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Negotiating a break-up is never easy, I think that’s something I’m sure we can all agree on. But there’s no rule saying we have to be a prize-winning douche bag to extricate ourselves from a formerly well-functioning relationship. So how does one avoid these well-trodden paths of douche-bagish behaviour?
Well, I’m glad you asked. Here are a few top tips to negotiate the murky waters of the dreaded break-up.
1. Be honest
It seems incredibly obvious, but when you have to have these difficult conversations you need to be honest with yourself and your partner. They’ll probably know you pretty well and so will immediately clock your behaviour when it’s disingenuous. You’d appreciate them being honest too, right? It would be an insult to your relationship to not have an open discussion about something so important. Of course, being honest is incredibly difficult and sometimes our whole being resists it, but, it’s worth making the effort. How could you even know that you wanted to break up for sure unless you could articulate those words to your partner? Just getting those feelings out might be the beginning of a conversation that leads to your reconciliation – or maybe it doesn’t – but at least you’ve talked it out honestly. And you’ll both feel better (in the long run) for choosing to do that.
2. Be sensitive
OK, so I might appear to be going back on what I just said but 100% unfiltered honesty is not exactly helpful sometimes. People do appreciate honesty, but they also appreciate sensitivity. For example, if you decide to break up with someone because you no longer find them attractive then you might argue that you should admit that. Well, I’m not arguing that you shouldn’t tell them, but there are definitely two ways to say that: I don’t fancy you any more, or, I don’t feel the same way as I did when we first met. You need to think about how what you say is going to affect your soon-to-be ex-partner. You don’t want to hurt them unnecessarily, and as their partner, you’ll probably already have a good idea of how to hurt them deeply – so don’t, if you possibly can.
3. Anger is temporary
Feeling angry with someone and exercising that anger in the form of a fiery fuck-word-filled tirade feels great. And there are times when someone needs to be told they’re a massive dickhead and given a dressing down for putting you through hell. So, if that’s the case go ahead and exercise that anger straight at their shitty mug. But I would say that very few people intentionally set out to be dickheads and everyone is capable of hurting someone, particularly inside a relationship. The funny thing is we’re not so forgiving of these transgressions when we commit them ourselves.
People generally don’t set out to irreparably damage each other. That’s just an unfortunate consequence of caring deeply about someone – they can bring you immeasurable joy but also untold pain. So if and when that break-up moment comes, try and be forgiving. This might be the last time you see each other for a long time, or ever again. It would be better to end it with a memory befitting the good times you shared rather than with a sour, spiteful attack which you’ll always regret.
4. Don’t be a bitch
It would be very easy for the conversation to descend into a mud-slinging contest, seeing who can out-blame the other party. Well, you looked at that boy on my birthday. Well, you were messaging that bloke on Grindr! Well blah blah blah blah blah, so on and so forth in a never-ending loop of terminal boredom. And while it’s very tempting to play this game, it’s not constructive and it’s definitely not cute. The only reason you’re doing it is because you’re hurting. You might have every reason to bring up some of the failings of your boyfriend in this conversation because, yeah, he may have fucked up and he may need to know that. But, be very sure that’s the reason you’re trying to find fault in his actions and not because you’re avoiding confronting your own failings, or worse, simply trying to wound him.
5. Be clear and listen
If you’re the party severing ties, it’s vital to be clear about why you’ve decided to end the relationship. You don’t want to leave any doors open, or give them hope that your feelings might change if you know they won’t. It’s understandable that you don’t want to hurt them so there could be a temptation to tell them what they want to hear, that your feelings might change, or that you’re not 100% sure at the moment so you need time to think. You might think you’re being kind, but really it’s a selfish cop-out that only serves to make you feel less guilty. And it’s incredibly cowardly because when your ex finally does realise that it’s well and truly over, you won’t be around to deal with the fallout. At the other end of the spectrum, if you’re the dumpee then you need to make sure that you don’t try and convince yourself that your ex is going to change his mind. Of course he could change his mind but it’s dangerous to hope for something you can’t control. You can’t change his mind and your energies might be better spent adjusting to life post break-up, rather than dwelling on life before it.
6. Be kind
Be the kind of person you’d like your partner to be in that situation: honest, sensitive and emotionally intelligent. You will get upset because you care about this person, and I wouldn’t suggest that you try to conceal those feelings. You have to feel it to know it’s over. So be kind to yourself and your partner. You’ll both appreciate it.
This article by Mark Reed | @Mark_Reed88 previously appeared at FS Magazine, here.