Sunday, August 18, 2013

Breaking Up

"Are you.... breaking... up... with me?"

Is that my voice? You wonder as you choke back the tears.
Has it really come to this?
The words that had felt so unspeakable before seem to be tumbling out without you being able to stop them. Somewhere in you, you know that the moment you utter the words... that it will be the moment nothing is ever the same. Because as soon as you ask the question, you get a response.

It's a defining moment in the dating relationship.
A defining question. The question you can't ask too many times because, if you do, the percentage rate of being met with a 'yes' seems to go up drastically.

And so as you mediate through relational conflict, you can't help but wonder....will this be the night I have to ask? You argue, you fight, voices are raised, fists are clenched... you can't possibly see any way that the two of you will ever agree on this. Trust has been broken, lies have been told. Insecurity pulls you in tighter as you wonder if they still even like you or if they just feel stuck...

But you don't ever want to ask the question. If you leave things ambiguous, albeit tense, perhaps it means you can drag it out a little bit longer... perhaps it means that they aren't really sure and so there's still time to prove that you can change, still time to prove that you two can make this work... that you're 'meant to be'....that you really do love each other.

Isn't it better to live in the shaky stability that a relationship provides?
Isn't it better to not have to go stag to weddings?
Isn't it better to not be the fifth wheel on a double date?
Isn't it better to have someone that's supposed to be there as you navigate through life?
...isn't it better?
I guess that depends..

In an ideal situation, I don't think we'd ever have to ask the question. Ideally, if someone is breaking up with us, they'd do it in such a way that there's not ambiguity involved. Ideally when people break-up with someone, it's something that they've prepared for and have known they want/need to do for more than the length of a conversation. Ideally it isn't an emotional, irrational decision. Ideally people don't break up because someone asked the question.... and answering 'yes' seemed like a better answer in the moment.

But... we don't often live in ideals.
We are people who often live emotionally, who make impromptu decisions, who are scared of confrontation, who avoid having to be the 'bad guy', who grow weary and frustrated. And so we drive people to ask the question. Isn't it easier to say 'yes' than it is to say, 'I think we should break-up' and then give an honest explanation? Isn't it easier to say, 'I can't do this anymore!' while the other person asks a million questions in order to clarify just what exactly 'this' is and what it means for your relationship?

So, here are some thoughts on breaking up:
  • Don't break up in the heat of the moment. If you think, during an argument, that you want to break up with someone, give yourself some time to process through a weighty decision like that before reacting emotionally. Sure, you may have been considering breaking up for a few days (and while you're fighting, those contemplations suddenly feel a lot like concrete facts)... but give yourself at least a few days to know you want/need to break-up before actually doing it. This can hopefully help you avoid breaking up and getting back together multiple times as you live life based on your emotions. It may also help you approach the break up in a way that's more thought out...which hopefully means better for you and your partner (Here are some other thoughts on when to break up with someone if you are trying to figure all of that out.)
  • If you know you need to break-up with someone, do it. Don't leave it ambiguous or confusing for them.... and don't drive them to do it for you. Be straight-forward, be honest... but be kind. Don't leave open doors, don't leave future possibilities.... just let it be over. Let them say what they feel like they need to say, but be direct in making sure they know that it is over. Answer their questions...but don't stay in the conversation too long. Get out before you end up back in the relationship without knowing what happened. Don't ever make someone ask the question 'are you breaking up with me?'! 
  • If someone seems like they are ambiguously breaking up with you: don't ask the question, unless you really feel like you need/want to be out of the relationship right then, too. If they're breaking up with you, let them clarify what they mean/what they're trying to say without you filling in the silence for them. They'll get there... and if they aren't there yet, you don't want to push them there. Perhaps they're just questioning things and confused and need to sort through stuff and their intent isn't to break up with you, it's just to figure it all out. Don't ask the question, especially in the midst of an emotionally challenging conversation/conflict as it might spur them on toward something they weren't necessarily considering before. 
  • Don't ask "Are you breaking up with me?" anytime you feel like things aren't perfect. They will break up with you for this reason alone if you are that paranoid of a boyfriend/girlfriend. 

It's messy.
It isn't easy.
Broken hearts seem inevitable... but they aren't irreparable.
That's the good news.
Even when you break up, there's hopefully a freedom to be found in knowing that it's never your responsibility to fix, or to save, or to solve all the problems of the other person. You never could. You were never meant to.

So sometimes you just have to let go...
And trust that somehow, even through all the pain, that it can be better.

Be wise.
Be rational.
Set aside your fleeting emotions and pray for great discernment.

And.. let's keep those emotional, desperate questions to a minimum... yes?

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