A Guide to Breaking Up

“We may not be able to escape the agony of broken hearts but we can always strive to keep it to a very basic minimum.” – Alain De Botton

No matter how badly behaved our partners may be, breaking up is never easy as it seems. The intensity of our suffering after heartbreak would depend not only on the fact that we’ve been left, but also on how it was done. Heartbreak could be intensified by how badly we’ve been broken up with, it could however be more bearable if we are fortunate enough to have been with a lover who has learned the art of psychologically-mature break-ups.

There are quite a few things that make a break up worse than it ever needs to be:

  1. Lingering:

    A courageous lover knows they must leave as soon as the decision is taken. They are ruining things, of course, but they are kind enough to know not to waste any more of our precious time.

  2. Collateral Accusations

    The wise lover will keep the list of accusations limited to specific problems that led to a break-up. They know we are not responsible for their troubles at school or the reason they’ve been gaining excessive weight. They will not use the parting as an excuse to mention everything that they think is wrong with us.

  3. Deceptive Niceness

    The most harmful lovers are those who feel that they need to be nice even when ending things with us.  The niceness confuses us all the more; the tenderness makes us crave to restart the relationship because there wouldn’t be any reason not, considering how they are behaving. But what we need is the basic information and then some private time to put ourselves back together again.

  4. Evasiveness

    Clumsy lovers are terrified of the news they have to share with us, they can’t even come forward with it – so they fall into a pattern of strange or bad behaviors that they hope would get them fired rather than resign.

    On the other hand, our pain would be more bearable in the end if there’s

  1. Directness

    A wise departing lover won’t hold out hints of reconciliation or make ultimatums suggesting that they’d take us back if we changed in certain ways. It’s awful but they’ll be sparing us the extended torture of false hope.

  2. Reasons

    Good departing lovers try to explain in convincing ways why the relationship didn’t work out. They might point out, that you are both anxious by nature – and therefore struggle to soothe and calm each other; or they may explore ways in which both your behaviors around money may lead to serious life problems. They’re not complaining that you’re foolish, just that the two of you turn out not to be the best partners for each other.

  3. Honesty about who they are

    They would be able to admit, perhaps, that they’re obsessed with work. They may even admit to being controlling. They show us that life with them would be seriously difficult in some ways. We may lose them but not the prospect of a problem free future.

  4. Honesty about who we are

    Without meanness or aggression, they could provide us constructive and useful information, perhaps, about why they couldn’t live with our manic punctuality or lateness, or that they found our sexual complexities unbearable. They’re not saying we’re bad or undeserving of love: they’re merely pointing out a distinctive feature of our personality (something which might be hard for us to see about ourselves).

  5. Being hated

    They know the news they are breaking would potentially lead them to being hated for a time. They can bravely accept this and not suffer from the sentimental desire to be loved by people they don’t love anymore.

We’ve differentiated two sources of pain. There’s the sorrow of losing someone we liked. But there may also be the suffering caused by the unfortunate ways a lover acted at the end. “We may not be able to escape the agony of broken hearts but we can always strive to keep it to a very basic minimum.” – Alain De Botton