Wednesday, July 8, 2009

On Breaking Up

This whole train of thought started with this tweet: “Okay, since when do breakups mean you have to treat each other badly? What happened to common courtesy, dignity, and civility? Honestly.” (Yes, that is 140 characters or less.) It was about two specific breakups of mine, but I realized it applied to a lot more breakups than just those two – in fact, I think it applies to most breakups because even those that did at least seemingly end well, most turned sour fairly quickly.

The latter is what happened to me at the end of my last two serious relationships. We ended on at least decent terms (the first one better than the most recent) and then they degenerated from there. The first one was with a boy we’ll call simply Boy A. We had dated for roughly a year and a half and when we split ways, it was because we were going off to college and we knew we needed time to grow and become our own people. We vowed to stay friends and reconsider “us” at the end of our sophomore year of college – but I can safely say that won’t happen. Why? First, because we stopped talking to each other for about three months after our break up. Which was fine, it gave us time to heal and grow a little, except after we started talking again, we were on good terms for about two weeks before the problems started – Boy A started spreading rumors about how he had just been using me the entire time we dated, he gave my number out to his managers at his new job and let them call me whenever they wanted to to harass me, he did the same for his new friends and encouraged them to drunk dial me. He and his friends still do that to this day (literally – got a phone call from them last week) even though Boy A and I broke up over a year ago at this point. Yeah, like I said, I won’t be reconsidering a relationship with him anytime soon.

In the more recent one, with a boy I’ll only refer to as Boy B, our breakup itself was peaceful. We were sad about it but I had to do it because I couldn’t see myself marrying him, despite how good of a guy he was, and I didn’t want to draw it out and make it more painful if I already knew it had no future. But, of course, it didn’t stay peaceful for long. Yesterday, he was bashing me on Twitter for every little thing I said, even though it had nothing to do with “us” and he was calling my room mate accusing me of lying to him and cheating on him. Granted, I didn’t handle it well and replied directly to him (DMs, only), probably angering him further, which led to him asking back for all the gifts he’d ever given me, which I happily put in the mail. Then I posted the aforementioned tweet, not really intending for it to be solely about him but about relationships in general, but I guess you can guess which way he took it. This of course degenerated what had been a fragile friendship (or, truce, I guess) into utter chaos and cat fighting. And now we’re not speaking to each other. I don’t foresee it getting better anytime soon.

What makes me sad about these situations is that this didn’t have to happen. I don’t mean to sound like I was a popular kid in high school or a slut or anything (because I definitely wasn’t either of those things), but I’ve dated a lot of guys. Some, like Boy A, were much more serious than others. But out of all the guys I’ve dated, only Boy A, Boy B, and one kid I dated my sophomore year of high school who I would actually kill if I could walk away from it with no consequences, are no longer considered friends of mine. One of my best guyfriends is an ex of mine and I love him to death; we’re extremely close.

So, genuinely being friends after a breakup is possible. Maybe not immediately, but it is possible eventually. My cousin Jackie is a perfect testament to that: she’s friends with most of her exes – it took time with some, but they’re on good terms. As another example, Kevin and his ex that he dated for four years are still friends. Another? My good friend Ryan is on good terms with most of his exes, and even friends with some of them. My friend Sydney is on decent terms with all of her exes but one, and she’s dated more guys than I have. So, it’s possible to be civil and courteous and even friendly. But yet, my friends Ayla and Cyndi would tell you that they’re not friends with most of their exes because it ended messily, but I would bet that most probably had the potential to end okay. So, if it can end cleanly, why don’t people just do that? Why do people insist on being catty and rude? Wouldn’t it seem like ending peacefully would be so much easier and less emotionally draining? And it’s not just girls reacting this way, which is what I would’ve expected if it weren’t for Boys A&B. But, no, guys do it too, and in my experience they’re sometimes worse. Why, though? I mean, if two people were together, there was a reason. There was something about each other that they liked and the fact is that that part of them doesn’t go away or change just because they go their separate ways.

Now, I’m not saying that you have to be civil and friendly in every situation – it’s hard to be even somewhat civil to someone who cheated on you or abused you (see: guy from sophomore year who I would kill), and that’s totally understandable. But it’s as different as it is understandable. Not every relationship ends for those reasons, and I don’t see why breakups that could be perfectly civil aren’t treated that way. Getting angry at each other and tearing each other’s throats out doesn’t make the break up any easier. You’re not going to be happier sooner and you’re not going to put it behind you sooner if all you do is get angry and refuse to deal with and accept what happened.

So, why do people choose that route? Are people cruel to each other because they’re hurting and want to bring the other person down too? Do they think they have to entirely dislike someone to get over them? Or is it just part of human nature and something not all people are willing to put aside for someone they once cared about? I don’t know. Why do you think it happens?

(photo courtesy of romance tips for women.)


  1. I just - and I mean just last night - had a decent 45 minute phone conversation with my ex. (We've been in contact before but mostly through email since we weren't very good at talking on the phone without becoming angry.) So this morning I've been thinking about how nice it is to be able to have civil and even enjoyable interactions.

    You asked WHY it happens... so many possible responses. It seems at least part of it is about boundaries - respecting them, establishing them, whatever. This is a particularly important thing when taking things like Twitter, Facebook and the many other virtually instantaneous communication vehicles available to us these days.

    And then there's the complex dynamic hurt plays, one not to be underestimated. It is tough TO hurt and many of us don't even do a good job of acknowledging THAT we're hurting.

    And, you know, I'm of the opinion that there's really nothing wrong with getting angry. Anger provides us information and sometimes direction. It can help us transition through change to get where we need to go. That being said, what we DO with anger can be a major problem, of course. And I think your post makes that point very eloquently.

  2. I agree with Judy, those who are hurt are prone to taking it too far. As in the examples of Boy A & B. As for the one you want to kill im just hoping you don't cuz then you would go to jail and that wouldn't be good. I think relationships can end well but at the same time they can't be instantaneous wellness. Both parties have to watch what they say because no matter how hard you try not to be mad, you read to far into things and make things bigger than they are and both parties are guilty of this. The problem is, neither party realizes they are guilty. So I say just cut of communication for a week or 2, just let everything settle, let both parties get their anger and emotions out of the way then talk. Talk about your relationship. The good and bad. It will hurt but it has to be done. It will help both people for their next relationships. It will help them fix their mistakes. Its not being a hater (see my most recent post) its actually being a lover if you talk like humans. Only 3 rules have to be present.
    1) Any questions are fair game
    2) There can be no getting mad at questions or yelling or sarcasm
    3) Complete honesty is mandatory
    Follow those three rules and everything will be fine. You'll get through this and i'm sure you can work it out with Boys A & B or one of them. Good luck!


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