As the old song goes, “breaking up is hard to do”. Being the person who gets broken up with is even harder. The hardest. One of the most devaluing things I’ve ever experienced is to have someone tell me that after getting to know me, they’ve decided they no longer want to continue a relationship with me.
The fundamental question is always something along the lines of “…but don’t you like what you see?” You immediately wonder why apparently you aren’t what they’re looking for. The next question probably goes something like “Well if you didn’t want me then why did you do [insert romantic action here]?” or “What about when you said [insert declaration of commitment here]”?
You may try to figure out why they decided you weren’t the one for them. Were you not good enough? Did you not do enough? Did you do too much? You could also be trying to understand how they decided you aren’t for them and why it took them so long to decide. Couldn’t they have warned you sooner? Would knowing ahead of time have helped avoid this gut-wrenching feeling of rejection, embarrassment, shock and despair all rolled up into one that you’re experiencing now? No, it wouldn’t have.
You might wonder if you did something wrong to cause them to change their mind about you. Then you wonder if you could have fixed it and if you can still fix it. You could be wondering for the rest of your life. Why? Because we will never know what is in someone else’s head or heart. We’re not supposed to because we’re not them. We only know what they choose to share.
Maybe it was you or something you did. Or maybe it was them and nothing you did. We’ll never really know. You know that annoying Roberta Cava quote “You can’t control other people. You can only control your reactions to them”? Well, it’s only annoying because it’s true. Although getting dumped can be humiliating, there is something you can do to at least be sure you don’t lose any more dignity in the moment. It’s called Acceptance.
He’s Just Not That Into You was a self-improvement book before it was a romantic comedy. In the book, Greg Behrendt and Liz Tuccillo remind readers that “a breakup is a definitive action, not a democratic one.” Let’s consult the dictionary, shall we?
1: serving to provide a final solution or to end a situation
2: authoritative and apparently exhaustive
3a: serving to define or specify precisely
4: fully differentiated or developed
According to Merriam-Webster, a definitive decision provides a final solution to end a situation. One party in the relationship was having a problem. It could’ve been a problem with themselves, with you or just with life, but they had a problem. This is the solution they came up with to solve their problem. Furthermore, something definitive is both authoritative and exhaustive. They’re not asking if they can end the relationship, they are ending it. They’re specifically and precisely defining the relationship as over. Apparently, all other options have already been exhausted.
Although people aren’t always as precise as they should be in their breaking up methods, it’s important to note that a breakup is a fully developed choice. You can’t convince them otherwise and you shouldn’t have to. As someone who’s done my share of dumping others as well, I can honestly say more than likely the person breaking up with you has thought about it at least twice before actually having the conversation. If by chance, someone has not put much thought into such a decision, that’s even more of a reflection of how they do (or don’t) feel.
3: relating to, appealing to, or available to the broad masses of the people
4: favoring social equality
Yep, you guessed it-just like the type of government you learned about in school. A democratic decision would be one that attempts to serve all parties equally, but unfortunately, this just isn’t that. Their decision isn’t designed to appeal to you and a decision is no longer available to you. There is no election and no vote. This is one person making a decision they feel is best for them regardless of the other person. Is it selfish? It sure can be, but it may also be what’s necessary for at least one person, if not the both of you (even if it doesn’t seem like it in the moment).
So how can we accept something so hard to accept? If you’ve got that feeling of wanting to right your wrongs to save the relationship then the best thing you can do for them is respect their wishes to end the relationship. Give them the space they’re demanding. If you truly still care about the person then you’d want the very best for them, even if what’s best for them is to let you go. If there is any chance of reconciliation later, you’ll both need space to achieve that.
Maybe you’re not desperate to save the relationship. I’ve gone through a breakup where I wasn’t super sad to see the person go but merely insulted that they would have the audacity to dismiss me. Still, practicing acceptance was the best thing I could do for myself.
Let’s say they’re breaking up with you because they feel you have a bad temper. They’re expecting you to lose your temper when they break things off with you. This way they can justify their choice. Don’t give them the satisfaction. If you think they’re making a mistake by letting you go, show them they are by being better than they gave you credit for. If anything could make them think twice about their choice, it’s that.
It’s only natural to question why things work out the way they do. The harsh truth is even if you were told every little way you became less attractive to them, it would only make you feel worse and more embarrassed. Sadly, breakups don’t come with a time machine to change the past anyway. The questions may remain for a while, but accept you may never get the answers you deserve. Just focus on moving on.
Learning from your mistakes is productive, but don’t place undue blame on yourself that may not be there. Others’ choices are their own, you can choose to decide you’re worth more than begging someone to stay who’s already chosen to walk away.