HELP. We’re Breaking Up

HELP. I’m Break­ing Up with my Boyfriend

When a pair of love­birds break up, expect pain, blush­ing, and anger. It’s a bust. The deal is bro­ken. Your heart is raw, stabbed with razor thoughts. OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERAImag­ine you go to a par­ty and you see your Ex- danc­ing with some­one else. That ador­ing look she gives him used to be for you. Don’t spas out. Of course you’re upset when he leaves you. Maybe you can’t go to that school reunion, because you are furi­ous at the guy. Maybe he fathered your child and then for­got to get a job to pay for the child. (The term sperm-donor is said with hiss­ing dis­dain from sin­gle moms who speak in my fam­i­ly coun­sel­ing office.)

How do you han­dle break­ing up with a per­son with­out act­ing like a jerk your­self?

Not all rela­tion­ships are equal. As a coun­selor I see 3 lev­els of seri­ous­ness in a rela­tion­ship:

1. the Casu­al hook-up;

2. the Dat­ing cou­ple (even if the dat­ing nev­er got to the kiss good­night phase)

3. the Mar­ried cou­ple (all gen­ders).

Lev­el #3 If you’re going through a divorce, then I beg you to open a book and inves­ti­gate how to sep­a­rate with­out a hur­ri­cane of messy court scenes. It can be done. I spoke with a cou­ple who nev­er want­ed to mar­ry, but were high school sweet­hearts and stayed togeth­er for 10 years. They stuck togeth­er through dif­fer­ent col­leges, and shared a house after get­ting good jobs. She want­ed some­thing more and decid­ed to leave in 6 weeks, after pay­ing rent. When they broke up it was sim­i­lar to a divorce, miss­ing the legal rig­ma­role and chil­dren. It was a clean, respect­ful divorce with­out the roar­ing thun­der­storms. In ther­a­py we also avoid­ed the despair­ing agony of being alone after a 10 year rela­tion­ship.

What if in Lev­el #2, you dat­ed, horsed around, but you both didn’t com­mit to each oth­er. Gen­er­al­ly peo­ple han­dle break-ups impo­lite­ly or self­ish­ly. Some han­dle it cru­el­ly and venge­ful­ly. They use weak excus­es to gloss over ditch­ing an old lover. If you’re about to OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERAbreak up, you may think,

He’s a dork.” OK. (You can still say good­bye to him and move on.)

I hate watch­ing Mas­ter­piece The­atre with her.” (That’s a pathet­ic excuse for break­ing up. Switch the chan­nel.)

I am leav­ing any­one who talks less than an oys­ter. Let him han­dle the house­hold bills. I’m out­ta here.” (You are not tak­ing respon­si­bil­i­ty for why you are leav­ing the rela­tion­ship. You need to share the debt, not desert him.)

Some respect­ful ways to break off a rela­tion­ship

Don’t ever use social media to break up with some­one. Do it over the phone or in per­son. If you’ve only seen her/him 2 times (dates are when there’s just the 2 of you and you had sig­nif­i­cant time shar­ing); not call­ing back is fine. If the 2 dates includ­ed some sex, or some promis­es of romance, then call­ing to break it off is a cour­tesy. Tex­ting to break up is cow­ard­ly. Tweet­ing or mak­ing it clear on face­book is broad­cast­ing your dirty under­wear and it’s demean­ing to the oth­er per­son. You need to give him/her a chance to react, and to ask ques­tions.

If you’ve been into a heavy-weight, intense rela­tion­ship of 4 months or 4 years, you need to think care­ful­ly about how to leave with­out scar­ring your­self. If there’s no kids between you both, then no vis­its for at least 2 months, not even a quick cof­fee break togeth­er.

If you have a desire for each other’s well-being then week­ly phone calls are OK, but some top­ics can be off-lim­its. I would imag­ine, “Who are you see­ing now roman­ti­cal­ly?” is not the swiftest ques­tion.

Stay tuned lat­er for break ups in Lev­el #1, the casu­al hook-up.

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