Breaking up is a little like field-dressing your own chest wound. You don't have a choice. Your heart's still thumping in there somewhere. Do it right and the damage might be negligible, the scar insignificant. You'll be back in the s--- before you know it. Do it poorly and you'll be left lying around for weeks in a bed somewhere, pondering your future in an emotional wheelchair, with this nasty weeping gash over your heart. And eventually that will start to smell.
It really doesn't matter who breaks up with whom. Whether you're pitching or catching, dumping or getting the heave, there are only five things you need to remember, according to Esquire writer-at-large Tom Chiarella. (Read more of Chiarella's advice on Esquire.com.)
1. Operate quickly.
If you're the one doing it, do it now. Do it tonight. Don't wait. Don't over-plan, or rehearse excessively. Quit Googling, you putz. Don't read any more Web pages promising to help you with the perfect breakup. Get moving. Time is your enemy. Every hour you spend in the company of someone you don't want to be with, someone who may very much think otherwise with regards to you, is the perpetration of a fraud. If the breakup is happening to you, go just fast enough that you still understand everything you're hearing. Don't sit there and beg for a few more minutes. That's pathetic. Always. In this way, time is your enemy, too.
2. Tell, don't show.
At their very beginning, and at their very end, relationships are about want. Just say what you desire. Clearly, honestly. Declare yourself in these terms only. Go for the simplest answer every time. Being with someone is a kind of long-term demonstration, an act of showing the other person what you feel. But breaking up is simply an act of telling them what you want. Get clear on this: they either want the same thing, or they do not.
3. Don't worry about staying friends.
You have enough friends. You don't need any more, especially ones who've seen you at wine tastings and who know your back hair intimately. This directive implies the following: Forget expectation. Don't worry about being kind. Be honest. State what you want. Don't be overly solicitous. Don't make promises. Don't ask for promises. Don't plan on having lunch to discuss things. Don't bargain on a relationship that might not exist in thirty-seven minutes. Don't even feel obligated to discuss things after that.
4. Just don't make enemies.
You have enough enemies. You can be sure of it. This one means: Don't be cruel. Don't be sarcastic. Don't be overly dramatic. Show some respect and don't shut down on legitimate questions. Simply err toward honesty, even if the truth makes you uncomfortable. Bargain only on your next potential relationship, and recognize that might begin as soon as thirty-seven minutes from now.
5. Throw away your cell phone, stay off the Internet, don't show up.
If you were incredibly reliable before, that was probably part of the problem. Don't communicate. If you weren't reliable in the first place, why start now? What will that change? The word of the moment is distance. Embrace it. No matter what you want from the other person, stay away from her until she can give you what you want, whether that's distance or intimacy. And remember that it's likely this will never happen.
That's it.These rules work both ways - for dumper and dumpee. I have others - choose a private space in a public place; apologize, but only for the present; don't beg; don't kick yourself; don't kick anyone; don't listen to pop music - but these have more to do with which end of the breakup hammer concerns you.
Either way, there's going to be some pain. Just keep in mind that while the wounds may be in some way mutual, the only heart you're compelled to tend is the one that still beats in your very own chest.
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What have you done during your break-ups? Has it worked?
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