HELP. I’m Breaking Up with my BoyfriendWhen 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. Imagine 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 break 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.