Over the weekend, I stumbled upon an amazing article that had all the tips, as far as I can tell, any of us will ever need to negotiate a break-up with a maximum of dignity and consideration--and a minimum (in the long run) of pain, confusion and suffering.
Writing for Australia's Daily Telegraph, just about everything Lollie Barr had to say was right on. But I think 6 of her 10 points, in particular, are worth repeating. To wit:
1. Don't ignore the problem.
When your feelings for your partner change, one of the ways it manifests is a behaviour called "distancing". Relationship counsellor and clinical psychologist John Aiken says that can mean being overly critical, hostile, prickly or short, or through physical separation, such as going for long walks, partying, working late or spending time on the internet. "It's the beginning of the exit strategy," Aiken says. "However, it's this kind of avoiding behaviour that leaves your partner feeling vulnerable, hopeless, lonely and fearful." It's particularly damaging when they ask what is wrong and are stonewalled. "If you're shutting down emotionally you have to own your feelings," Aiken says. "Some people spend months, even years, criticising and distancing, thinking they're letting them down slowly, but it only has a detrimental effect on their partner's self-esteem."
2. Don't make your significant other dump you.
Avoid forcing your partner to do the breaking up when it's you who wants to leave, Aiken says. People sabotage their relationships in a number of ways, he says: reducing sex and intimacy, flirting inappropriately, putting their partner down, drinking and drug taking, going out or having affairs. "Essentially, they do all the things their partner hates, so it gets to a point where the partner feels they can't put up with being so disrespected and they have to call it off," he says. Instead, Aiken says you should be upfront. "Tell your partner directly and in a respectful manner that you have decided to break up your relationship. Don't force their hand to leave you."
3. Avoid the old clichés.
It's not you it's me; I've got too much work on; I need some space right now ... Avoid these kinds of excuses at all costs. It just leaves your partner's mind searching for answers. "The mind needs to make sense of the world," Aiken says. "If they're still in love with you, they'll want to try to fix it when there is no hope. If you are clear and talk in terms of your feelings, such as, I don't feel there is a spark or chemistry', your ex can't go into denial about what is happening. Being honest helps them move on quicker."
4. Say it to his/her face.
Breaking up by phone, email, text, or by changing your status on Facebook is just plain disrespectful. "To do it in a short, blunt way reeks of a lack of courage and responsibility and devalues the time you've spent together," Aiken says. "It's so impersonal that it hurts them even more, and breeds anger and resentment." There is also the issue of closure, especially when you avoid your ex. "Front up and see them face to face so they can get the answers they need. That way you're helping them through the break-up process. "Otherwise they are left with a void of trying to work out exactly what happened."
5. No mixed messages.
Once you've made up your mind you want to break up, don't give your ex mixed signals by sending text messages, asking to meet up and, especially, sleeping with him or her. Corrigan says you've got to have distance or else you will install a false hope for a future that you know will never exist. "The psychological damage comes from the inconsistency between verbal and non-verbal communication," she says. "Our instincts pick up on non-verbal communication, while the verbal is telling us something completely different, so much so that the emotional process malfunctions because you can't decipher what's going on, which causes further pain." Corrigan says sending the occasional text message to let them know you're thinking about them is okay. "But giving someone false hope because you want your needs met is just cruel."
6. Honesty is best ... but go easy with the cold, hard truth.
Be honest about your feelings, but if you've broken up with them because you don't like a physical characteristic, their family or because they just don't smell right, there is no point going into specifics.
To read all 10 tips from the Telegraph, read the story here.
To tell me whether you agree, disagree, or have anything to add, please comment, right ... down ... there.
In other news: I had a kind of awesome date last night! With the firefighter! But--yes, as usual, I'm being a tease: the full story will have to wait till tomorrow, because I had this post all ready for today ...