6 Breaking-Up Styles: Hers and His

How do you break up with someone and remain friends?

Posted Mar 01, 2012

Just recently I ran into a neighbor at our local "third place" and each of us happened to be wearing casual pants, jeans jackets, and sparkly necklaces—ones that our mothers would have worn to a cocktail party, but which we choose to brighten our day.  We pointed to each other and laughed: "Valentine's Day gift?"

She blurted out: "That's not all he gave me.  The house was filled with balloons and roses when I arrived home from work.  And to think that I was all set to tell him I had to break it off with him. We went over to the Irish Bar and I saw you and your guy walking in holding hands and he leaned down to kiss you. I was jealous and sad for me, but happy for you.  Is that when he gave you the necklace?"

I had to fess up. The necklace was from old beau with whom I had spent over 15 years and yet, despite a break-up, he still surprises me with sparkles each and every Valentine's Day.

Suddenly she pleaded: "Tell me how you break up with someone and stay friends?"  (The secret is living in separate states or even countries.)

Sound advice on breaking up comes from Elizabeth Svoboda The Thoroughly Modern Guide to Breakups.

But for those who have written me and asked my opinion—here is a simple formula:

Three step break up method

When you feel that the time has come to end a relationship, always do so with dignity, clarity, and firmness.

  • Dignity - Never mind the "You did what and you expect me to stay with you?" rant. Just start by addressing his virtues and express gratitude for the time you shared.
  • Clarity - Point out that there is a problem that the two of you have been unable to resolve and it is best to go your separate ways. No pretext of "Let's be friends." (WebMD notes that you can still be friends after a break-up, but do give yourself some time and decide if there is really a basis for friendship: How to Break Up Gracefully - WebMD
  • Firmness - State clearly, "I've made my decision and I know it is best for me, and I believe it is best for both of us."

If rational methods fail

You can write a Dear John letter that is loving, but definitive — handwritten not an email.  Or perhaps throw an Italian tantrum — it won't work, but it will feel good.

Then there is the scurrilous method used by the Beltway Bachelor, a Washington writing colleague. It will work, but it is so passive-aggressive that your self-esteem will take a hit.

In the spirit of full disclosure, the Beltway Bachelor claims to really love women, but he also torments them. We all know the type — the Phantom Lover who makes women feel as if they are next in line to be swooped up on his white horse. But once the weekend is over, he doesn't call them again. What happens next? They call him and he asks them out and the masochistic cycle begins anew.

So why would I even read his manuscript and quote him? Because, sad to say, too many young women are being duped by too many men masquerading as Prince Charming.

Three scurrilous methods in the Beltway Bachelor's Handbook

I could scream when I read these, but too many men like him appear to be popping up all too often according to emails from readers. 

Nonetheless in his own words:

  • Simply Disappear — This represents the most cowardly way to bring a relationship to an end. It avoids direct confrontation and long heart felt explanations. The technique requires not responding to emails, phone calls (Caller ID is a godsend here), letters and other attempts on the part of your former love to connect.

Part of the package, of course, means that the guy does not initiate any form of correspondence. After a while, she will get the point and dismiss the guy from her life as a complete loser. This is good.

  • Not Good Enough. Saying—in person—"I'm not good enough for you" is historically one of the oldest justifications to support making one's self scarce. This is beyond hackneyed and requires a degree of theatricality.

A demonstration of sincere emotions and selflessness are required here. However, it presupposes that the woman in question was arm candy.

  • The Former Girl Friend -- This method works with email, particularly in long-distance relationships or with women who do not necessarily live in the neighborhood. Consider the following monologue:

    "A former girlfriend with whom I was close to for years (and years ago, of course) has recently surfaced. Although you know that you are my (true) love, I have to admit in all (honesty) that I still have some issues to work out. I find the conflict enormously painful and please understand that I will need some quiet time to myself." 

As is the case with other stories, giving the impression of seriously dealing with emotional turmoil lends credence to the ongoing narrative. / The BB

If a break-up is imminent how would you like to be told?

Women who tell me about break-ups usually wish the man had the decency to appear in person on neutral territory. 

If not, how about this one?  I have a colleague who was sent 3 dozens roses.  The card on the first dozen read: "I will always love you."  The card on the second dozen: "I hope you will forgive me."  The card on the third dozen: "This is the end for us. But always stay as beautiful as these roses."

The seriously sad side of break-ups

Breaking up is serious and painful. Guard yourself against depression by surrounding yourself with supportive friends.  However, if you find yourself crying uncontrollably and are unable to eat or sleep or leave your home, seek out a therapist who will help you move on to a more positive place.

Copyright 2012 Rita Watson/ All Rights Reserved

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