Breaking up. Is there a right way?

Crying behind Woman

Announcing a wish to break up with our partner is very difficult, because we do not want to be ‘the bad person’ by choosing to leave and/or go through acute negative emotions when we see our soon-to-be-ex-partner in pain because they have been made aware of our desire to leave the relationship.

We are taught a lot from childhood; how to be emotionally wise in interpersonal relationships is not one of the lessons that we focus on. So, when we face emotionally challenging situations with a virtually empty quiver of skills to deal with them, we duck and/or delay. We are bad at breakups, also because we misplace and misuse the ‘kindness license’, regardless of how genuinely we feel the emotion of kindness. You must realise that offering pity masked as real love, because you want to appear kind, is not the kindest thing to do. Sometimes polite assertion of your desire to leave is also an act of kindness, where you are sparing the other person the insult and injury that comes with raising hopes and dreams of their life with you on a foundation of your delayed truth and lack of emotional investment.

Our ineptness at ending or exiting a relationship with dignity is not because we are evil or harbour any malice for our partner, but because we are not trained to look at our emotions and deal with them in a way that is respectful of self and others.

As a psychotherapist who deals with marriage and relationship counselling, I regularly hear about people breaking up on SMS, WhatsApp, Emails and other messengers, which promise less discomfort of seeing ourselves in a bad light or our partners pained, by simply and dysfunctionally blocking the experience of facing the person we claimed to like/love.

Related reading: 10 ways to deal with heartbreak

You might ask, “What is wrong with breaking up via text if it does reduce the pain and makes the process smoother?” This is a fair question. The answer is hidden in another question: “Does it make it really easier for both the parties involved?” If it does and it has been discussed beforehand as an option that suits you both, yes, by all means, go for it. However, if it hasn’t been talked about, remember you would be leaving the partner who is being broken up with, wondering about and questioning the validity of the entire experience they had with you before the breakup, called a relationship.

While you are not entirely responsible for how the other person interprets life events, you can be held accountable for the room that you leave for varied interpretations of your actions. Although I am fully aware that one size doesn’t fit all, one should strive to show the brave kindness of breaking up in person with assertive explanations, thereby granting to the person and the relationship the dignity that they deserved.

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