men who have lower expectations..?

    The other one was a mutual decision to end it - truly. I still am amazed by how calmly and rationally we made that decision and how pain free it was.

    Commenter
    me
    Location
    here
    Date and time
    January 08, 2013, 9:28AM
    • For who? I think there's always some amount of pain involved in the decision

      Commenter
      They
      Location
      There
      Date and time
      January 08, 2013, 12:28PM
  • Quite superficial. Personally I don't think it really matters. One woman's trash is another woman's treasure? ;)

    I've come to learn that at the end of the day some people just arent meant to be together and if one person is ballsy enough to do the 'dumping' (breaking up is hard no?) then its kind of a good thing. Bearing in mind all circumstances are different and i'm sure it depends on the kind of relationship you've had with that person in the first place...

    Commenter
    justsaying
    Date and time
    January 08, 2013, 9:35AM
    • Yes, breaking up is hard. I reckon I have blubbered more when I have broken it off with someone more than when someone has broken it off with me! I have just felt so freakin' bad doing it. You feel like a total heel when someone looks really hurt and you know from experience how much it hurts yourself.

      Commenter
      AT
      Location
      Melbourne
      Date and time
      January 08, 2013, 10:02AM
    • I agree some people just aren't meant to be together, but why do you say it's superficial to take a good look at yourself and grow as a person following a painful experience such as a break-up? I've done this and found it very worthwhile. I believe there is something to learn (about ourselves and others) from every experience and going through this process can be very confronting and difficult, quite the opposite of superficial.

      Commenter
      Carmel
      Location
      Sydney
      Date and time
      January 08, 2013, 10:08AM
    • @Carmel
      I think she is saying that it is superficial to judge someone on their past relationships and if they were the one who was left by the other.

      Commenter
      AT
      Location
      Melbourne
      Date and time
      January 08, 2013, 10:17AM
    • For any caring and considerate person, choosing to end a long-term relationship after much soul-searching can be the most painful experience of them all. Hurting someone can almost be more painful than hurting ourselves. But then there are the other people who seem to breeze through it all, oblivious and guilt free! and even enjoying the pain they cause :/

      Commenter
      jetsam
      Date and time
      January 08, 2013, 11:05AM
    • @Carmel I find it superficial to judge someone on whether they've been dumped in the past. The 'flaws' they've been dumped for may be completely meaningless to you. I guess it's about peoples perception and what you value in life and in a relationship :)
      Have definately taken a good hard look at myself after relationships and learned a lot from experiences.

      Commenter
      justsaying
      Date and time
      January 08, 2013, 11:21AM
    • @justsaying @11:21, the ‘flaws’ may be meaningless but they could be extremely meaningful right?, and some reasons are not perception based but factual instead right? Eg violence come to mind. For someone at the receiving end of certain behaviors eg violence, I wish them strength to pull the plug and distance themselves from such trash, keep on walking, running preferably, and never look back.

      Commenter
      Victorious Painter
      Date and time
      January 08, 2013, 12:49PM
    • I so agree - breaking up is hard! I've been both the dumper and the dumpee and honestly I thought being dumped was easier. No second guessing if I made the right decision, no regrets, it was totally out of my hands. I cried a while and then decided that he had done me a favour by being honest with me instead of stringing me along. I now have no negative feelings towards him. When I look back at the last relationship I ended, my feelings are still fraught with guilt. I made a difficult decision but it was the right one for me at the time, yet I still feel bad for hurting him. What can you do... it's all part of life.

      Commenter
      T
      Date and time
      January 08, 2013, 3:38PM

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