There’s no way around it — if you’re doing the dumping, your ex is going to feel the pain of being discarded. Break ups are never easy or amicable — even if she doesn’t immediately well up into tears or he doesn’t slam his fist through a wall, you can be sure it will happen sooner or later… (sorry about the guilt, but deal with it). It may be the next day when he realizes he’s waking up alone. Or, maybe it will be when she bumps into you at your favorite bar and you’re with another lass. Regardless, if the laws of the universe hold true, sadness, anger, and loneliness will ultimately emerge.
Social psychologist Susan Sprecher studied how romance can end in ruins by asking couples to record their feelings of satisfaction and love throughout the course of their relationship. Her research determined that many relationships ultimately dissolve because of increasing levels of dissatisfaction and unhappiness – not because the couple fell out of love. It’s a simple experiment, but it beautifully illustrates a finding consistent across many studies, break-ups sting because we often still have a deep emotional connection to our ex.
That being said, if you’re doing the ditching you now have the unfair advantage of controlling the terms of dissolution. With your decision, comes power and responsibility and you need to use it wisely to avoid (most of) the hate email and Facebook harassment you’re likely to receive as a result of your cutting bait. There are a few key steps you can take to mitigate the blow you deal to another person when you deliver your break-up line (unless, of course, you use a hackneyed account a la, “it’s not you, it’s me” – in this case, you may as well have said “you suck and no one will ever date you again”).
Provide a rationale
As with most significant change (e.g., loss of a job, change in financial status, health concerns), increasing understanding of what is causing you to want to run for the hills and why it’s necessary often lessens the negative impact of the outcome (read: Welcome to Dumpsville. Population: YOU). This finding is rooted in psychological research which demonstrates time and again that human beings react negatively to unexplained events. Indeed, the effect is so powerful that offering up a rationale – even if it incenses the recipient – is better than no explanation at all.
If you offer nothing, your ex is going to spend several depressing weeks going over and over the relationship in an attempt to figure out what you should have had the guts to just say. He’ll call you asking if it was because the sex was bad, and she’ll text wondering if it was because of the extra 5 lbs, and it can all be so easily avoided with your true confession!
If you’re feeling like you’ve provided all you can in what was most certainly a long and painful goodbye speech, feel free to close the door at DateRaters.com and let your ex know you DateRated them. Make sure you provide honest and balanced feedback (both positive and negative aspects of your ex) though – the same as you’d want to receive in case they return the favor. In the end, whether you finish the conversation online or off, helping each other be clear on why the relationship ended will serve as an important learning experience and opportunity to avoid future relationship mistakes (i.e., I really should stop dating party guys/girls).
Show some empathy
Empathy can take many forms. At its core, empathy is about understanding the ideas, feelings, and beliefs of others. The aim is to see issues, events, ideas, explanations or options “through the eyes of another,” and being non-judgmental in understanding the perspectives and viewpoints of others.
Why is empathy so important? Primarily because the person upon which you are about to thrust unpleasant news likely has no idea it’s coming. By the time you deliver your, “I’m sorry, you’re not the one” or “I need space” line, you’ve already worked through the denial, guilt, anger, and ultimately acceptance of what’s to become of your relationship. You need to remember that your other half is hearing the news for the first time and will need the same, if not more, time to process the message.
So, hang out in their flip-flops for a few before dropping your break-up bomb. And see what you can glean from the experience. Ask yourself questions like ‘How does my ex typically handle bad news? Can I break the fall a bit by letting him/her know in a certain way, place, time, etc.?’
Make a clean get-away
One unfortunate relationship trend of modern times is the issue that many break-ups are of the ‘to be continued’ persuasion. Ending a relationship these days seems to be as long, drawn out, and painful as Britney’s career. Occasionally, there are even repeated episodes of making-up only to break-up again once the reasons for the initial separation inevitably reappear.
Don’t fool with your ex’s emotions by saying things like, “let’s take a break” or “let’s try seeing other people for awhile”. This will give your ex hope of reconciliation and end up delaying their healing process. Sure, under different circumstances it really might work out better, but don’t make any such promises as the odds of this occurring are about as good as beating the house at one of Trump’s casinos.
Make it OK to move on
OK, the idea of your ex with someone else new may cause you to run for the bottle. Welcome to the reality of what you’re doing. Your ex will get over you and find someone else — probably sooner than you both expect. If you do stay in touch with your ex, try to let him/her know that while you’d like to avoid hearing ANY details, you’re happy they’re happy (and really mean it). After all, besides the little blue pain pills, the most effective way to stamp out sadness and loneliness is by finding solace in the arms of another.
Breaking up is a fact of life, and when doing so, it’s best to practice the Golden Rule – do unto others as you’d have them do unto you. Some pain is probably unavoidable, but following the steps above will help manage the separation with a minimum of harm to your soon-to-be ex.