How to Be a Good Breaker-Upper

8 Dec

1. Don’t put it off when you know you want to. You aren’t doing anyone any favors by staying in a miserable situation.And speaking directly to the narcissist who’s excuse is “I don’t want to hurt his/her feelings”…NEWSFLASH!!!  If you’re cheating on them, just using them, or otherwise just aren’t into them, trust me, they can do MUCH better.  Give them the opportunity to find someone who will love and cherish them.
    Generally, the longer you stay in a relationship that you don’t want to be in, the more hurtful things will become, and the eventual breakup will be even more ugly and painful than it needs to be.  First off, the longer we stay in a relationship past its expiration the more we grow upset and begin to resent the person we’re with. Of course, eventually they catch on and are negatively affected by your resentment and unhappiness. Yes, it can be hard to step up and do something that you know will be hurtful.  But that is what having integrity is all about: doing the right thing, not just the easy thing.  Here, it is simply selfish to stick around meanwhile making the other person feel confused and unwanted.  It is best just to be honest and break things off.  Don’t wait until things become completely unbearable to end a relationship.  If you want any chance of being friends in the future, be kind, and don’t delay the inevitable. The longer you let it fester, the more heartache you will undoubtedly cause.
     Give each of you a fair chance to heal and move on.  Especially if you really respect this person and want them in your life, don’t wait until the relationship implodes on itself. It’s never easy, but be noble and do the right thing, for the sake of all parties involved. And though it may be hurtful for a while, the other party will almost always nonetheless respect your decision and the thoughtful and sincere way you did it…even if they come to this conclusion a while later as it takes time to get over the initial painful blow of a breakup.

2. Be considerate of the other person’s feelings.  This sentiment is covered by every other number someway, but nonetheless, just make sure you are. I mean, don’t do it like right after they found out that their grandma died, or as they are walking up to the podium to deliver a speech.  And along those same lines, the end of a relationship doesn’t signify a time to point out each and every one of their flaws as reasons for your break up.  Just obvious stuff.

3. Be honest, but not overly honest.  That is, leave out the hurtful details.  What would be the point anyway??  Upon breaking up, just stick to the “take it to your grave” rule. You don’t have to add insult to injury by confessing every white lie or possible indiscretion upon a breakup. Sure, maybe it will relieve your conscience but it is entirely unnecessary and completely hurtful if not devastating in some cases. Unless it is a pressing medical emergency or something which no one in good faith should withhold, all other hurtful confessions should be kept to yourself. This is one of those times where what they don’t know cant hurt them. There is no need to pile on the pain with needless details. Three reasons why this is true. 1) You will be causing much more pain. 2) The person’s faith in you will be shot with little chance of recovery. 3) Your reputation is always at stake.

4. Give them space.  Let them “lick their wounds” and move on before you try to re-involve yourself in their life. Whether they recognize the need or not, your ex-significant other won’t be able to heal if you are continually around to put salt in the wound. So if you really care about this person, and know that they are significantly hurt, give them space. Even if they don’t ask for it, which often they don’t seeing as how they didn’t want to stop seeing you in the first place, you must take it upon yourself to mandate distance. Don’t allow them to continually throw themselves back in the fire when you know they are only going to get hurt. Be the bigger and stronger person and take responsibility for your decision. They didn’t choose to be in this position- for the initial period of the breakup they almost always take the position of trying to change your mind and get you back.
     Be thoughtful and compassionate. You must be the stronger person at this point. After all, they have probably been caught completely by surprise. So sometimes the best thing to do is take the matter into your own hands and cut things off, knowing that they wont be ready to do that for themselves. Its hard because you want to make it as easy for the person as possible. You want to be there to comfort them and make them feel better right? Of course you do, you are a good person. But this is one of those uncommon situations where you almost need to protect a person you care about from themselves AND you. Even though you are simply trying to be kind, and comforting your actions can easily be misconstrued and misread as to lead them on or give them false hopes which only cause more hurt. Though it may seem cruel and heartless, it is really best to assure them that you care, and then just completely remove yourself from their life for a month, maybe more depending on how long or intense the relationship was.

5. Don’t try and relieve your conscience at their expense. Much like #4 and #6, you should be honest, but don’t be over-honest either. You don’t need to add in those extra details and confessions when the only purpose is to make yourself feel better. Not relieve your own conscience when it is only going to cause them more pain than is necessary. Also, when breaking up with someone, you are GOING to be the bad guy for a little while. No matter how well you did it, even if you said all the right things, you are going to have feelings of guilt. Of course, you hurt someone. But don’t try and alleviate your guilty feelings at the other person’s expense. That is, you cant break up with someone and still try and be the “good guy.” Though we often have only the best intentions, and are only “trying to make it easier”, or the classic “only trying to do the right thing”, we can easily mistake our intentions of making our significant other feel better with what we are really doing which is trying to relieve our OWN conscience.
     No one wants to feel like the bad guy- so we try to make it better, and be sweet, caring and understanding, what have you. However, in actuality, this often only confuses the person we are trying to help. They receive all kinds of mixed signals, you say one thing but act another way. You are totally sweet and loving but you nonetheless have told them that you no longer want to be in a relationship. In any long-term relationship, there are bound to be a lot of feelings and emotions. When breaking up, these feelings can become overwhelming and difficult to sort out and deal with. Often one can feel as if they are struggling to keep their head above water in this sea of emotion. The more contact you have and emotion you add and stir up, the harder it is for the person to pull themselves out of this confusing situation and get a handle on reality.
     As smart as we are, our emotions have an awesome power to take control and distort our reality. The nicest thing you can do for someone with whom you have just broken up is to leave them be. It is hard enough for them to sort out and deal with their feelings without you constantly adding fuel to the fire. Sure, you just want to “be there for them” and do the right thing, but really, the right thing is to realize that they need some time alone. They have enough on their plate and need to sort it by themselves. You feel bad and want to make things better, but the constant contact, and attempts at being sympathetic are too often confused with feelings of love. Sending what is being interpreted as mixed signals, and getting your dumpee’s hopes up is just selfish and cruel.
     There is definitely a happy medium between just telling someone to sod-off and trying to be the shoulder to cry on. When it was you that caused the pain in the first place it is simply inappropriate to try and be the one to console. Following these tips being honest, compassionate, but also straightforward and decisive is the best, most kind way to break up with someone. There is never a great way to tell someone that you prefer the company of someone else to their exclusive company, but there are MANY ways to avoid common mistakes that cause unnecessary hurt and confusion.

6. Be swift like ripping off a band-aid, but sensitive.  “Don’t give a long flowery speech.  It doesn’t need to be some big elaborate production.  That really only makes it worse.” Ok, I totally ripped that from the song “Popular” by Nada Surf but it’s sound advice nonetheless. When you don’t cut to the chase, it just leaves the other person in a very vulnerable and confused position, and that’s just cruel.
     And for the love–don’t make THEM bring it up.  It is especially awful when, due to your lack of integrity, you wait for THEM bring it up.  Because what that does is gives them a false sense of hope, as if you are possibly on the fence about this and waiting for them to convince you to stay.  If they think that maybe it was partly their decision, they may get a false sense of control of the situation. Thinking that since they were a part of the breakup decision, maybe they can also do something to fix it or make it better. Which, as we know, they cant- because all along it was you that wanted the relationship to be over and there isn’t anything they can do about it.

     This passive, “I don’t want to be the bad guy” approach only makes things messy.  So sack up.  If you wanna break up, do it. Don’t make them ask for it.  It doesn’t make you the better person by forcing their hand.  In fact, its quite disrespectful and insulting.  In sum, be decisive, considerate and keep in mind that although you are really great…they’ll move on!

7. If you lack self control, erase their number.  Even if you have it memorized, taking them off your contacts list will at least force a brief moment of reflection about your choice as you dial the numbers. Or go with the rule I live by: Never memorize their number! When you have just broken up with someone, out of either need or habit, you can find just about any “legitimate” reason to contact them.  She still has my dvd; or I just ran into his friend and should tell him about it.  Come on.  When its over, its over.  Let it go. Of course that doesn’t mean cut them out of your life for eternity (unless you were dating a psychopath or something).  But it does mean that you need to give yourself and your ex-significant other some time and space to sort things out and regroup.

8. Remember, all is fair in love and war. Don’t weigh yourself down with guilt. You have to be entirely selfish when it comes to love and relationships. This is an area where you don’t owe anyone anything, and have to do what’s right for you.  Keep in mind, if it isn’t right for you, then it isn’t right for them either.

9. Just like them, don’t dwell. Distract yourself and move on (in a healthy way). Throw yourself into work, or family. Hell, go out with your friends. Just do “me” stuff. Entertain yourself with things that make you happy. This is a time to be 100% selfish. Because, lets be honest, the entire time you are in a relationship, you are thinking in terms of two. You always have to consider how the other person will feel about your actions. You have to make plans that keep the both of you happy, and have little time to just do what you want to do.

10. Some good break-up/turn-down lines:

I just got out of a big relationship and am not ready for anything serious just yet.

You are seriously amazing, but my life is just all over the place right now. Let me get back to you when things settle because I’d hate to ruin things by forcing it when I’m just not in a place to give you the time and attention you deserve.

This really isn’t working for me.

I think you’re awesome, but would rather have you as a friend… (than potentially lose that by complicating things).

I’ve had a really nice time on my dates with you but have been talking to someone else as well and I’d like to give that relationship a real chance.

We have so much in common and are so alike, it’s almost like you’re TOO MUCH like me…(and sometimes I need a break from myself).

You are amazing but something’s missing. I don’t know, its probably me. I’m sorry.

See also: There is No “Still Friends” Immediately After a Break-Up. The Lure of “the Ex”, STANDARDS- Make ‘em and Keep ‘em

4 Responses to “How to Be a Good Breaker-Upper”

  1. JayJay June 3, 2011 at 8:08 pm #

    Why can’t I just stop calling? No, thats cool, good advice actually. Solid stuff man

    • J.D. St. Michaels February 17, 2014 at 8:54 pm #

      Thank you. And distraction is the key. Find anything and everything else to do. Volunteering somewhere is actually a great way to do that. It gets you out of your own mind-space, which is essential sometimes. Plus, helping others feels great. Win-win. Thanks for the input!

      ~ JD

  2. Trishy1981 September 27, 2010 at 5:53 pm #

    Omg thank you. I feel ready now.


  1. There is No “Still Friends” Immediately After a Break-Up. « Dating, Debating & Recreating: Los Angeles - September 25, 2010

    […] See also: The Lure of “the Ex”, and How to Be a Good Breaker-Upper. […]

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