Tuesday, November 1, 2016

In person

I broke up with Tinkerbell today.  It was a strange sort of thing because it wasn't exactly clear what we had.  Romance, yes, sex, yes, but I wasn't falling madly in love.  I often don't know how to characterize that sort of relationship.

I decided that I needed to break up on Saturday, for reasons that I won't get into here.  Once you make a decision to break up you suddenly have a whole new set of decisions pop out of nowhere that you have to cope with and they can feel entirely overwhelming.  I suspect a lot of breakups are delayed just on the basis of not being sure of the details that follow the decision.

How do you say it?  Where do you say it?  What reasons do you give?

Nobody has an obligation to provide reasons or justifications for breaking up.  It is one thing you can do unilaterally and without discussion if you want to.  Still, people generally do give reasons and people being broken up with normally want reasons.  I am on the fence about reasons because I think that normally they don't bring the closure that people are hoping for and they usually serve as a jumping off point for argument rather than relief.

On the other hand sometimes it is good to know what the problems were so you can avoid them in later relationships.  If nobody tells you that you need to brush your teeth, show up on time, be better in bed, whatever it may be, it is hard to know what to try to work on.  I am not convinced that people actually improve themselves after getting this information though.

One way in which I go against the masses in breakups is the medium.  People seem to generally think you owe it to the other person to arrange an in person meeting to tell them about the breakup.  I don't think that should be the default at all.  I tried to make that happen with Tinkerbell in deference to that belief and it totally failed.  She noticed that my request to meet was unusual and it came out right away over text what I was about.

I think that experience is the norm.  People know when something is up and it makes them anxious.  Delaying the telling until just the right place and time are available just means they have more time to panic and feel awful, and then when the breakup does happen they have to piece together what to do on the fly.  I know for sure that when people have broken up with me I did not want to book an evening together, travel to the site, then realize that my evening was going to consist of being dumped.  Much rather have it happen right away so I could avoid the anxious and unsure phase and schedule my time to help me get over the disappointment rather than wallow in it.

I am biased in this, most certainly.  I don't argue with people who want to break up with me.  I have zero desire for the opportunity to hear their reasons and dissuade them.  If someone is going to break up with me then I don't want to be with them.  The primary thing I want in a partner is someone who wants me in return!

When the situation is reversed it is similar.  I am not going to be argued out of a breakup.  I broke up with someone and then decided to change my decision once and only once and it was not the right decision.  Nothing was fixed and the same issues broke us up again.  I want nothing to do with arguing about whether my decision is wrong, so providing a face to face venue for that is not useful.

It might sound like I am arguing for breaking up and never communicating again.  That isn't the case.  There are often good things that can come from discussion afterwards.  Also I have maintained friendships with people I broke up with and I appreciate it when that can happen.  I do think that those talks are more useful when both people have had a chance to process the actual breakup message though.  Breaking up at a distance so everyone can get themselves sorted out before those talks happen makes those talks much more useful and productive.

Not that I am telling everyone else they ought to break up over text or email.  Do as you will.  However, I believe that there shouldn't be an assumption that a breakup that way is cowardly or cruel.  It is often the best way for everyone involved.

1 comment:

  1. Argh! Blogger ate my comment. I was going to add that there's another advantage of starting the conversation via text:

    You can plant the idea in someone's mind without going to the extreme of dumping them. That can help people feel as if they're part of a process not the recipient of a unilateral decision (even if it *is*).

    Case in point: today I asked about someone's availability, and got the reply "I don't think this is working, I'll call you tonight". If I'd been told that in person I might have burst into tears and waited anxiously for that call. Since I was told via text, I was able to compose myself sufficiently to point out "this" wasn't the only way to "do" a relationship between us. I'm not sure I'd have had the presence of mind to do it in person, since I'm a Crier. (I cry at weddings, funerals, movies, when I'm stressed, when I'm laughing really hard. Everywhere but baseball, because we all know, "There's no crying in baseball!")

    By telling me via text, that person opened the door for a discussion of what "this" could and needs to be. Our exchange was brief but fruitful. I pointed out that I didn't need XYZ thing (which I took from the context to be the thing which wasn't working), that we could both be fine with ABC, and *mportantly* that it didn't need to be discussed right away.

    We decided on a hiatus from direct contact (might still "see" each other on social media feeds, I suppose). We'll communicate in a couple of weeks, and take it from there. That will give us both time to sort out what "this" is, was, and shall be :D