We all know how awfully heartbreaking it is when a relationship ends, especially in a situation where a person you thought would be your life partner forever, ends up leaving you. But in reality, the hardest breakup that I ever had to go through was the one I had to initiate myself.
Like most women in our patriarchal society, my mind has been ingrained with the thought that I should never trust my own instincts or gut feeling. So the period leading up to that particular breakup was full of times where I would keep invalidating and second-guessing myself.
Do I really need to leave such a nice guy like him? Have things really gotten that bad?
It feels quite embarrassing to admit how long it sometimes takes for me to do the things that need to be done. But I wasn’t exactly surprised when my mind couldn’t stop debating itself long enough to say those final words to him.
The majority of resources that help in dealing with breakups are aimed at the one who is getting dumped. That does make sense- having a person break up with you can be extremely painful, and that pain often ends up being sharper and more surprising than the pain we’ll be focusing on today.
But being the person who actually realizes that a relationship has reached its end, and being the person who will have to take action to end it, can also be extremely hard.
I don’t intend to make a comparison of these two experiences- A lot of us have experienced both and we might have extremely differing perspectives on which one was harder. The point here is they both SUCK!
Since there’s practically no help out there on how to break up, I will utilize this space to finally affirm the people who are dealing with this situation.
Breaking up will be hard to do, but the following affirmations just might help:
Romantic or Sexual Interest isn’t something you owe to anyone
A lot of people, especially women, have been socialized to feel like the sheer fact that someone likes them implies that they need to try to like them back. If a person like us, we start viewing it as a favor- and it’s only polite to return a favor.
This attitude results in a lot of us ending up in relationships we never truly wanted to be in. And it can also make it really hard to end a relationship that we no longer wish to be in.
Just because you consider yourself a feminist doesn’t imply that you’ve completely unlearned all of the ways in which you were taught endlessly to prioritize everyone else before yourself- I know I haven’t.
If you’ve been having a hard time in completely letting go of a relationship you know you no longer want, this might be because a part of you still feels like you owe that relationship to your partner.
In a situation like this, it might be helpful to keep reminding yourself that you don’t owe any kind of intimacy or romance to anyone (EVER) no matter how much they desire it.
It’s okay to stop putting efforts in ‘working’ on the relationship
One thing I have often heard from people who end up getting dumped is: “But why couldn’t they just tell me they weren’t happy with the relationship? We could have tried to work on it!”
That’s a completely reasonable way to feel. But the problem here is that this sentiment is again part of a much broader cultural teaching, which makes people feel obligated to keep ‘working’ on a relationship they don’t even wish to be in.
If you really wish to try to fix things before going for the ultimate breakup option, that’s completely fine. There are times when unhappy or unhealthy relationships improve drastically with effort, which then makes every effort totally worth it.
But this effort needs to come from both the partners. If a relationship doesn’t seem to be going good for you and you feel like you’re the only person who is placing any efforts to improve it, then that isn’t fair to you.
In fact, it’s actually okay to not work on your relationship at all. You are allowed to just be completely over it.
Maybe you believe that working on it won’t really help in any way, or maybe you just feel tired of all the emotional hard work or maybe the feelings you have for your partner have been so negative lately that you don’t even feel like seeing them ever again, much less force yourself to work on things together.
Whatever your reasons are, it’s okay! You don’t owe anyone this ‘work’.
It’s not possible to always avoid hurting people- and that’s okay
One of the main reasons why breaking up with a person is so difficult is that even when you don’t wish to be in a relationship with them anymore, it’s probable that you still care about them in many ways.
And it can never be easy to hurt a person you truly care about. Hell, a lot of us even have a hard time hurting people we don’t know or care about.
But you have to remember that your own wellbeing and boundaries should never be paying the price of shielding someone else from heartbreak and pain.
It’s nice to try treading lightly in someone else’s lives and to avoid causing them any kind of pain, but sometimes that’s just not possible. A breakup can be one such instance.
At times, we try to come up with some kind of compromise by “letting down them easy” or by offering to remain “friends” afterwards even when that’s not what we truly want.
Not only will this kind of dishonesty ultimately end up causing your partner additional pain, but it won’t be fair to you either. Just like you shouldn’t be dating a person you don’t wish to date, you also shouldn’t stay friends with a person you don’t wish to stay friends with.
It’s not necessary for your partner to agree that it’s time to end things
One of the worst things I’ve ever heard from committed people is: “I really wish to break up with my partner, but that’s not what they want, so we’ve decided to stick together.”
And it’s not hard to observe that the people who think this way are almost always females. We owe it to male privilege that it’s much more likely for a man’s preferences and opinions to automatically take precedence over everything else.
If you’re still committed in a relationship, deciding on things with consensus and compromising are both very healthy behaviors.
But this doesn’t mean that you also need to agree on when it’s time to end the relationship. Sure, it’s much easier when both partners are ready to end things, but this doesn’t mean you need to keep debating the issue until you finally reach that point.
Just think about it- if people always had to come towards a compromise on where the lines of intimacy should be set, a lot of us would end up getting our boundaries violated.
This is why a person who desires the least intimacy ends up getting their way. So if I wish to breakup and you don’t, we will still break up.
If you keep feeling like it’s impossible to leave a certain relationship, that’s a big warning sign of emotional abuse. In a non-abusive relationship, you always have the option to leave, even if it really hurts. But in abusive relationships, one partner will keep making the other feel like ending this relationship will ultimately destroy one or both of their lives, or sometimes even lead to violence.
This kind of behavior is never healthy, and it’s okay to seek help for it.
You are going to be okay without this relationship- even if that takes time
During the phase of my life when I had a lot of issues with self-worth, the time when I felt quite depressed, I always had a hard time in ending a relationship- even when I felt absolutely nothing for that person anymore.
The reason for this was that I strongly felt like I couldn’t possibly live alone, and that I would never find another person who would want to be in a relationship with someone like me.
And I eventually turned out to be completely wrong about both these things. It became possible for me to live alone, and I spent a lot of time staying that way. I also found a better partner, especially after I started working on my own personality and mental health.
If you feel like you can never breakup with your partner because you just can’t handle the stress of what will come next, you are definitely not alone.
Yes, it’s true that you can never be sure of exactly how things are going to be after the breakup. No one can possible know that. And it would definitely be cool if we were all given a crystal ball that could tell us exactly where to find our next relationship, but that’s just not how life works.
But everything will turn out fine. You will be okay- even if that happens after a lot of support from family, friends, or even a good therapist.
More importantly, sticking with an unhappy relationship isn’t going to end your fears about being alone or not being able to find someone else. In fact, it’s only going to make them worse. You owe yourself the opportunity to have a fresh start.
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