Wednesday, February 27, 2013

The Hardest Part: How to Break Up With Someone (The RIGHT Way)

Since I’ve started writing about relationships, I’ve covered wide range of topics: from soulmates to the one that got away, from avoiding bad boys to falling for a friend, from first dates to keeping the romance going; even a post break up guide (to name a few) However, one topic I’ve never touched on is HOW to break up with someone.

This is probably, in part, to my complete ineptitude on the subject. Not that I haven’t broken up with people, I have. In fact it’s usually me who ends my relationships, but, the truth is it took me years to figure out the best way to do it. To learn an acceptable or appropriate way to approach this challenging situation. The bottom line is that I hate the idea of hurting someone. I’d rather come up with ways to keep someone happy than deliver bad news. No matter how much I may want the relationship to end, I tend to break down when I having the talk. Sobbing. Talk about mixed messages.

Despite some of my disastrous approaches to ending a relationship, I do, in fact, know the best way to do it, it’s just the execution part that I (and so many other) struggle with. Here are some of my Dos and Don’ts which I believe make the process easier for both parties:

DO:  Think it through. I’m not saying procrastinate, but make sure you’re going into with a clear head and assurance that this is the right decision.

DON’T: Do it in a rash way (ie in the middle of a fight.) If you are in the midst of an argument that is causing you to rethink whether you want to be with the person, I highly recommend taking a breather. Find a way to end the fight, go home, and rationalize the situation and your feelings.

DO: Face the situation head on. Sometimes this isn’t possible (like if you’re in a long distance relationship) but if you’re within geographical proximity to your other half, have enough decency and respect to do it face to face. It’s not easy, but then again, it shouldn't be.

DON’T: Hide behind technology. WhatsApp isn’t the venue for a serious conversation and email is a one sided conversation, one that tells the other person that you don’t hold much regard for what they have to say. As for the silent approach or having someone do it for you: BIG NO'S

DO: Make sure you hold on to your resolve. Remember: you’ve thought this through, you have your reasons, and they are valid. I’m not suggesting that you shouldn’t talk them through but the fact of the matter is, that these issues aren’t going to dissipate after one productive conversation.

DON’T: Let them talk you out of it. Sure, they may have some great things to say, and they may make some promises that sound good, but truthfully, once you’ve decided to break up with someone, your relationship is broken and these temporary solutions are just bandaids. Even if it’s tempting, recognize that your relationship will never be the same once you’ve told someone you don’t want to be in it anymore.

DO: Mean it. Breaking up with someone shouldn’t be used as a threat to change things in your relationship.

DON’T: Use it as a means to discuss some issue in the relationship you aren’t happy about. If you have reservations or grievances in your relationship, the responsible, respectful ADULT thing to do is address them as they arise. I am aware that this conversation is also stressful but it’s part of a relationship.

DO: Be kind. I am a big believer in not being able to control those around you, but being able to control yourself and your own actions. In my opinion, there is never an excuse to be unkind. Have compassion. Have dignity. Have enough respect for them (and yourself) to be kind but firm.

DON’T: Be cruel.  I don’t care what the situation is or what they may or may not have done, it is completely unnecessary to riddle the conversation with attacks or insults. It’s important to have reasons (Examples: “I’m not happy anymore,” “I don’t think you’re the right person for me,” “I am not getting what I want out of the relationship”) but to elaborate on their faults or why you don’t like them is unnecessary and just mean. If they’ve done something specifically horrible on their end, keep it simple. (Examples: “You cheated on me/lied and I can’t get past that.” “I feel like you consistently make things other than our relationship a priority.”) It may be tempting to give them an earful but remember: hurting someone won’t make you any less hurt. Even if they hurt you. Because, you’re better than that, or at least you should want to be.

There is never a good time to break up with someone. Ever. People, myself included, often use the excuse “Well, it’s not the best time…” and list some excuse. Believe me, I get it. Their grandmother died, you’re about to go on vacation together, they lost their job…so you throwing in the towel seems likes you’re kicking them when they’re down. But here’s the thing: There will always be something. Life is never perfect, there is always some kind of irritation or complication, so using that excuse is just that, an excuse. An excuse to delay the inevitable. They’re going to be hurt whether you end it on the day they get fired or the day they get their bonus check…and you can’t sit around waiting for something wonderful to occur so you can “soften the blow.” Furthermore, know what hurts more? The knowledge that your significant other hasn’t wanted to be with you for a while but stayed with you out of pity/obligation.

I get it. I know it’s not easy. It’s painful. It’s awkward. It’s uncertain how the other party will react. But there is a right way of doing it.  This is coming from the person who has broken up with someone over BBM, over the phone (with follow up email) and the all time low of explaining (by email) that I needed to “give him up for Lent.” Seriously. These happened. So I was certainly not the poster child for how to break up with someone.

 However, I learned from my wrong approaches and changed. I don’t know if it was a case of “practice makes perfect” (sounds terrible, doesn’t it?) or that with age comes maturity and insight (sounds much better) Or maybe the realization that running away and hiding doesn’t make things easier. Break ups need to be handled like any other adversity that comes our way: by looking it in the eye(s), making a decision, and  following through, no matter how difficult it may seem at the time.

*on a side note, PL, am still mulling over writing about the wrong ways. 

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