Divorce — 18 August 2013
Why did you leave

Being rejected by a desired partner is one of the more painful emotional experiences. Whether it is a spouse, a dating partner, a friend, or even an employer, being no longer wanted or needed is profoundly devastating. It causes emotional pain, fear and uncertainty about one’s lovability and worth. The harrowing quest for an explanation is an additional emotionally destabilizing process.

Some adults who have felt rejected by their parents, teachers, coaches or other significant adults may exhibit the psychological imprints of damage to their self-esteem and confidence that affects their mate-selection. Conversely, individuals who have been affirmed, loved, respected and cherished in childhood have a better chance at making healthier mate choices.

The reactions to loss of a beloved are not only emotional. Dr. Arthur Aron, professor of social and health psychology in the Department of Psychology at Stony Brook University, found through brain imaging that “…individuals who were still ‘in love’ with their rejecter exhibited brain activation of the ventral tegmental area in the mid-brain, which controls motivation and reward and is known to be involved in feelings of romantic love.”

“I can’t rest until I know why he left me,” said an intelligent, attractive and insightful woman. She has experienced severe emotional and physical symptoms and is still reeling from the pain she has endured by this rejection. She seeks peace through understanding the causes for her abandonment. Understanding is sought to restore one’s equilibrium and has a survival benefit.

Knowing why a partner left allows the rejected individual to reassess his/her thinking, behavior or attitude to better accommodate a future mate. Not knowing may leave one with ongoing doubt and uneasiness that hinders the acceptance of the parting and future comfort in dating.

Though most commonly, the parting individual is likely to assign responsibility to himself/herself and absolve the rejected partner from any role in the break-up, the recipient of the termination often feels powerless about the decision and deprived of an opportunity to remediate it. Being left wondering and grieving often blinds the rejected party from seeing the mutual culpability in this loss.

In “Soul Mates” Thomas Moore describes Jung’s approach to self-discovery. Instead of asking yourself, “What is wrong with me that I can’t have a long lasting relationship?” ask, “Why is it that my heart moves in directions different than my intentions?” Taking ownership of your emotions and conduct redirects your analysis from being a victim to an assessor of both of your contributions to creating the failed relationship.

The desire to understand why you were rejected is natural and healthy. The self-discounting because another chose to silently leave is harmful and preventable.

If you were left without an explanation:

  • Abstain from assuming that you are blemished or unlovable.
  • Regard this silent withdrawal as a poor sign for the rejecter’s ability to participate in an authentic loving union.
  • Assess your strengths and forge forward with confidence about finding the relationship you deserve to have.




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About Author

Offra Gerstein, Ph.D. is a licensed psychologist in clinical practice in Santa Cruz, California for over 25 years, and specializes in relationship issues for couples and individuals for improved quality of life. Her work includes: mate selection, marriage, long term relationships, gay and lesbian couples, work relationships, parenting issues, family interactions, friendships, and conflict resolutions. Offra has lectured extensively to various groups, conducted support groups for several organizations, and has been writing a weekly column "Relationship Matters" for the Santa Cruz Sentinel since 2001.

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