When you’re attached to someone who mistreats you, it’s not easy to just get over them — even long after the break-up.
You suffer from cognitive dissonance, which means you hold contradictory beliefs that cause you psychological stress — “They’re good, I like them” vs. “They mistreat me, I shouldn’t like them.”
People with cognitive dissonance end up bargaining with themselves and changing their beliefs to make them consistent.
In romantic relationships, the attachment and pain from the break-up can be so powerful that it gets you stuck in the “They’re good, I like them” headspace, despite clear evidence that they’re not suitable for you.
To avoid mental discomfort, you make excuses for their bad treatment, stay in denial, and play the longing role.
For example, you tell yourself that it’s not their fault that they treat you poorly; it’s your fault for not being good enough. You reason to yourself that they will be perfect when they meet the love of their life — if only you could be the love of their life.
Meanwhile, reality keeps rubbing on your face that they’re not interested in a relationship with you and have no care and respect for you. It doesn’t align with your belief about how a romantic partner should be to you.
You’ve also read enough self-help articles and received enough unsolicited advice from friends and family to know that you need to move on.
So you’re in constant conflict, and you suffer.
The question is: How do you override your attachment, your loving feelings, or the good memories you have of them to convince yourself that they’re worth exactly zero of your time and mental real estate?
Use this mental trick
Put your relationship with this guy into perspective.
Think of all the careless, mean-spirited, or abusive ways he treated you without excuses — just facts.
Think of yourself as a person, anyone.
Why would I want a guy who treats someone that way?
Would a kind, mature person really treat someone that way and only treat the “love of his life” with decency? What does it say about him as a person then?
These questions help make your ex accountable for how he treated you and remind you that you don’t have to take the sole responsibility for how your relationship turned out.
It also shifts your self-blaming into compassion like you would have for another person in the same situation as you.
Remember that, regardless of who you are and what you do, you are not responsible for the way someone decides to treat you.
They string you along, gaslight you, use you, disrespect you, or have no empathy for your hurt feelings and the position they put you in — it’s on them. It’s a reflection of their character and emotional depth.
Even if they eventually meet the “love of their life”, their character won’t change — not without significant life events anyway. Their emotional capabilities won’t magically expand. They’ll reap what they sow in their own time.
Getting over someone and healing from a bad break-up takes time and effort. You’ll likely experience many contradictory beliefs and have to unknot them over a long time, but it needs to be done and it’s worth every effort.
With time and experiences, you will get better at watching out for yourself. It’s called leveling up.
When you’re young and carried away, you need a disproportionate amount of negative evidence to override a mere expression of interest in the early days of dating.
When you become more mature and have your inner life in place, it will take mountains of positive evidence to convince you that someone is a high-value partner and deserving of your time. One red flag will quickly become one red flag too many.
When you think of the ex who maltreated you, you’ll laugh at how long it took you to move on. It won’t need to get to “treating you badly” to make you run for the hill then.