I am horrible at breaking up with people. (I mean really, really bad at it.) One thing I know about myself is that I am a people pleaser—I don’t want to hurt anyone’s feelings. I would much rather be the offended one, the broken-hearted one, the one to take the blame, the one who feels rejected, the one who says sorry first (even if it wasn’t my fault). Sure, I don’t want to feel any of those things. But I would rather it be me than be the person responsible for making anyone else feel that way.
I don’t say this so you all will think I am an amazing and selfless person (although you are free to believe what you want). I only say it so you will understand how I am—that I will do just about anything to avoid making someone else feel hurt or uncomfortable.
Sadly, I have learned life is such that you can’t always avoid this. In fact, sometimes the avoiding of it draws things out and makes them even worse.
Broken hearts, hurt feelings, bruised pride, etc., are just a part of life. It is important to deal with people carefully and tactfully, but there are often times when the best thing for you and whomever you are dealing with is to be honest, regardless of the residual feelings that come. I know this lesson and I try to remember it, but sometimes it is really hard to fight my natural instincts.
All this leads back to my starting point: I am horrible at breaking up with people. To illustrate this point, when I’ve had to break up with someone in the past, I’ve relied on what I call the “slow cooker breakup” method. Here is how it works:
1. Come to the realization that I am not falling for the person and the relationship is not going anywhere.
2. Know that I will be breaking up with the person and immediately start feeling guilty because there have been no outward signs of trouble on my part and I don’t want it to be completely out of the blue.
3. Continue to date the person, which enables me to 1. engage in operations and subtle behavior changes so the break up will be less of a surprise and 2. postpone having the painful, awkward, and hard discussion.
4. Wait for the next defining-the-relationship conversation (or as Ryan calls it, “The Talk”) to come up naturally—usually resulting from my recent behavioral changes—wherein I express how great the guy is (which if I am bothering to do this with him he likely is) but that I don’t know how I feel (even though I do) and am still working my feelings out (which I am not). I call this Breakup Talk Part One.
5. Usually a week or so goes by without too much contact since they are giving me space, followed by them inviting me on our first post-talk date.
6. Post-talk date #1 or #2 usually results in Breakup Talk Part Two, in which I have to say my feelings have not changed and it is decided that we won’t date anymore.
Um, writing that all that out is very enlightening. Could there be a worse way of breaking up with someone? Well, yes, there could. But really, why do I put myself and someone I care about through this process? Part of me wishes I am not alone in this, but most of me hopes everyone else has mastered a kinder, more streamlined breakup method.
Your turn: While I hope I never have to have this talk again, just in case I do, I’d love to hear your breakup tips in the comments. I think it’s clear I can use all the help I can get.