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Breaking Up Is Hard to Do: Easing the Hurt on Both Sides

October 12, 2006 By:
Adina Matusow, JE Feature
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It's easy to allow a relationship to linger because the pain of a clean break is too hard. You aren't ready to give up this person you love because maybe he or she will want you back, especially if the person who ended it keeps making an effort to be in your life. The only way to stay sane through the whole thing is to talk it out, and if you have to talk to the ex, it's okay initially. However, you have to realize when you've exhausted the idea and when it's just over.

When you are dumped -- no matter the circumstances -- you suddenly become the victim. All forms of irrational and emotional behavior -- crying, tantrums, even repeated calling of the person -- is understandable, even if not truly acceptable.

This all changes when you are the one doing the dumping. You are the one with the game plan. You become the decision-maker -- which means that you haven't been granted the same authority to lose yourself. After the breakup, there are codes of conduct that you, as the dumper, are expected to follow.

You aren't supposed to call the person you broke up with. Nor is the same amount of grief acceptable -- it's like you're expected to get through all of that before you give the dreaded "we need to talk" speech.

Honesty, Trust and Love
My sister Liz broke up with her boyfriend of more than three years after a long time coming. They had reached a "plateau," where she no longer trusted or loved him, and he responded in resentment for the last few months of their relationship. When she got the courage to end it -- after moving miles away -- he begged her to work on their relationship, but she just knew it was over.

Although the conversations and the time following were extremely painful, Liz remained strong.

She kept asking herself the same old question: "What if I was wrong -- not to mention the loneliness and isolation I felt about being newly single? But I realized I had just cut myself off from the person who up until then was my closest confidante."

To prevent herself from calling him, she kept writing him letters that she never actually sent. She wrote the letters with every intention of mailing them, pouring out her heart and explaining her anger. She wrote why she had to end the relationship, and that she was sad, that she still missed him, and that she felt horrible for hurting him.

The worst feeling for her was thinking that she had no one to share her pain.

With a huge push and support from her family, Liz started to move on, to date others. Now, four years later, she is happily married to someone else. She never got the chance to give an "explanation" or to talk out her pain with her ex in the way that she really wanted, but who ever does?

Even if you're given the chance to explain things, what good does it really do?

Being too honest is probably not the best move because it has potential to cause unnecessary pain. Do you really want to tell your ex that you never saw the relationship going anywhere, or that you just stayed with them because it was comfortable or easier than ending it?

After someone ends it with you, you may think that it was easy for him or her. It's difficult to realize that ending a long-term and caring relationship is hard for both parties, no matter what.

My friend Kate went through a horrible breakup with her ex, Richard, who had emotional and drug problems.

"I knew it was over for months, but I was so afraid to end it because I kept hoping things would get better," she said. "Breaking up with him was extremely difficult because I was so afraid he was not going to be okay -- that something would happen to him. I still cared about him, but I knew I had nothing left to give anymore and wasn't in love with him."

She can admit now that it was "one of the hardest things" she's ever done, but she's also much happier as a result.

If you think you need to end things and are doubting your relationship, then listen to yourself. Breaking up with anyone you care about may seem harsh, but I've since learned that you really do know when someone is right for you. Trust your instincts.

When you are in the right relationship, anguish and doubt should not be in the picture. You should get all the things you need in a relationship, including honesty, openness and love. If you're not, it's time to move on.

After listening to everyone's stories, I can only offer my advice for anyone hurting after a breakup. Fill your calendar as much as possible. The more you get out, the less time you have to be sad. Take a class, volunteer, join a sports team, spend time with family and friends.

And try not to get too tired of hearing the words, "in time, you will heal." Though time may seem your biggest enemy, it's really your greatest ally.  

 

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