The couple had laughed and loved together for a few years, with things going so well that Traci was expecting an invitation to move in together when Richard suggested they get together for dinner at her favorite Boston restaurant.
Unfortunately, when the words "I don't think we should see each other anymore" spilled from Richard's mouth, Traci went numb.
"I couldn't believe he was breaking up with me," she recalled. "I was in shock. I don't know if I heard the rest of what he was saying. All I could think about was, 'What did I do wrong?'"
Traci called in sick for the rest of the week and stayed inside her two-bedroom apartment, moping with several boxes of tissues, a few tubs of ice cream and a Yorkshire Terrier.
Days turned into weeks, weeks turned into months
. And although Traci had emerged from her apartment after the weekend to return to work, colleagues noticed she wasn't the same. She no longer had a bounce to her step, rarely smiled and refused to socialize with her friends.
"I went to a very dark place," Traci admits. "It didn't occur to me that Richard was unhappy, that he had needs I didn't meet. So I spent most of my time trying to figure out why things didn't work.
"After the breakup dinner, he shut me out. So I obsessed about it over and over again, and ultimately blamed myself for the relationship's demise. And I really hated myself for it. I ended up just beating myself up really badly over it."
Traci's plight isn't uncommon, but Vancouver-based life & relationship coach Shirley Vollett
says dwelling too long on the self-blame game can become problematic.
"Blaming oneself can be one stage of coming to terms with the end of the relationship," says Vollett, who has been working with individuals for 25 years.
"I think that many people go through that stage. The key is, do you move through it and continue out the other end or do you stay stuck in it? Certainly, if you're stuck, it's not a good thing."
Vollett says it's good to remember that blame should never be assigned to one person. A relationship is a two-way street.
"Sometimes people go into self-blame, when really, that was only part of what was going on," she explains.
"There was a lot going on with the other person as well. It's helpful to take a step back and look at the relationship from a broader perspective."
In her case, Traci, 25, fully admits that the breakup triggered some esteem issues that had lay dormant since her early teenage years, blinding her perception for a while.
"It was a time in my life when I felt I couldn't do anything right," says Traci. "I felt I wasn't good enough, and at the time, it took awhile for me to realize I shouldn't be so hard on myself. All of those emotions came flooding back when Richard broke up with me."
So Coach Vollett, is it easy to get out of that emotional rut and love oneself again?
"It depends on how well you love yourself in the first place," she replies.