I’m not good at breakups, if that’s a skill someone can have. I’ve ended things, sure, but more often than not, I find myself ghosting and falling out of favor with people instead. In some cases, I’ve replaced breaking up with running away — from feelings, from confessions, from those who hurt me. I’ve never had the screaming match, the falling-out, the smashing of dishes — or any other stereotypical breakup scene.
Tallying it in my head, I “broke-up” with one of my exes four times. We kept fighting and getting back together, breaking up and resurfacing when boredom blew back into our lives. When we finally realized that in harboring an unhealthy relationship, we were only hurting each other, we resolved to both walk away. I knew that my most recent breakup wasn’t going to be the same way.
I started dating a boy this summer, and he seemed like everything I could want. He was sweet, attentive and we always had a lot to talk about. He even had two adorable dogs he would send me pictures of. I didn’t know what I wanted when we first met, but I liked the thought of having something new. But, the more we met up, the more unsure I was about my feelings. What did I want? What did he want? Could I commit emotionally to a relationship? When I finally understood the answers to those questions and what they meant, I realized I had to breakup with him.
I broke up with him knowing that if I drew it out, it would hurt more in the long run. I couldn’t be everything that he wanted — I’m not at a point in my life where I could be that for him. I had enjoyed our time together, but in terms of relationship pace, he was running miles ahead while I was just trying to walk.
I wanted him to know that as much it was going to hurt, it would have hurt a lot more if I waited longer than I did. I was ending the idea of hope and possibility. I was walking away from all the things that could have been. I even waited to do it, weighed down by the knowledge of how much this was going to hurt him. The knowledge of how hurt and disappointed he would be was beginning to really weigh on me. I wanted to wait for the right time to tell him how I felt, but I realized there is no such thing as ‘the right time.’ It was hard to make the conscious decision to hurt him, because I knew exactly how that feels.
When you break up with someone — or the equivalent depending on your situation — you never want to be the villain. But the truth is, you can’t predict or dictate how someone is going to react. You cannot determine which emotions they’re allowed to feel. A persisting pet peeve of mine is the negation of my feelings by someone telling me I shouldn’t feel them. After feeling foolish or embarrassed, being told “don’t be embarrassed” is counterproductive. The same goes for when you tell someone they hurt you, and they say they haven’t. The result is the same, regardless of your intention. Out of self-preservation, I didn’t want his perception of me to change when we broke up, but of course, it would. In his eyes I wasn’t making an effort and giving up too soon, but in mine, I was trying to save him from heartbreak down the road.
Breaking up is never going to be easy to do. Knowing that you’re going to hurt someone and/or get hurt yourself is a hard thing to deal with. It is scary, as I have learned, to end things, even when it’s the right thing to do. Sometimes relationships end because no one is fighting for it to continue, sometimes they end because the timing isn’t right. Sometimes relationships end because they have to, sometimes they end because they can’t go on.
When going through a breakup, it is crucial to respect the other person’s feelings and try not to negate them. It may have never been your intention to hurt them, but if they got hurt, their feelings are valid all the same.