Friday, September 09, 2016

How to Break Up with Dignity

Breaking up is hard to do. But, it doesn't have to be a hot mess. Yes, there will be hard feelings, but if you can just refrain from throwing things, you might just come out of this a better person. There's usually no need to act like a screaming toddler (except when there is). We're firm believers that an amicable, calm breakup is a sign of both true maturity and, in a funny way, love and respect for your former partner.


We dug deep into our own collective experience, pulling from both the best breakups and the really, really bad ones. You know, the ones that pull your heart out, drag it around a dirty floor, and then try to haphazardly stick it back into your chest with some old masking tape that definitely isn't sticky anymore. All our suffering was not in vain, though. The result? An easy-access, eight-step guide to ending it, the classy way. If you feel a split coming on, you might just want to print this one out.
*R29 is not liable for any bad behavior, not-so-classy situations, or throwing of chairs. But, we're doing our part to minimize your misery and maximize that "over it" feeling.

Confide in your close friends - so you don't drive your acquaintances crazy.
If you try to keep it all inside, you're going to end up drunkenly spilling it to that random coworker who tagged along for drinks with you and your deskmate one night. And, you're going to regret it the next morning. At the beginning, sometimes, you just have to let yourself wallow. Get out your night cheese, put on your personalized Snuggie (side note: Immediately order a personalized Snuggie), watch Blue Valentine, and cry. Take time off work, if you have to. Powering through it might numb the pain for a while, but eventually, you will have to face your feelings and your loss. If you procrastinate in the grieving process, chances are it'll be that much worse when you finally get around to it.
Also, try to think back on when you've been the friend in these situations. Sometimes, enough is enough. Recognize when you might be oversharing or belaboring a point to try and weasel out the answer you want. Good friends won't abandon you for it, but they might feel a tad bit alienated, and those relationships are more important than ever in the post-breakup universe. If you're still feeling like you need to spill your guts, maybe it's time to consider therapy.

Don't make up a crazy reason.
Telling it like it is can be a very difficult thing. You can have it all planned out in your head, but when it comes time to look the person in the face and say "I don't want to be with you anymore," it's easy to come up with a lot of excuses. But, the truth is, it's better for the person you're breaking up with if you just come clean about your reasons for ending it. Do not - repeat, do not - make up some crazy reason or say that you're just "really busy with work right now." Yes, you should say your piece in a tactful, respectful, non-screaming manner, but that doesn't mean it shouldn't be truthful.
If they've done something that upset you, or their behavior was inappropriate in your eyes, or you didn't feel you were good together for whatever reason, do your soon-to-be-ex a favor and say that. The same goes if your reason is simply that you don't like this person enough.
It's one of the hardest ways to end it, but if you go for a made-up specific reason like "I can't deal with your attitude about my dog" instead of explaining that you just can't see the relationship moving forward, that only gives them a reason to nurture false hope. Tell it like it is, and you're more likely to have a clean break that doesn't evolve into drunken Snapchats after a six-month silence. That way, the person might actually grow and mature and be a better partner in their next relationship (and you will, too). It's the closest to win-win a breakup can ever be.

Catalog your grievances - then look at them from his/her perspective.

In most cases, you're going to have a serious urge to throw shade and talk smack. For the first few days, it's okay to indulge, but you can't let it go on forever, and it's crucial not to let your venting turn into serious bitterness. We suggest listing all the things you can't stand about you-know-who, then trying to step back with an objective eye to see how you may or may not have reacted unfairly to these things, caused these behaviors, or how you could've been more supportive in certain areas. Then, try to imagine what their list might look like. It's not about berating yourself; it's about avoiding the pitfalls of seeing the other person as some evil villain without taking just a bit of responsibility on yourself.

Accept that this may not be the right time to make a joke.

Are you one of those people who relies on humor to lighten every situation? Good for you. You're probably fun to hang out with. But, you need to accept that, along with funerals and discussions of war crimes, breakups are not a good time to be funny. For you, it may be a coping mechanism, but chances are, your breakup buddy will take it as a sign that you're not really all that fussed about splitting. A "too soon" joke can turn even a civil breakup into a screaming match. Just save it for the recap dinner you have planned with your best friend immediately after, please.

Long distance? Let it lie (at first).

This may sound harsh, but if you're going into a long-distance relationship, you might not want to dive in headfirst. There are certainly situations when you just know, but sometimes, it's easier to have a knee-jerk reaction that says "of course we're staying together! How dare you suggest otherwise, mother/friend/inner monologue!"
The truth is, though, that long-distance relationships can be incredibly difficult and painful - and sometimes they ruin what could have otherwise been a beautiful friendship with the almost-inevitable festering of emotions and suspicions. Even if things do go well, sometimes staying together long-distance can keep you stuck in a situation that isn't right for you because you're only experiencing those honeymoon periods and holidays spent together. Our humble suggestion? When it comes time for a physical separation, take an emotional beat. Maybe decide to take it easy and go single for six months. If you still feel the same way, then more power to you. And, if you do decide to break up, do it in person if at all possible (that's a lesson that goes for all break ups, long distance or otherwise).

Don't let sadness sully your singledom.
Yes, you might want to head straight out into the world of casual singledom the moment you're "free." And, we're not trying to stop you. Before you get turnt out in your finest, though, maybe take a few days just to breathe. Otherwise, you might find yourself making decisions out of spite, sadness, or anger. Especially if you're coming out of a longer relationship, you want your return to the sea and its many fish to be a happy event, not something you curse yourself for in a few weeks.

The phase-out strategy just doesn't work.

Whether you're gearing up to drop the bomb or just sensing that it's coming your way, ignoring someone on the last leg of a relationship is only going to cause more pain. You don't have to feign continuing affection when it's gone, but you do need to respond to their texts and calls. If you find yourself consistently wanting to send them straight to voicemail, that's a pretty clear sign that you need to answer and cut it off ASAP.

Set a texting limit and watch your usage of social media.

If you're trying to extricate yourself, you've got to be direct about it - for your benefit and for the sanity of your ex. After and during the process, make a rule to only text someone absolute essentials. Set a number limit if you have to, and try to avoid GChat and the like. Communication is key when talking feelings, but one of the hardest parts of ending a relationship is pulling out of your comfort zone, and it doesn't help to keep the casual, banal conversation going. That, and the fact that it's about a million times easier to get mad at someone over text/online than it is in real life. When it comes to social media, have a game plan. Discuss it with your ex, if necessary. For example, if you feel you need to unfriend that person because seeing the photos of their life without you will be too painful, that's okay. But, it's much better to tell them that, and explain yourself, than it is to unfriend them in a teary rage three weeks after the fact.
Above all, remember that recovering from a breakup has to be incremental. That means you have time to deal - but, you also have to focus on your progress each day. Let yourself think about your ex if you need to. Just try to make each day's dwelling a bit less than the day before. You'll get there, we promise.

By Lexi Nisita, Refinery29