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.
Byron 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.”
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.
Need marriage help? Get FREE relationship advice from Marriage Coach Mort Fertel.
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
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.