Breaking up: A hard moment in life

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My youngest sister and her live-in boyfriend of three years just broke up this week.

She was the one who initiated the break-up because for some time she had been feeling like things weren’t quite right between them. They had been arguing and because of their vastly different work schedules, hadn’t been able to see each other much at all. She was devastated to end the relationship, mainly because she still loved him and he was her best friend, but it had gotten to a point where she couldn’t ignore the differences and the nagging feeling that it wasn’t right.

I don’t care which side you are on, breaking up is a terrible experience. Keep in mind I am discussing serious relationships here, not one or two month flings (although those can be awful too – I’ve had my share). But the people who do the breaking up are the ones who get a bad rep, while all the sympathy goes out to the break-upee. It shouldn’t be that way. Often times, the initiator hurts just as much as the recipient when dissolving a serious relationship. If you are the one initiating the break-up, here are some things you might want to keep in mind.

Just because you are the one who initiates the break-up, it doesn’t automatically make you the “bad guy.” I’ve been both the breaker-upper and the break-upee (at different times) and trust me, both sides are heinous places to be.

I dated a guy for three years and ended up breaking things off with him because I didn’t feel like we had a future. Just because I had an idea that I wanted something different didn’t make it any less difficult or heartbreaking when I had to stand in front of him and tell him I didn’t want a relationship any more. He had become one of my best friends, and when you say goodbye to a best friend, it’s always awful. But don’t let anyone tell you that you are wrong for trying to figure out what you want. You have to look out for yourself first — and anyone who tells you they aren’t looking out for themselves first is lying.

You are going to be slammed with questions you don’t know how to answer. A person getting dumped is naturally going to wonder what it is they did wrong to make the relationship go awry. Usually it’s nothing. The old cliché, “It’s not you, it’s me” is a cliché for a reason – it’s completely true. I can’t tell you how many relationships I’ve ended because the chemistry was off, or because my gut was telling me to walk away.

Usually these guys didn’t do anything at all to merit my dislike. But it was there all the same. So your ex is probably going to hit you with some hard questions and even maybe some accusations (“there’s someone else, isn’t there?”). It’s not their fault – they are just trying to justify the rejection. Answer their questions as best you can, but if they start really harassing you, ask them to stop and then block their number if it continues.

You are going to feel guilty and shitty for a long time. This one is difficult to discuss, but I can’t lie to you. You probably already were feeling guilty even before the break-up, because chances are you were thinking about it for a long time before you actually came to the final decision. But unless your ex did something totally insane or abusive, you are going to feel the sting of guilt. It’s totally natural.

The way I got through it was thinking, no one wants to be with someone who doesn’t want to be with them. Forget about your own feelings for a second. Everyone deserves to have their own personal fairytale ending, and staying with someone just because you are afraid to hurt them is not fair to them. Think of your breakup as giving them the chance to find someone who truly loves them inside and out, and down the line I’m sure they will come to think of it that way too. Might take a very long time, but it could happen.

Eventually, you will feel better. No, really, you will. I know it feels like you could never be OK again. I know it feels like you have lost everything, and that you are dead inside, and that it will never be okay to laugh again. But it will. I promise.

I had the worst breakup of my entire life before I met my fiancé. I was dead inside for almost a year. Friends of mine told me they thought I was going to have to be medicated and put in therapy for how depressed I was.  But guess what – I got better. I took classes on fiction writing and hung out with friends I hadn’t seen in years and rallied around my family to make sure I was still living my life.

And eventually a day will come where you will stop and think, “Wow I haven’t thought about BLANK today at all” and it will give you even more hope. Just keep hanging on and be strong, and you will survive.