Gracefully Performing the Splits

Relationships (both lower case and capital-R) end for a lot of reasons.  There are times when there’s a clear-cut breaking point: a betrayal, or a move, or someone new comes along, etc.  But sometimes they just… end.  One or both (or more) parties no longer feel a thing that they once felt.  It’s generally one-sided, but it feels like hell on both sides to have to admit what’s going on.

It’s in many ways worse than a sudden end to something, because the person who wants–needs–to move on (let us say the “splitter) still likes the other party (the “splittee”).  They don’t want that connection gone, but they can’t be in the relationship as it is.  It’s a tough row to hoe, because the splitter is going to have to hurt the splittee, but wants the splittee to remain part of their life.  It’s doable, but it’s going to be rocky.

Having been on both sides of this scenario, and made it work, I want to share some of what I’ve learned.  Some of my very best friends (Stoella included) are either splitters or splittees from past relationships.

Anyway, in ever popular list format:

Splitter:

  • Rip the fucking bandaid off.  This is the most important thing. You are doing no one any favors by endeavoring not to be the bad guy. Splitting with someone is hard, believe me, I know only too well. I think it’s harder than being split with, in my experience. You probably still like this person, maybe a great deal, but those positive feelings have changed and yet you have to, for the both of you, hurt them. But do it. Do it now. The longer you wait the worse the pain will get, for both of you. Let them get a head start on the hard work of letting you go.
  • Give space.  Back off.  Let them heal. If you are going to be friends again, or still, or anything else, you are going to have to let that person come to you.  They might not; that’s their choice.  But trying to keep them in their life when what they need is to scar over first is only going to ruin whatever you might have going forward. (Corollary: don’t live with your ex, at least not right after. I have made this mistake.)
  • Try not to date someone new first. This one is subject to the vagaries of hearts, but if you can hold off until the other party has found someone new, all involved will be better off.  There’s nothing that heals like new <insert preferred form of physical affection>. (For, ah, interested parties reading this, don’t sweat this one for my sake, and anyway you already know that I’ve been dating since)
  • Back off of the occasional social engagement. Don’t make it hard on the splittee; bow out of things you’re both invited to first. They need the social balm, and they also need not to seem petty.
  • Call it what it is.  Don’t be mealymouthed, don’t mince, it’s a breakup. A thing is ending, and that’s sad, but it isn’t a “break” and you’re not “taking some time”, unless you are, and then you’re not reading this.  Don’t tell them you need to take some time for yourself, or blame general circumstances; that’s going to backfire down the road when they see you with someone else and it is ten times worse than if you said what you meant.
  • Take care of yourself. Most resources like this talk about the feelings of the other party, but this is probably going to be a trauma for you, too. You are making a major change and you’re going to, for at least a little while, lose access to one of the most important people in your life.  If it’s really bad, other friends might stop spending time with you in deference to your erstwhile lover’s feelings.  This can all be really hard; know that it’s okay for you to hurt, too.

Splittee:

  • Let it fucking go. Do not cling. Do not try to hold on to someone who needs to move on. You don’t want to date someone who doesn’t want to date you. You don’t want to emotionally coerce continued affection out of someone who has to fake it. Let it be, move on, and you will be better sooner.
  • Take Space.  Walk away, do other things.  Do not see the object of your erstwhile affections. Avoid social engagements that you know they’re attending, even if it makes you seem like an ass.  You deserve it, and you need it.
  • Remove them from your social media.  Don’t unfriend them unless an outlet makes you, but remove them from chat lists, hide their Facebook updates, unfollow their Twitter, etc.  It is astonishing how hard it can be to see your splitter pop up several times a day in various places that you forgot you followed them.
  • Try to date. It might not feel right, and it might be hard, especially if you’re coming off as desperate.  It will be awkward, but there’s nothing that heals like new <insert preferred form of physical affection>.
  • Weep. Rage. Fucking feel it. Don’t hide it.  Walk away from things if you need to, lock yourself in the bathroom, but just let it out.  This isn’t just about catharsis; tears literally pull the stress hormone cortisol out of your system and pump it down your face. You are not above this, you are vulnerable, you are human, let it out.
  • Lean on your network. Don’t hold things in. Friends exist to help you through things like this. And to be helped through, so remember how they helped you when your time to reciprocate comes.
  • Throw yourself into hobbies. Distractions are good. You need to do some wallowing to heal but you also just need to take a certain amount of time.
  • Trust that it will be better. Every time you see the person who dropped you is like a new wound, but only for a while. Eventually, it’s like a bruise, and then it’s like a pinch, and eventually it’s just the same touch you feel with anyone who interacts with you. It will be fine. I promise.

To all my splitte*s out there reading this, whichever side you were on, know that you are damn fine people.  I wouldn’t have gotten together with you in the first place if I didn’t want you in my life.  I have nothing but devout, deep, true, and of course platonic love for you.

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