Forgive me for the misleading title. As most of us are aware, there is no such thing as the perfect break-up, but there are things you can do to ensure that if you have to break someone’s heart, you handle it with the sensitivity and kindness that everyone deserves…provided they haven’t been the partner from hell, in which case, cut the crotch out of all their trousers before throwing them out of the window! Joking aside, an amicable split is difficult when feelings and emotions are involved. I’m coming at this from a female perspective, but it applies across the board. You can’t help how you feel, but the following things could help minimise their pain and maybe even allow you to be friends one day, if that is indeed what you both want. I know I would prefer to be remembered fondly and not as the insensitive prick who ran over someone’s heart with a tank, then blew it up for good measure.
Do It In Person
There is nothing more impersonal and insulting than being dumped by text or on social media. A dignified break-up can only be done face to face. That said, if it were me, I’d want a heads up on the phone beforehand so I could compose myself and be prepared. If he’s going to dump me, he’s not going to get the satisfaction of seeing how upset I am. It serves you well to do that if you’re not good with other people’s emotions, but you probably shouldn’t be in a relationship in the first place, if that’s the case. Try to meet somewhere private, where you can talk without others listening in and have a little cry if you need to. Having emotions is not a flaw.
When I turned to Twitter for advice, this was the number one thing everyone insisted on. It may sound like a no brainer, but from mine and other people’s experiences, it seems to be the most difficult thing to get both in a relationship and during a break-up. In the age of social media, most lies can be found out at the click of a button, so don’t make a fool out of your partner or yourself. Similarly, beware of using platitudes. They’ll be analysing everything you say at this stage. Don’t make promises you can’t keep, don’t say you’ll do something if you won’t, no matter how small. If they’re still in love with you, they’ll be holding onto every word. A throwaway comment by you could be a lifeline to them. Choose your words carefully. The strongest couples are the ones who can acknowledge that things aren’t working and try to find a solution. It’s not kinder to force your partner into doing the dumping. Do the right thing and tell them instead of burying your head in the sand. It’s the coward’s way out. I’ve always had to do the breaking up and there have been occasions where I’ve wished they’d had the decency to do it. Don’t confuse honesty with insensitivity though. Give your reasons why, answer their questions truthfully, but there’s no need to tell them about how you intend to move on. They’ll see any discussion about your future without them, as a replacement.
This is a horrible word, but most people need closure before they can move on. If you’re hiding something, they’ll sense it. Be willing to discuss anything they are struggling to understand, or to listen while they try to make sense of it. Don’t make excuses if you know they’re right, don’t argue over technicalities and try to be mature about it. If it’s come as a shock to them, they’ll need to work through it. Help them with that if you can, even if it means repeating the same things until they stick. Be aware that they’ll be hurting and might say things they don’t mean. Try not to take anything personally unless of course, they’re right.
If you’re feeling guilty, chances are you’ll overcompensate by telling them how great they are. Bearing in mind the fact that you’re saying you no longer want to be with them, it’ll only end up sounding hollow and patronising. Everyone has their pride and compliments at this stage will just sound like a consolation prize and it’s more about making yourself feel better. Nobody wants your pity. Oh, and don’t tell them they’ll find someone else. They will, but they don’t need someone they’ve loved to tell them that, it won’t soften the blow and you’ll be sowing the seed that it is in fact, what you want to do.
Make it clean
An important point raised by a wise twitter friend. There should be nobody else involved until you’ve ended things with your partner. I don’t buy it when people say they’re in love with two people at once. You know when it’s not working and you owe it to them not to pretend or dither over whether you can sort things out. Ask yourself if you’re trying because you want to or because you feel you should? If it’s the former, then do it properly without distractions or excuses and really give it your all. If it’s the latter, it’ll only be a matter of time before you’re looking elsewhere. If you’re only as faithful as your options, one FB message from an old flame away from making the break, do it before that even becomes an option. Emotional infidelity is every bit as painful, sometimes more so, than physical cheating. Would you do that or say those things to your colleague if your partner was listening? Are you not interested, but enjoying that feeling of being desired by someone else? If you’re paying more attention to someone else, doing things for others that you used to do for them, or worse,doing them better, it will be noticed. That isn’t fair on anyone and it shouldn’t get to a stage where you’re even considering someone else before you’ve ended it. 9 times out of 10, they’ll have sensed it and the more you make them doubt themselves, the more damage you do to them.
Don’t string it out
I’ve been in relationships where I’ve known it was over long before it became official. You can sense when someone has emotionally left the building. The cruellest thing is then to not admit it to your partner or deny it if they bring it up. If you find you’re making excuses not to discuss your relationship or not being honest about your feelings because you’re scared of being alone, that’s your problem, not theirs. It’s not fair to string anyone along just because you don’t want to be alone or need to find reassurance elsewhere first. It’s not all about you and your ego. It can be incredibly damaging to someone’s self esteem to be told they’re wrong or imagining it, when you both know they’re right. It can lead to feelings of paranoia and self doubt. Don’t leave them hanging in limbo and questioning their judgment. In the long term, that can be more difficult to get over than the relationship itself. If you find yourself slowly detaching, doing things you didn’t used to before, leaving it longer between arguments, having that extra pint with your friends at the pub instead of going home early to sort things out or just being with them, making excuses to avoid talking to them, you know it’s over. Do the right thing and tell them that. It’s not fair to keep them there as a safety net while you emotionally withdraw by weaning yourself off them, bit by bit.
Don’t be a dick
Unless you’ve been in a physically or mentally abusive relationship or been treated particularly badly by someone, don’t badmouth them to others. There are ways of airbrushing events to make yourself look good. We all know relationships are more complicated than that and things are rarely black and white. Context is important. People can be painted as paranoid, needy, clingy or oversensitive but there are many reasons why people behave the way they do. They may have every reason to, they may be suffering from mental health issues, low self esteem, they may have been hurt in the past. Show some sensitivity, even after you’ve broken up. Flaunting a new relationship in their face, repeating the same words with someone else, making that effort for others where they can see it, can all be hurtful in the aftermath. Try to put yourself in their shoes. You have all of your life ahead of you, a bit of consideration won’t kill you. Overall, just don’t be a dick. You cared about them once.