“Did it really have to be that way?” is the question that you ask yourself over and over again when a bad relationship fails. Human beings, in general, show no fondness for situations that end in failure and disappointment. Empaths who feel the need to please others hate an unhappy ending and feel duty-bound to take full responsibility for it. So they ask themselves, over and over again, “Could things have turned out better if I could just have been better?” In this article we need to look at why you never could have changed the outcome.
What led to the relationship breakdown
In order to do that, let’s start by taking a step back, so we can look at what actually led to the relationship breakdown.
You can argue it one of two ways. You can argue it on individual issues, or else on patterns.
Narcissists and abusers all argue it on individual issues. Since they are monumentally self-serving individuals that should already be a clue. They do what works for them.
Laboring the issues on which you FAILED — allegedly -works wonderfully well for them.
Because they can — and habitually do — make mountains out of (microscopic) molehills. You, on the other hand, have the opposite tendency. You survived as long as you managed to survive in the relationship with a Narcissist by making molehills out of mountains.
All of that focus on individual issues — and in an abusive relationship every last thing becomes an issue — distracted you from the underlying fault-line — the relationship patterns.
The pattern of all abusive relationships is, at bottom, horribly, tragically simple. One partner does their level best to smash everything to pieces, the other tries desperately to put it all back together.
After a while, trying to put the relationship back together becomes a full-time job.
For as long as you focus on the “issues”, you can fixate on The Dream of what you could still have, provided
- you were incredibly lucky
- all the stars aligned
- the wind was blowing in the right direction
- your partner gave up their toxic behaviors
- got serious therapy and
- had a complete personality transplant.
But, hey, ain’t no mountain high enough, ain’t no issue deep enough… to keep me from making it work with you, babe.
In theory, anyway.
When you focus on the patterns, you see the big picture. In all its bleakness. You see that your partner is hell-bent on destroying you. That is the single purpose behind all of the — seemingly random — attacks.
You live with a partner who lives to wage a war of attrition. And guess who they have selected as their chosen enemy?
You got it.
What more could you have done?
So, what more could you have possibly done that would have changed the outcome.
The short answer is, of course, nothing. Nothing at all.
It was always going to happen. Sometimes, you just have to bow gracefully to the inevitable.
If you were brought up to be a people-pleaser, you were trained to be a superhero and rush around, attempting to “save” moribund relationships. What a shame that nobody told you that moribund relationships are actually beyond saving.
Once you know this — and I am guessing that you probably do already know this perfectly well — letting go and moving on should be as easy as falling off the proverbial log.
Only, it mostly isn’t. Because you don’t have superhuman powers, and the reason why the relationship is moribund is because your partner makes habit of beating the living daylights out of it.
Clutching at straws
An abusive relationship damages your self-esteem and leaves you feeling deeply depressed, even despairing. When that happens, your mind starts playing — unhelpful -games. One of its “favorite” games is Clutching at Straws. That is where the “Did it really have to be that way?” question kicks in.
That is what makes it so vital for you to bring yourself back to the reality of what was — as opposed to the fantasy of what could possibly have been. In an impossible world.
Having worked with emotionally abused women for some fifteen years, I know how shaky our sense of certainty can be. Abusers train you to swallow their lies and distortions and deny your own truth, until you cease to trust your own feelings and the evidence of your own eyes.
So, I would urge you to have a way of reminding yourself of what it was that led to the relationship breakdown. Whether you or your Narcissist ex ended it, it was their attitude and behaviors that made that ending inevitable. Nothing you could have done could have averted the outcome. At most, all that you could do was prolong the agony.
To protect yourself from the Demon Doubt keep a physical record that you can refer back to, when necessary. Whenever you find yourself wobbling, refer back to that record so that you can answer your own question, with conviction,
“Yes, it really did have to be that way. But I was not the one who made it so.”