The relationship’s over. You ended it; he ended it; it was mutual – no matter what the mechanics that precipitated it; it’s happened. And now you’re living through the aftermath, sometimes feeling OK, sometimes not. But the thought won’t go away. Was it a mistake to break up?

Whatever you do, don’t panic yourself into doing something you’ll regret. The thing, it’s normal. What you’re feeling is what everybody feels after a breakup. But do you even recognize what you are feeling?

Well, it’s FEAR

The fear that you’ve made a mistake.
The fear of being alone.
The fear that you’ve lost the best relationship you’ll ever have, even thought it wasn’t perfect.
The fear that you’ll never find anyone else.
The fear that you’ll be alone for ever.
Even the fear that he’ll move on but you won’t (this can be a very powerful motivator, which many people are too ashamed to acknowledge or admit).

The fact is; breakups are tough. You have to face up to the fact this was never going to be a good time, but you’ll get through it. Of course you’ve been telling yourself that ever since it happened; but it hasn’t got better. In fact, it’s got worse. And you’re finding it harder and harder to see your way out of the woods – or even whether you should get out them.

Maybe you’ve been wrong all along. Was it a mistake to break up?

It’s a reasonable question.

And if you’ve reached the point where you can’t stand those nagging thoughts going round and round in your head any longer; then it’s time to look at your relationship (and your breakup) more forensically. Was it a mistake to break up? Asking yourself these questions will help you to see more clearly.

1. Do You REALLY Love Him? Or Just the IDEA of Him?

When you’re used to spending a lot of time with one person, and then that person disappears from your life – it’s hard. The days are lonely; the evenings empty, and the weekends endless. And you start thinking about the past. About your boyfriend. You airbrush his faults, forget the bad times, and polish your good memories. You ask yourself if you were too demanding, too fussy. Maybe this can change, maybe that doesn’t matter as much as you thought it did; maybe something else isn’t the big deal you made of it.

Loneliness is real, and hard to bear. It’s harder still if you are not used to it, if you’ve never been lonely before. But it’s not a reason to rescind your decision; to make it wrong. And you can do something about loneliness. You can go out, meet people and do something active and useful.

It’s easy to glamorize your lost love. You romanticize your old relationship, rub off the rough edges, you all but put a halo around your boyfriend. Was it a mistake to break up? Or are you simply seeing the past – and him – through rose-colored spectacles?

Everybody does it, but it’s not reality. Reality lies in the things that destroyed your relationship. Your boyfriend wasn’t perfect. No-one is, of course, but he was so imperfect for you that you broke up. Ever heard the expression “distance lends enchantment”? You’re suffering a bad case of it, right now.

2. You Know WHY You Broke Up – But Are Those Reasons Are Still Valid?

Remind yourself of why you broke up. Were there clear, irrefutable reasons why the relationship wouldn’t work? You disagreed fundamentally on one of more of your core beliefs; your different ambitions for life were irreconcilable; your boyfriend failed to support you in ways you couldn’t accept; you couldn’t be the girlfriend he wanted – in some basic way the relationship you had failed to meet your standards; to give you what you wanted from it.

Was the relationship unequal?

Did one of you do all the giving while the other took? Were you not on the same page as far as timing went – you wanted marriage, he wanted to keep things as they were? Were you in a long distance relationship, with no prospect of being able to move closer?

Was it a mistake to break up? Don’t try to diminish your reasons. Whatever they were, unless something has altered in a way that radically changes things, those reasons are still as valid as they were when you decided to break up. And the pain you’re feeling now, however real, doesn’t undermine your decision, or make it wrong.

3. What Kind of Relationship Would You Have If You DID Get Back Together?

If rehashing the reasons for breaking up have only made you thing more longingly of getting back together, then you need to think about the kind of relationship you’d have if you did.

For a start, who broke up with whom?

People tend to assume that the person who was dumped is the one who wants to get back together; and often that’s true, but not always. And even then, the jilted lover may be harboring dark thoughts of revenge alongside (or even instead of) dreams of reconciliation.

How would you get past the breakup?

Would there be endless rehashing of the past whenever you fought? What would you change to prevent the old problems recurring? If your ex would have to change to make things work, what makes you think he’d be willing to do so?

There’s no point in going back to a failed relationship. So unless you have genuine reasons for believing that a new start is possible, and your ex is on board with this, then it’s a non-starter.

4. How Have YOU Changed Since the Breakup?

What has changed in your life since the breakup? How have you changed?

Ask your girlfriends if they’ve noticed a change in you. Are you happier? More confident? Do you look better? Do you see much more of them? This is a powerful sign that breaking up was the right thing to do.

When relationships are going badly, there’s a knock-on effect that often affects your whole life. Being in a dysfunctional relationship diminishes your self-esteem and your feelings of self-worth. Your career suffers, you don’t sleep well, you start seeing less of the other people in your life; maybe you comfort-eat, or start to lose weight.

Bad relationships diminish everything in your life. Often you are increasingly cut off from your friends and family, and frustrated in your career. This is always a sign of a toxic relationship.

If any of these things ring a bell for you, then you were right to call time on your relationship. It was detracting from your life; not enhancing it. And the first, the most important measure of a good relationship is that it enlarges you. It expands your outlook. It adds to your happiness. It is a positive, life-enhancing experience.

5. Has Something Happened to Make You Regret Your Decision?

If this is the first time you’ve really started to doubt your decision, then maybe there’s a specific reason for it. Have you suffered a setback, something that has interrupted your momentum in moving on from the breakup?

The most common setback is discovering that your ex has moved on – with someone else.

No matter how convinced you might be of the rightness of your decision to break up, there is always the thought at the back of mind that, if you were to change your mind, you and your ex could get back together. If the worst comes to the worst, you have something, someone, to fall back on.

Now that reassurance has gone.

It’s hard to see the man you loved, perhaps still do love, with someone else. And it’s quite normal for it to make you panic, and doubt your decision. The rules have changed. The clock is ticking. This might be your last chance to make him think again.

But really, nothing has changed. Everything that made you decide to break up is still true; still real. Essentially you are being the classical dog in the manger; you don’t really want him, but you still feel possessive enough towards him not to want anyone else to have him either.

Of course, it’s no reason at all to get back together. It’s small and petty – but absolutely human. It’s hard to see your ex moving on before you do yourself. But someone had to be first. And it’ll be your turn next.

6. Can You REALLY Imagine a Future Together?

Can you really see a future together that is radically different from the past? It’s hard to reconstruct an old relationship in a new mold; so what makes you think you’ll succeed?

How do you see you and your ex boyfriend in the future?

Are you together again, but in such a radically different way from before, that this time your relationship is happy and successful? What is your plan to achieve this? What will your ex’s contribution be? Is he fully on board with this?

Have you agreed on a plan for the future, a plan that allows both of you to achieve your life ambitions?

You already done the “first love” thing: is there now a solid foundation on which to build a more lasting relationship? It’s essential that you have some kind of shared vision, if you are going to be successful.

Or is it easier to picture a life for yourself without your ex?

Have you started to envision the next few years without seeing your ex as part of it? Do you have career plans, holiday plans, life plans; that don’t depend on your ex being there to be complete?

Maybe you hadn’t realized this until now. Maybe you’ve been quietly moving away from seeing your ex as part of your future; but until you were forced to look at it forensically, you hadn’t quite clocked that your ex wasn’t in it.

Was It a Mistake to Break Up? Or Was It the Right Decision?

Take the time to think about these questions, and to answer them honestly. Talk to the people around you, but don’t let them make the decision for you. Family and friends usually start by validating your decision, but they become upset (or even impatient) when you don’t seem to be getting over it.

They look for ways to alleviate your distress, and the most obvious one is to get back together. But that’s clearly not a good reason. Was it a mistake to break up? Now you’ve thought it over again, you should be able to answer that question.

Remember, your ex is not the last man you will ever meet. No matter how wonderful you once thought he was, there are other men out there; men who will make you happier than he ever did. And that’s not because he wasn’t a good man, or had bad intentions. It’s just that he wasn’t the right man for you.

Was it a mistake to break up? Maybe, despite the pain and the regrets, it was. Don’t be discouraged because you are finding it hard to move on. You must go forward, not backwards. Even if you do get back together, it will be in a different, a new relationship. The past is over. It’s time to move on.