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How to End a Relationship Like an Adult

There’s no perfect way to break up with someone. Except, of course, for my way.

Relationships end. Nothing is more dangerous than not accepting this. – Paulo Coelho

That’s the deepest part of this article, and it came from Twitter, so don’t give me too much credit. A breakup always starts with an uncomfortable conversation (or if you’re me at my very regrettable worst, an email. Yes. An email. For which I paid the universe dearly) but the way it ends is the most important.

My best friend Dave described my breakup style using the plot of the 1998 film Armageddon, my old loves being left behind to die on an asteroid heading on a collision course with Earth while I soar away on a spaceship. I’ll admit right now that it’s been awhile since I’ve seen that movie and at the time I was mostly focused on Ben Affleck because hey, it was the 90s. Still, while I’m flattered to be compared in any way to a Michael Bay project, I think of my breakup style more as a modified plot of Eternal Sunshine of the Spotless Mind, where old loves are methodically banished from my consciousness until I feel sunny again.

I’ve given each of my former boyfriends one final, precious parting gift: that I will stay the hell out of their lives and let them get on with it already. Their future girlfriends will never need to feel jealous or insecure about me. They can feel free to live a life free of me commenting on their Facebook posts or showing up at Happy Hours with their friends. And someday, when we run into each other with our new loves on our arms, it will be as painless as running into an old acquaintance. Generous, right?

I’ve seen plenty of people go nuts operating under the illusion that you can go from Relationship to Friendship with the push of a cancel relationship Facebook button. And of course, that is completely possible if your life is a montage scene in a romantic comedy and the point is that after the montage you find out you’re still in love and montage right back to a relationship. In real life, the kind thing to do to yourself and for your former loves is to give each other some space.

Anti-Social Media
Facebook is a magical portal connecting our lives online, offline and in some strange cortex of the brain that can make a person crazy. Except for extreme occasions, unfriending an ex seems gauche. Unsubscribing from his feed and locking down your privacy settings so he isn’t privy to every break-up thought and rebound date you go on? That’s a class act.

No Phone Zone
The best part of being so dependent on cell phones is that it’s really hard to remember anybody’s phone number. Delete if you can, or at least edit his name to prevent you from sad-dialing him. It’s hard to text a dude named Buttface and say that you miss him.

Friends and Frenemies
I’m not saying that every breakup comes with a custody battle over whose friends are whose. I am saying to read Paul Coelho’s Tweet again. When a relationship is over, your other relationships are going to change, too. His roommates are no longer the brothers you never had, just like your dad probably isn’t going to keep inviting him on golf outings. You need to be as okay with this as you are with the end of your relationship, or you’re inviting your friends and family to wallow with you in your sadness hot tub.

Breakup Detritus (and old t-shirts)
Every relationship has stuff attached to it. Ticket stubs. T-shirts. Love notes and jewelry and toothbrushes and mix CDs. Keeping too many physical artifacts will turn your apartment into a Museum of Failed Relationships. Separate yourself from the sentimental value of things and keep items that you truly love (eventually that necklace will just be an awesome accessory, not a memory of Valentine’s Day 1997).

What do you think? How do you really end a relationship?

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