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How to forgive yourself for mistakes


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Curious as to how others move past the feeling of guilt and regret that you made in relationships.

I got with my ex after university, still a kid in my head really and we broke up after a couple of years since it wasn't working, I slept with someone else during this short breakup and told her when she wanted to get back together, obviously she was upset but then the two years of 'trying' but not trying happened... it was all a big mistake and I regret trying and not just leaving it.

She never got over that (which is fine) but it ended up being two years of me growing, changing, falling deeper in love all the while she was constantly saying she would leave eventually... looking back it was a mistake for me to keep trying so hard, I've grown up a lot, pretty much into a great boyfriend but her love was gone.

I'm just racked with guilt over what happened while we had our break up, constantly the thoughts of what ifs plague my head... 

She still cares about me, loves me (not in love) but I've slowly backed away for good because even though she doesn't see it, I've basically just been an emotional pillow while she moved on. 

Just wondering how you guys managed to forgive yourself for your mistakes because for me that's the hardest part about letting go... I've given up the hope that we will be together at least for now, hopefully soon I can get to the anger stage because I know she's done a lot wrong recently but sadly I'm not there yet...

 

Any input is appreciated

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1 minute ago, Batya33 said:

I think passage of time helps and also pretending you were hearing this from a friend - what kind of compassion would you show that person ? 

I would say time as well... but you know its hard to see

I made it worse for myself by hanging on to breadcrumbs for a year of more heartache, in the end I was just a mess and no one wants to be with a broken person anyway.

Just sucks because each time I might start to feel better I let myself get pulled back in by hopes of reconciling one day.

Knowing that if we met now it would work is one of the hardest lessons in life

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26 minutes ago, Dave3334 said:

I would say time as well... but you know its hard to see

I made it worse for myself by hanging on to breadcrumbs for a year of more heartache, in the end I was just a mess and no one wants to be with a broken person anyway.

Just sucks because each time I might start to feel better I let myself get pulled back in by hopes of reconciling one day.

Knowing that if we met now it would work is one of the hardest lessons in life

You have no idea if that is true. I married my ex fiancee.  Our first wedding was scheduled for 1997 and cancelled.  We married in 2008.  When we reconciled I was very optimistic that we'd make it this time but I never would have guessed that we'd meet again when the timing was right -I don't think he did either.  Even if you believe you've changed -even if you have-there's so much more to it than that, including past history/baggage.  

I don't think your focus is forgiving yourself for a mistake - but rather your belief that you'd be happy together now had you not made that mistake.  That's not a given at all.  That is how I would move past it -be honest that what you're focused on is reconciling as opposed to focusing on how to get past your doing someone wrong (whether there would be a reconciliation or otherwise).  Two different things.

Many years ago when I was angry with an ex boyfriend and we were on the phone I said something that was very hurtful and was to retaliate for a wrong he'd done me. I was wrong to retaliate in that way.  I certainly had a right to be angry and express it -just not in that way.  But I wasn't upset because I thought that if I hadn't said that he'd want me back.  I was just sorry.  It was hard to get past it.  Even today I feel badly I behaved that way.  So get clear on what you regret- and why -and remind yourself that your neat little analysis of "if/then" is not accurate -it's a story you're telling yourself.

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I don't view any relationship through a lens of failure, but rather as a learning experience.

You used the right word, 'mistake,' rather than something catastrophic or deliberately malicious.

Sleeping with someone while you were broken up and free to do so was not the mistake, but rather, telling the woman with whom you had hoped to reconcile was not necessary. 

Mistakes are mistakes. Had you been right for one another, it's likely that the first breakup wouldn't have happened in the first place.

So this was a learning relationship for you. Use your memory of it to value the best parts of yourself that you brought to it and to learn what you'll do differently going forward. The kinder you can be toward yourself in this regard, the more likely you will be to transfer the same generosity toward others--and teach them to value themselves as well.

Head high.

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43 minutes ago, Dave3334 said:

I got with my ex after university, still a kid in my head really and we broke up after a couple of years since it wasn't working,

Do you mind me asking why it wasn't working after two years of dating? On/off relationships don't work very well. 

I ask because in your guilt and regret you may be forgetting some valid reasons that you both didn't work and would never work. The result is romanticizing the relationship too much for what it really was.

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40 minutes ago, Batya33 said:

So get clear on what you regret- and why -and remind yourself that your neat little analysis of "if/then" is not accurate -it's a story you're telling yourself.

I definitely regret it but I know what you mean, to be honest if the whole thing never happened I doubt I would have grown into the man I am now so you're right in that sense it was doomed.

39 minutes ago, catfeeder said:

 

Sleeping with someone while you were broken up and free to do so was not the mistake, but rather, telling the woman with whom you had hoped to reconcile was not necessary. 

 

You're right but I was racked with guilt at that point and she had an idea so I wanted to come clean, the act itself and telling her was a bad choice. The worst part is it wasn't really sleeping with someone, it was me being black our drunk and a girl that fancied me for a while basically forcing herself on me while I was next to passing out.

 

39 minutes ago, Rose Mosse said:

Do you mind me asking why it wasn't working after two years of dating? On/off relationships don't work very well. 

Her being very depressed living abroad, then a cycle of her being depressed and me being depressed because she was. That got fixed in the aftermath but yeah it wasn't the best start haha

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Posted (edited)
1 hour ago, Dave3334 said:

Her being very depressed living abroad, then a cycle of her being depressed and me being depressed because she was. That got fixed in the aftermath but yeah it wasn't the best start haha

She has to take better care of her health and you do the same. It sounds dysfunctional from the start. Take the rose-tinted glasses off. We may miss someone but don’t get carried away thinking this was all your fault. 

The relationship is over and you’re still low and heaping negative thoughts on yourself and guilt over something that happened when you were broken up. Don’t keep going back to this relationship thinking it was salvageable or that it would have worked even now as, to me, an outsider, it’s doubtful it would have worked either way. Consider this a closed chapter and use that closure to move forward.

Edited by Rose Mosse
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9 hours ago, Dave3334 said:

 I've basically just been an emotional pillow while she moved on. 

Sorry this happened. When you broke up the first time is when it was actually over. Telling her about your sexual escapades put the final nail in that coffin.

On off relationships are fraught with drama unresolved conflicts and incompatibilities combined with a lack of better options and unhealthy attachments.

Don't keep buzzing around in the friendzone. End it cleanly and completely. Then delete and block her from all your social media and messaging apps.

That way you will both be free to find happiness without dragging this out further.

 

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Yes- "confessing" to unburden your guilt or discomfort where it needlessly hurts someone else is not a good plan -it's a mistake -forgive yourself as Catfeeder suggested.  Being black out drunk is also a mistake and I hope you've chosen not to repeat it.  Dangerous too -if it happened as you said you could have gotten her pregnant/gotten an STD/been hurt physically far worse.  

I hope you feel better.

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38 minutes ago, Batya33 said:

Yes- "confessing" to unburden your guilt or discomfort where it needlessly hurts someone else is not a good plan -it's a mistake -forgive yourself as Catfeeder suggested.  Being black out drunk is also a mistake and I hope you've chosen not to repeat it.  Dangerous too -if it happened as you said you could have gotten her pregnant/gotten an STD/been hurt physically far worse.  

I hope you feel better.

Yeah I got all that checked, sadly the forgiving myself is the hard part.

At least I can look at it like she can be happy in the mean time 

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I think in some ways, we get addicted to feeling bad. It's like beating ourselves up becomes the broken record in our heads.

I also think it ties back to the ego, beating ourselves up with the narrative of we have to be perfect. 

But when you really think of life and all the mistakes everybody makes, why wouldn't we make mistakes, too?

Why wouldn't you try to work something out? It's a beautiful thing even if it's a mistake.  Life is a series of challenges and as you get through one, another will come, and another until you/we die.  That is pretty grim, but the good news is you can have fun and enjoy things, too. These things are not mutually exclusive.

You have to practice forgiveness for others and yourself. You have to change your thoughts from, boy I effed up,  to... well, that happened. it's ok.  I'm ok. She made mistakes and I did, too. Live and learn. 

Spend time understanding yourself and what you want out of a relationship, so in the future you can make better choices. 

Everyday we make choices. Start today making a new one to start looking forward. it's like the old saying 'every Saint has a past, every sinner has a future 

Decide that you're done rehashing the past and practice refocusing your thoughts on today & now. It takes practice.

You're not the first person to feel this.  You won't be the last. Hang in there!

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7 minutes ago, Lambert said:

 

You're not the first person to feel this.  You won't be the last. Hang in there!

Thanks! Wise words haha, I definitely agree, it's just getting to the point I can put it in to practice, I'm always trying to do better now which is probably why I ended up being a huge emotional pillow for a year, but at least I know I'm a better person now than I was and I know the next relationship will be a great one, just not sure if the guilt will subside

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1 hour ago, Dave3334 said:

Thanks! Wise words haha, I definitely agree, it's just getting to the point I can put it in to practice, I'm always trying to do better now which is probably why I ended up being a huge emotional pillow for a year, but at least I know I'm a better person now than I was and I know the next relationship will be a great one, just not sure if the guilt will subside

The less you speak with her the less she'll play a role in your life. This will pass so let it and embrace the future. 

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Both @Rose Mosse and @Wiseman2 make great points- get away from this person and get to a doctor.  Your feelings could be telling you, it is more than a break up.

I have spent countless time on exes and feeling like poop about it all.  I think with age, comes wisdom. I now know, people will waste your time, try to manipulate you, they may not even mean it, but it's up to you to get away from them.  You are your number one priority.  

Time to start talking to doctor and determining the work you need to do within. 

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@Wiseman2 @Rose Mosse @Lambert I appreciate the input! Definitely will keep going with the moving forward, I am also doing therapy now as well because I'm guessing it's needed right now haha.

Sadly I have to see her for two days when I return to the house while she moves out, but yes you're right with the fact she has been manipulative and used me the past few years, all the hope of one day it might work while she was dating without telling me and trying to move on but still contacting me, soon I'll be able to look at that for what it is!

I'll definitely be focusing on myself, already feel a bit better for typing all this out and have had my first productive work day for a long time so thanks everyone

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2 hours ago, Dave3334 said:

Yeah I got all that checked, sadly the forgiving myself is the hard part.

If you won't do it for yourself, consider it as part of the learning cycle to become more empathetic with others--which will improve your life overall, and you can't even fathom how many people in your future will benefit from this kindness.

The cycle goes like this: I'm mean to others, or at least un-thoughtful, because I'm self centered. That's one reason why I ruminate on my mistakes, because I want to view myself as perfect. Then I start learning how to be more gentle with myself, and this opens my eyes to viewing others through the same lens.

When I can forgive human errors in myself, I learn how to be more gentle with others, which snowballs into degrees of forgiveness that benefit me--and everyone else.

So getting hung up on our own mistakes is a self-centered, egocentric form of narcissism.

Grapple with that, and challenge yourself to let go of that loop.

2 hours ago, Lambert said:

I think in some ways, we get addicted to feeling bad. It's like beating ourselves up becomes the broken record in our heads.

I also think it ties back to the ego, beating ourselves up with the narrative of we have to be perfect. 

Exactly. There's nothing loving or kind about perfectionism. Chances are if you're hard on yourself, you're not exactly forgiving toward others, either.

If you ARE forgiving with others, then that's the start of something called 'sublimation,' which can benefit you and teach you how to apply the same to yourself.

When you can do that, then you are ramping up the cycle that will mature you into a better person rather than a rigid perfectionist.

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17 minutes ago, Dave3334 said:

@Wiseman2 @Rose Mosse @Lambert I appreciate the input! Definitely will keep going with the moving forward, I am also doing therapy now as well because I'm guessing it's needed right now haha.

Sadly I have to see her for two days when I return to the house while she moves out, but yes you're right with the fact she has been manipulative and used me the past few years, all the hope of one day it might work while she was dating without telling me and trying to move on but still contacting me, soon I'll be able to look at that for what it is!

I'll definitely be focusing on myself, already feel a bit better for typing all this out and have had my first productive work day for a long time so thanks everyone

I had the impression initially this break up was years ago and your thoughts are retrospective. I should have seen from the mention of "anger stage" that this was fairly recent and she and you haven't even fully separated yet. 

Once you're both separated and adjusting back to your respective lives, the shock of the break up will wear off. This is a tricky time and full of mixed emotions and sadness. Remain on track with your work commitments and be around friends and family in the coming days/weeks. You'll feel less raw and edgy once she's gone. 

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Posted (edited)
22 minutes ago, Rose Mosse said:

I had the impression initially this break up was years ago and your thoughts are retrospective. I should have seen from the mention of "anger stage" that this was fairly recent and she and you haven't even fully separated yet. 

Once you're both separated and adjusting back to your respective lives, the shock of the break up will wear off. This is a tricky time and full of mixed emotions and sadness. Remain on track with your work commitments and be around friends and family in the coming days/weeks. You'll feel less raw and edgy once she's gone. 

The 'break up' was for her 2 years ago but for me it was 2 years of trying and holding on to anything. I don't think she did anything maliciously but it definitely messed me up and made this way worse haha

 

You're right, once she's gone ill have a few days of misery and force myself back on track, I really hope she becomes happy though so at least I've got rid of the selfish thoughts of only if she's with me

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25 minutes ago, Dave3334 said:

I really hope she becomes happy though so at least I've got rid of the selfish thoughts of only if she's with me

After a break up all obligations cease. You may still care about her or think about her but don't act on anything. Keep distancing yourself from any outcome in her life. Don't stay in touch with her as it's a repeat all over again of staying in someone's life when that person no longer wants to be with you. Stop doing that. End the cycle, start fresh.

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you haven't cut the chords and are still attached to her, basically not ready to let go. Before bringing some positive change/growth in your life,  accept that its over and start something fresh new in life.

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On 6/6/2022 at 1:08 PM, Spawn said:

you haven't cut the chords and are still attached to her, basically not ready to let go. Before bringing some positive change/growth in your life,  accept that its over and start something fresh new in life.

Yeah, we had a proper goodbye talk the other day because I was finished with hanging on, it was nice to stick up for myself a little bit and we both ended with I want you to be happy but I cut the hope of reconciliation because hanging on to hope does no good

Had a good few days really since then, feeling down a little tonight but changed my flight back so I don't have to see her, just going to suck leaving a home a few weeks ago and coming back to an empty one, hopefully I can start new properly then

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