How to Heal From the Years Wasted in a Relationship


You’ll never get back the years you spent in the wrong relationship – but you can recover things other than time! These tips for wasted relationships are inspired by a reader’s question.

Years You Wasted in a RelationshipByron Katie’s Loving What Is: Four Questions That Can Change Your Life is one of my favorite books about healing and accepting life the way it is. You can’t change what happened – or regain the years you wasted in a relationship – but you can learn how to accept what is.

“I feel like I’ve wasted the past three years of my life on hopes and plans for the future that are now just gone,” says J. on How to Overcome the Pain of a Bad Breakup. “I don’t think I can put myself through this again. Any advice would be appreciated.”


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If you haven’t read Eat, Pray, Love: One Woman’s Search for Everything Across Italy, India and Indonesia – or seen the movie – maybe you should. It’s an inspiring journey of heartache, healing, and starting over. Under the Tuscan Sun is similar – I actually think  I like it better.

And here are a few tips for getting your life back…perhaps a better life than before…

Healing After a Wasted Relationship

First, the rest of my reader’s story:

“My boyfriend is clinically depressed and has broken up with me,” says J. “We’re both in our mid-forties and have been together for three years. He refuses to go to his doctor to get help. I’m heartbroken and at my wits’ end – he said he wants to be friends, that he is a waste of space, and that I deserve to be with someone who can give me the time and affection I deserve. I can’t be friends with someone I love, but I’m worried about him. How else can I keep contact and make sure he’s ok? Is there any point? Should I just try to move on and accept that the relationship is over? Can someone with chronic depression really have a successful relationship?”

Yes, people with serious depression can be in successful love relationships – if they’re getting treatment for their depression. But I think you should try to move on and accept that the relationship is over. He can’t be the boyfriend you deserve and need while he’s burdened by the “black dog” (depression). He knows it, and I think you know it too.

It’s time to rebuild your life, to recover the best parts of yourself and your relationship. Read What to Do After a Breakup – Emotional Healing.

Act as if you chose to end the relationship – and the years weren’t “wasted”

I’m reading The Power of Now: A Guide to Spiritual Enlightenment by Eckhart Tolle, and love his encouragement to accept every pain and problem you have as if you’d chosen it. It changes how you see your life, yourself, and the people in your life. Instead of struggling against what is (reality), embrace your situation as if you’d planned it.

This means you chose to be in your relationship for years, and you chose to break things off. Don’t look at the years you spent in that relationship as a waste of time, something you’ll never get back.

Remember that you got together with your partner for good reasons, and you stayed in the relationship for good reasons. Remind yourself that everything happens for a reason – and sometimes you don’t know what that reason is.

If it happened for a reason (which it did), it couldn’t have been a waste of time.

Stop focusing on what you lost and how you wish things were

wasted relationship

How to Heal From the Years Wasted in a Relationship

To heal from a wasted relationship, start figuring out where you want to go. “The whole point of being alive is to evolve into the complete person you were intended to be,” says Oprah.

Your relationship is another step in your journey. It wasn’t a mistake. First, you need to grieve the end of your relationship. Then, you need to move on.

What makes you happy? What are you doing when you lose track of time? Who do you love spending time with? What did you want to be when you grew up? Now is the time to think about the direction of your life, from both a short-term and a long-term perspective.

Don’t compare yourself to other women

Are you jealous of your married coworkers, friends, or family members? Or maybe you’re the one with the successful career, but you wish you had a husband or kids or more time to travel.

One of the best tips for recovering lost time is to stop comparing yourself to other people. We all have our own lives to live, and we need to accept where we are at any given time in our lives.

Adopt a “so what if I fail?” mantra for the rest of your life

My friend wants to start her own business, but is scared she’ll fail. “Who cares if you fail?” I asked. “It’s embarrassing – I don’t want to have to say I failed,” she said. So, she can never risk failure…or she can surround herself with strong women who failed and survived and succeeded and failed again and survived again and succeeded again! She can absorb their strength and courage just by being with them – and that’s how she’ll learn to live her best life.

If you still feel like your relationship was a waste of the best years of your life, read How to Let Go of a Relationship.

What do you think – can you recover the years you wasted in a relationship that didn’t work out? I welcome your thoughts on wasted relationships below, but I can’t offer advice or counseling.


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5 thoughts on “How to Heal From the Years Wasted in a Relationship

  • Freida

    Interesting advice and perhaps I will read the book you suggested.
    I had a 5 year relationship I was sure would lead to marriage. I met the man when I was 50 and had finally recovered from a difficult 10 year medical problem.
    I had, up til then, been an open, honest and lively person. That person was the worst man I ever dated. He started out great and it ended so badly I was crushed. He had bad character which I did not see when we first met.
    Honestly, that relationship was a complete waste of time. If I were 25 and had never been sick I might have a different outlook.
    In midlife, never married, overcame terrible health challenge and then HIM!!!!
    Complete waste of time and wish I never met that person. Can honestly say that.
    I wasted precious time and emotional energy on a man who helped himself to my caring and loving nature. Then he hit the highway. I believe he mislead me. We talked about marriage but I feel in hindsight he planned to leave all along.
    This was a COMPLETE waste of my time.
    I don’t know if any philosophical way to look at it as “time well spent”.

  • Anne

    I am currently in a 7 yr relationship, which has been in trouble for at least 4 years due to my manfriend’s addictive behavior; he is an Alcoholic & as been drinking since the age of 14 & now he is 53. After 6 months I saw the warning signs and ignored them; he’s had 4 DUI’s, but incurred 1 within our relationship; After the DUI he tried AA, did not stick with it, and decided to his own thing, returned to the bottle. He will drink a 5th of SKY Vodka every night; on his days off from work, stays home in bed and drinks all day; he spends money on lottery tickets when he has a good payday. While intoxicated, he is ugly, belligerent and loves to argue, which i ignores him & he hates when I ignore him. We don’t go on dates, if we go to the movies, he will get drunk first, & fall asleep in the movie. Go dancing, he has to get drunk first, and drink like he never had a drink at the club; I have to drive us everywhere because he is intoxicated, therefore, I chose to stay home; I cannot take it anymore and he refuses to be delivered by the Spirit of God from his addiction; he says he loves to drink and get drunk. Since he doesn’t want to change for his own good, I am changing the circumstances after 7 years, I am leaving him for my benefit to have a life of enjoyment. I am looking to retire soon and cannot stomach anymore of this in my life. I am a great woman who deserves better.

    • Penelope R

      Good for you! It’s high time you realize you can’t save the world, only yourself. Let him destroy his own life. He’s a drain on your positivity. There are some people you just can’t help and he’s number one on that list! Good luck! There’s an awesome man out there looking FOR YOU!!! Leave this fool so he can find you!

  • Withheld

    I am sure there are many women like me who believe that their long relationship with a certain ex was a waste of time. I personally wish I had never met that person because I am a middle aged woman and don’t have forever to find a husband. We were friends, then more, for about 4 years. Unfortunately it took me quite some time to realize this man had secret, very bad habits. He expressed his desire to change, but in the end he was not authentic.
    I was so drained at the end of that relationship – which had very poor closure – that I wasted even more years hoping he would get it together and return.
    I truly wish I had never met that man and I consider that I wasted a very valuable portion of my life with him and on him. My love was truly not reciprocated, although throughout I believed it was.
    I learned one lesson – don’t believe what any man tells you. Spy, be wary, be cautious. I had always been an open book until that point. Being with that man was the worst “love affair” of my life. Way easier to bounce back when I was younger. The timing was so bad – I had just recovered from a long illness and just getting back in my feet financially and emotionally. He was absolutely the worst person I could have picked. Really duplicitous. I made a terrible mistake trusting him and investing time in that relationship. It was truly a complete waste of my time.
    I appreciate your optimism. It’s pretty slim pickings on good men as time goes by.
    You are extremely lucky that you married at age 35. I am much older than that, never married, no kids. Life is hard when you are alone. The time I spent in that relationship I can never recover. It was a complete waste of my time and energy.

    • J

      Ha…I can totally identify with your experience…turning 65 soon…was involved with a younger IMMATURE man for 3 years…I gave and gave and gave…and got nothing in return.
      I ended it today..moving on…alone for now.
      Happy 2017..