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Ask a life coach: My partner didn't want kids, so I left him – was that the right thing to do?

Life coach Hattie MacAndrews explores how to move on from a stable relationship when you don't want the same things

Updated: 26 April 2024
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In her new column, life coach Hattie MacAndrews shares her advice on the problems plaguing her clients.

Today, she tackles the difficult topic of moving on from a relationship you knew wasn't right.

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Breaking up is hard to do

The issue: We wanted different things, but I still love him

"I broke up with my partner three years ago because we didn’t want the same things in life. Our relationship was good, but I wanted to get married and have kids while he wanted freedom and didn't see a family in his future.

He has moved on and seems happy with his new partner, but I'm still single and I can’t stop thinking about him. I know we weren't right together but I still love him, how do I move on?"

Hattie MacAndrews smiling on a sofa
Hattie MacAndrews shares her advice for moving on

The solution

I feel your pain and know first-hand how hard it can be to love someone, yet know you’re not right for one another.

Let's begin with the fact that you didn’t want the same things in life.

If that knowledge was enough for us to be able to let go and move forward, life would be easy. But since you’re struggling to do this, let’s examine why that may be, and what you need to do, shift or reframe in order for you to move on.

Letting go is hard. There’s no two ways about it. Especially if you felt you were in a good relationship, but not moving in the same direction or towards the same goal.

Hattie MacAndrews
Hattie MacAndrews suggests we reframe heartbreak

It takes incredible strength and resilience to walk away, so I applaud you for trusting your instinct and making the change you needed at that time. I have lost track of the number of clients I’ve worked with in similar positions who didn’t find the courage to leave. The impact? Years of unhappiness, pent up resentment and countless women feeling like they’ve missed out on having children because they weren’t with the right person.

Please find comfort in knowing that this isn’t your path and knowing that you made the right decision and your future self will be forever grateful for that.

 INSPIRATION: How to find happiness after heartbreak - from someone who's been there 

What does a 'good' relationship mean?

Next, I would like to gently challenge your use of the word 'good', when it comes to describing your former relationship. I wonder which element this applies to? To me, a good, committed relationship entails moving in the same direction, growing together and working towards shared goals whilst building a life together.

 DISCOVER: How to have a happier relationship according to a relationship psychologist 

Your version of this clearly involves children, and his doesn’t. I’ll chance an educated guess that as time went on, your 'goals' became further and further apart.

Perhaps you could also take a moment here to reflect on what was meant by the term '‘freedom'. Personally, I believe that a true, fully-aligned partnership has plenty of space for freedom, and therefore doesn’t need to be sought after in other ways.

A solid foundation for strong relationships is built on having aligned values and wanting the same things in life – and if that was lacking, then what a brilliant, invaluable lesson you have learnt from this experience.

Lessons learnt

Whilst I know it can be incredibly infuriating to be told that you must be grateful for what you have learnt, I think it might be of great use to you now. Perhaps we could flip your perspective, and help you focus on being thankful that you didn’t waste your life with a partner who wasn’t on the same page. That he was able and willing to communicate this with you.

Here, a re-frame of your thought process might involve letting go of any sadness or regret and honing in on a more empowered perspective. This might look like: "I'm so grateful that I had the strength to leave a relationship that wasn’t serving me or providing me with the life I wanted," or, "I now have the opportunity to meet someone who is aligned with my values and wants the same things out of life."

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Take time to focus on you

Doesn’t that sound so much better, more empowered and uplifting?

It's no secret that we can’t control how other people feel, behave or act – and it’s an entirely pointless task trying to do so. Trying to change a partner will drain you and enable resentment and frustration to thrive in the relationship.

READ: The relationship secret people in long-term couples want you to know 

As they say, you can lead a horse to water but you can’t force it to drink. All we can control is ourselves. How we respond to situations, what stories we tell ourselves. So please, don’t let your mind wander into the dangerous 'if only' trap. Acceptance will be your greatest friend here.

On the subject of traps, now might be a good time for a reminder that the grass isn’t always greener. Happiness is relative. Maybe he has found a partner who allows him his version of freedom and doesn’t want to start a family with him.

Maybe you are jumping to the assumption that they are happy through snippets you have seen on social media? Maybe you can’t stop thinking about him because you are continuing to play out different scenarios in your mind? Whatever the case may be – it’s time for you to let go and move on.

Focus on you

Use this time to focus on you. Remind yourself what your own version of happiness looks like. Focus on finding a partner who meets your needs and fulfils your dreams. Let go of any shame you feel around still loving someone. You are human, humans are complicated!

Young woman looking through window at home© Getty
Reflecting on lessons learnt can help you move on

Whatever the case may be, we can’t just stop loving someone. Love can fade, it can shift and eventually, it will find a new home. Don’t fight against your feelings; acknowledge them, accept and let them move through you. Which they will. I wish I could give you a big hug and remind you that this too shall pass. You won’t feel like this forever. Your person will come and he will want the exact same things as you. Until then – look after yourself, be kind and gentle and trust the process.

Discover more stellar advice from Hattie on Instagram.

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