Valentine’s Day is a key day for breakups, apparently. You owe every other person the respect of a graceful conclusion, and they owe you that too. Here’s how.
A text from a close friend in romantic crisis, Galentines rolled out again as the dutifully crap portmanteau it is, and Sex Education trending on Netflix: it must be V-day. I feel pretty neutral about the big day when it swings around, if a little cautious with the hairbrush – my only abiding memory of any Valentine’s Day was six years ago, when my university housemate and I applied a perm-at-home kit to my hair, with predictably terrible, acid-singed results. But apparently, Valentine’s Day can be pretty fraught for some: the day of love ranks as one of the key moments in the year when breakup rates spike.
Now, while I may not be fussed for Valentine’s Day, breakups are something that fascinates me. Sure, I’m no WikiHow (a quite frankly formidable resource that my family even once inexplicably used to educate ourselves on ‘what is the Dark Net?’), but as a serial monogamist with a romantic CV longer than a loo roll, I know a thing or two about terminating romantic pairings.
To get us started, let me briefly lay down my purported credentials for this topic. I’ve spent the last ten years in a string of relationships, interspersed with a couple of flings, a barren year in France and the occasional date. My lengthy stint in coupledom does not make me necessarily any good at relationships (reader: I did not marry them), so no advice there, but does make me quite well versed in both breaking and broken hearts. And also in less emotionally invested de-couplings too (looking at you, flings). On top of this, with my eager small talk technique often affectionately (or despairingly, really depends on the pal) referred to as a type of ‘verbal waterboarding’, it’s safe to say that I’m interested in people. And lastly, I’m also a millennial, which means I have first-hand, cyber-side insights on ‘Dating In The Internet Age’. Someone give me a book deal already.
So, this much I know. Here are my tried and tested insights on how to break up:
1) Whatever you do, you owe it to people to communicate
Call me Casper, I’m the ghost that couldn’t. The phenomenon of ghosting – quietly slipping out of someone’s life by the means of a few thousand carefully unresponded to double-blue-ticked Whatsapp messages – is PLAIN RUDE, buckos. Don’t do that. Use words, and do it face-to-face, it’s really that simple. And also, leading me seamlessly into my next point, it’s the very basic required level of respect.
2) Be respectful
R-E-S-P-E-C-T, find out what it means to me! Breakups are very destructive (deep insight levels slipping a bit into the thoroughly obvious here, but an important point). Make sure you aren’t breaking up with someone because you have misplaced sense of martyrdom (‘I’m not good for them!’), or saw a saucy minx on the bus (yum), or just happen not to be feeling it that week. Entering the relationship in the first place was a commitment, and sticking it out when things are in a bit of rut is the whole point of that commitment. Relationships can be boring and hard at times, sorry! That’s the whole deal!
Sometimes though, counterintuitive as it feels, breaking up with someone is the most respectful thing you can do. In these cases, do it. Do it do it do it.
3) End it with grace
And when you do need to do it, you should do it with grace. These points might all sound overlapping and Venn-diagrammy, but there is a key distinction here from the other points. Ending any human relationship is a wrench, it does mean you will both get hurt. BUT if you do need to end a relationship (and let’s face it, lots of the relationships we see around us could do with a nice clean chop), do it with decency. Treat another person’s heart and soul as carefully as Yeats would.
“But I, being poor, have only my dreams;
I have spread my dreams under your feet;
Tread softly because you tread on my dreams.” ‘The Cloths of Heaven’
4) Stay friends. CONTROVERSIAL
Yes it can be done and yes, it’s the best thing ever. One of the things being friends with exes has taught me is that the best bits, the bits that are worth getting into a relationship in the first place, should be the friendship anyway. Here’s to the good ship friendship, the most powerful vessel in the ocean OF LIFE.
How to stay friends with an ex is probably a whole separate kettle of fish/article in itself, but the two key steps are:
- When you break up, break off. Have a clean break of no contact for six months to a year.
- And once you do resume contact, keep it light and a bit distant for a while longer. It takes a full two years, door to door, of processing and cracking on with your own life in a happy, enthusiastic way before you can be real friends. Those numbers are fact, I’m afraid, from the non-peer-reviewed scientific library of my experiences. There’s no point trying to rush them if you do want to be pals.
- Another point: don’t try to be friends if your ex was an a-hole. Get out and be free, you lovely wonderful human you.
So that’s it! The lowdown on jumping ‘ship. Breakups can be awful, but they are another rich patch on the fabric of you. If you’ve read this with a little weep on the go, check out this excellent article to lift yourself right up. Also check out Fumble, it’s got it all. And remember, if it ended it’s because it wasn’t working, and it wasn’t going to work. In the immortal words of a friend’s grandmother, ‘if it’s for you, it won’t go by you’. Happy breakups y’all! Keep being great.
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