Almost everyone has been in a situation where a relationship ended before we were ready to let go. As painful as a breakup can be when we’re the one pulling the plug, it’s usually twice as hard on the “dumpee." I don’t know if it’s because I’m a forty-something-year-old woman (or if it’s because I work in and around the media/entertainment industry), but it seems like there’s an epidemic of divorces and breakups going on. Part of this hyperawareness probably springs from the fact that we’re living in a digital age. What a person buys, where they dine, who goes out with whom is splattered across the internet like paint on a Jackson Pollock canvas. Maybe my perspective is being shaped because we live in a time when the idea of personal privacy is becoming a relic of the past like a hardback book. Regardless of what the reasons may be, it’s pretty hard to dispute that at any given time there are as many people breaking up as there are getting together.
There are few things that are more agonizing than realizing that there is no way of bridging the chasm between you—no matter how much you love them. Over the past year, at least half a dozen people in my immediate social circle have gone/are going through a breakup. I’ve seen some walk away with the dignity of a saint. And I’ve seen others who give new meaning to the saying “hell hath no fury.”
No matter what the reasons may be for a relationship’s demise…no matter how upset either party may be, it is possible to end the relationship with dignity and respect. Even if your ex is incapable of doing the same. And even if you’re so pissed that your favorite revenge fantasy is stuck on repeat in your head.
We all get to choose how we respond to the challenges we face. Just because they cut off your cell phone doesn’t mean that you are entitled to key their car. Get a new phone line and put a password on the account so they can’t hack in. And keep it moving. Meeting anger with anger won’t even the score. It will however keep you emotionally stuck.
Getting your ex’s face tattooed on your calf isn’t going to bring her home. Sending subliminals to your ex via social media isn’t going to change his mind. Refusing to respond to divorce papers isn’t showing your ex that your love is strong. It’s showing that you’re not listening to what they’re saying. It shows that you feel your feelings are more important than theirs. Desperate public appeals do not come across as romantic…they come across as, well, desperate.
A relationship is an independent entity that is separate yet connected to its participants. And like any living thing, with enough damage it will wither from neglect or mistreatment. Do overs are not a given in sports, business or love. The best defense is a good offense. An ounce of prevention is worth a pound of cure. These idioms have been used so frequently that it can be easy to dismiss their message. If your partner has made it clear that they don’t want to be with you (for whatever reason) don’t try to convince them to stay. Don’t try to prove to them why they’re wrong for leaving. Don’t try to convince them that leaving you is the biggest mistake they’ll ever make. It’s a better investment of your energy to figure out what role your actions have played in the breakup and then do the work to make sure you don’t make the same ones in your next relationship.
Sil Lai Abrams is a writer, inspirational speaker, anti-domestic violence activist, Ebony.com’s relationship expert, and author of No More Drama. You can follow her on Twitter: @sil_lai and connect with her on Facebook. Want her advice? Email [email protected] to have your love questions answered in a future column!