USS Clueless -- Breaking up is hard to do

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Breaking up is hard to do

Despite Paul Simon's "Fifty ways to leave your lover", in my opinion there's only one proper way, one moral way to do it. And it's very hard.

The reason is this: if you can't love the person, then you owe it to them to give them as soft a landing as possible, which minimizes their pain and permits them to keep their ego undamaged. Since you are the one ending the relationship, you have a moral obligation to inflict as little pain as possible on the other person.

First you make the decision to break up, and you spend enough time thinking about it so that you yourself are both absolutely certain and comfortable with the decision. This may involve some grieving, which you do in private. It may take you a while before you are absolutely certain. This entire process could conceivably take as long as a week. It might even take longer. During this process you'll probably have to spend time with the other, and that will be very difficult, because you have to hide those feelings until you're absolutely ready. But you must be completely at peace with the idea in your own mind and absolutely certain about it. Do not proceed until both of those have been achieved.

Then you call the other on the phone and say, "We've got to have a talk, and I'm afraid it's not going to be pleasant. Could you please come visit me as soon as you can?"

You begin by saying "I've given this a lot of thought, and this relationship isn't working for me, and I'm afraid it has to end now. I'm really very sorry, but that's how it's got to be. You're a good person, but you're not right for me." Then you put on your psychiatrist hat and spend the rest of the evening helping the other person work through grief, rage, trying to making a deal (and you don't), trying to talk you out of it (and you don't let them) until they reach acceptance. Only then do you let them out the door. (Of course, you don't keep them there by force, but I think you're going to find that they don't want to leave.)

In psychiatrist mode, you yourself don't get mad, you don't cry, you don't grieve. You're supposed to have done all that ahead of time and gotten it out of your system. You maintain a steady demeanor during the whole discussion. When the other person yells as you, you don't yell back, because you recognize that as part of their process of coming to terms with it. Cool, calm and collected; those are your watchwords. Your job is to help the other person through their pain and anger but absolutely not to respond in kind. If they insult you it rolls off like water on the back of a duck; they don't really mean it, and even if they do it doesn't matter. Just take it and keep going.

It isn't going to be fun, but you owe it to them.

If asked, the ONLY reason you give is "it isn't working for me." You NEVER say anything that implies that you're breaking up because of an inadequacy in the partner even if that's true. Always make sure to let the other person keep their self respect. This is vital.

The other person may ask "HOW is it not working?" and that's dangerous because it takes you into the possibility of crushing the other person's ego. So don't answer. "It just doesn't feel right. You're a wonderful person, but it just isn't working for me. Sometimes it's just like that. Sometimes two people just don't fit."

If you can't love them, you can at least give them one last act of love: a soft landing.

And if you take any of Simon's "fifty ways", you're scum.

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