October 25, 2012

Breaking Up Is Just As Heartbreaking

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What is the issue?

Here is a fairly obvious observation: it’s usually the one who gets dumped that gets all the attention.

Really though. When we talk about relationships ending, we tend to talk about it from the perspective of the dumpee, not the dumper. The dumper is Sharpied out of the picture, presumed to be happy with their choice and set free to go frolic in greener pastures or whatever. Meanwhile, the dumpee is left immobilized in a pile of snotty Kleenex or a vomit-filled toilet bowl, systematically ignoring the buildup of concerned calls and replaying everything that went wrong instead.

Which makes sense. Breakups are hard, and being broken up with is hard. Sometimes it’s pretty damn brutal, especially if you were completely invested in the relationship and never saw it coming. Being forcibly torn out of something you had your whole heart submerged in is quite possibly one of the cruelest kinds of comedown.

Be that as it may, however, I’m going to share an unpopular opinion: I would argue that in a serious relationship, one that is equally weighty on both ends, being the one to break up can be just as difficult, if not more, as being the one broken up with.

And that’s because when you’re the one broken up with, you aren’t given a choice – your partner wasn’t happy, so they left. Suddenly you’re alone and it so happens that someone else made that life-changing decision for you, and like it or not, it’s something you have to deal with. Which sucks, but which ultimately becomes an obstacle in your path like any other, an obstacle you can choose to crumble in front of or find a way to maneuver around.

However, when you’re the one making that decision, you have to be sure it’s the right one and that can be hard to know. True, while there are certain partner transgressions that can make the decision to break up clearer (such as cheating, any kind of abuse, etc.), typically the components of an unhealthy or unsatisfying relationship are much more subtle and therefore harder to tease out. You find yourself at this sort of crossroads with the person you love, who on the one hand you love deeply, but on the other, you’re not so sure is good for you.

In a relationship, it’s not enough to just be in love. You and your partner need to work well together, need to be on each other’s side, or else it won’t go very far. You need to support each other emotionally and psychically. The truth is, while most problems are in many ways mutual, most breakups aren’t, and it takes a certain degree of bravery and initiative to speak up if it’s not working, if it would ultimately benefit both parties to let each other go. In other words, if the relationship most resembles a partially severed head just dangling there, someone has to be the one to step up and make a clean cut.

That said, I am unbelievably tired of the idea that being the one to leave is so easy. It’s not. People don’t break up because they enjoy doing it or because they have a list of one-night stands to get through (usually). They do it because they value themselves and their time too much to waste on something irreparable, and because they don’t think a temporarily broken heart is quite as bad as a potentially broken future.

And breaking up is rarely a 100% certain move, either. There’s always the chance that you’ll get lonely, or miss them, or think you made a mistake; feel tempted to change your mind or go back or ignore your gut feelings. The thing is, though, no one else is there to give you the magical answer, to make that decision for you, because it’s all coming from yourself, who you have to trust no matter what. And either way it’s not easy, because for better or for worse you have to own your decision, and there’s always the one thorny chance that you can’t take it back. TC Mark

image – Shutterstock

Mila Jaroniec

Mila Jaroniec lives and writes in New York. You can read her super short fiction on various places on the internet …

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