“You’ve got to learn to leave the table/When love’s no longer being served” – Nina Simone
“Someone can be madly in love with you and still not be ready. They can love you in a way you have never been loved and still not join you on the bridge. And whatever their reasons you must leave. Because you never ever have to inspire anyone to meet you on the bridge. You never ever have to convince someone to do the work to be ready.” – Nayyirah Waheed
Context: The Dumper wants friendship, nothing awful happened during the course of dating, ie: no cheating, no awful fights, no nothing. one person just went “nope, not this, but let’s be friends” except less glibly and actually seems to mean it. The “you” in this article is The Dumpee and no this is not one of those awful “how to get your ex back” nonsense bullshit articles (*vomit forever*).
This article is definitely for losers like the author who had to figure this out the hard way, because the author tends to be someone who always always does things the hardest possible way ever. Come, gather, losers.
1. Staying in touch prolongs your pain, healing time, and is unfair to you.
Even if you can be friends, switching off feelings is a hard process, and the person you were most vulnerable around can no longer support your vulnerability – not only that but the new friendship you have with them requires a lesser degree of vulnerability – how much lesser? no idea. Maybe you’re the type of person who loves so strongly that staying in touch right away may be something you *can* do, with great effort, but *should* you do it? Is it a choice that is *fair* to your healing process? Do you owe the connection between you two and this person that much effort and compassion and love to continue a friendship at the cost of your own pain? If you’re like me, you find it hard to prioritise justice, especially to yourself, over love, especially your love for others. But this needs to be like a life rule for people to drill into our heads: actions which prioritise justice for myself > actions which priorotise my love for other people
2 They chose a life without you; let them know what that feels like.
A breakup is a breakup. It is an ending. The whys and hows may be varied, but at the end of the day it boils down to a plain and simple truth: one person chose a life without the other person in it. And that’s it. It may be because you didn’t fit into other parts of their life, and they valued the rest of their life (which is totally fair). It may be because they just don’t like you as much as you like them – their feelings have gone or they could not see their feelings growing. It may because they have commitment issues, which is a relief in a way because it’s definitely not you then – it’s them. It could be for literally any reason under the sun, but it doesn’t change the choice that was made. Does this mean that the relationship wasn’t meaningful? No. But it does mean that if it was that meaningful, precious, and good, the other person would have also made a choice to continue it. And therefore: it wasn’t that important in the grand scheme of things.
3. You are not here to assuage someone else’s guilt, or to be the vessel for someone else’s pity.
To be fair, a kind-hearted dumper has good intentions with friendship and means it – they are not necessarily doing it from a place of guilt or pity: they genuinely do value you in their lives and see your friendship as meaningful. There are other people though who will dump you, and then want to stay in touch out of guilt, or because they feel sorry for you. Here’s the thing though: regardless of the intentions of the dumper, sticking around makes them feel less bad about the break-up, and lets them move on faster. See point 1: it also slows down your healing time. Now, that doesn’t mean that you should say no to a friendship in order to make a dumper feel guilty or sad or bad – it just means that you don’t owe it to them to stick around.
4. But the connection was really good…
Answer A: If it was that good for them, they’d have stuck around. They didn’t. Maybe it was a connection that felt real and good for you that really didn’t feel that way to them. It was great for you, not so much for them – something to work on in future relationships maybe if you have the nagging feelings that you are constantly in one-sided relationships.
Answer C: No. It wasn’t. Not a good connection at all. You lied to yourself about how great it was, or you made up a story about how great it was, but ultimately, you deluded yourself, were in maybe a thing that was as bad for you as it was for the other person and you just…. didn’t even realise. You are not good at telling if a connection was real, or meaningful – and this is something to work on for future relationships. How to work on this should be another article.
5. They had life stuff going on… that’s why we ended, doesn’t that make a difference? They still really care about me.
No. It makes zero difference. They chose the parts of their life that you don’t fit into, over the life with you in it. You may think you’re star crossed lovers, you may even have some real life Romeo/Juliet vibe, opposing clans/religions that grudgingly tolerate each other/countries that are not on the best of terms/families that hate each other – whatever: but hey, even in death, Romeo and Juliet chose each other. REPEATING FOR EMPHASIS: Key point: Romeo and Juliet chose each other. Did this person choose you? No? Your story is not that of star crossed lovers. Your story is not that of Romeo and Juliet. This person did not choose you. This person rejected you. Harsh, but true.
6. You are probably going to be a really shitty friend to them.
Think about it. What do friends do? Share their feelings, catch up, talk about things on their mind, things in their lives. What is on your mind right now? Getting dumped. Being rejected. Is it useful to talk to the dumper about this particular phase of rejection, lack of self worth, etc, when they’re kinda intrinsically tied to it? How much vulnerability are you supposed to share anyway with an ex? As you rebuild yourself (and work out eventually how/if they even fit into your life anymore) you will either: be too warm/friendly, or be too cold to them. You will either: ask too much from them for support, or feel like you can never turn to them. You will want to support them, or not support them at all. You may feel everything from resentment, anger, hurt, shame, humiliation, and a complete disenchantment with whatever you had with them. How do you build a good friendship that is fair to them and their needs? Conversely, you may give too much from a place of love, affection and care, that is also unfair because you’re not their person anymore. That is not your role in their life. Unconditional love/caring is not what they want from you. So stop it. Ultimately, what do you have to offer them right now? Answer: probably nothing but your own snot-filled misery right now.
Person 1’s investment = Person’s 2 investment
vulnerability1 – distance1 = vulnerability2 – distance2
What this means is that ultimately, you need matching numbers on both sides for a friendship to stay on an even keel, stay balanced, stay fair to both people’s capacities to show care, hold space for vulnerability, and where distance in the relationship (usually through lack of communication/meetups) doesn’t necessarily hinder the relationship. Generally, the more distance there is, the less the person is invested in the relationship, but actually you can have some friendships where people are still very vulnerable with one another, are close friends, and talk like twice a year or something.Oh the other thing is that for any relationship to be balanced, the sides of this equation have to be balanced but for any relationship to be close you need to have… uh positive/large “emotional units” or whatever it is we’re measuring this nonsense in. For example, if distance > vulnerability for both people significantly, then both people just stop giving a shit about the relationship – which is fine! it’s balanced in that the relationship doesn’t really exist.
After a breakup, the dumper is less vulnerable and likely also wants more distance – this has been their emotional state for a while now so their investment in the relationship drops. But the other person is still emotionally exactly where they were 5 minutes (or ok fine, for slow healers, 5 months, 5 years, whatever the case is) before the breakup: high vulnerability, low distance. Until both sides of these equations balance, there is no chance of a balanced or healthy friendship.
Also note that the above equation does not describe changes in vulnerability or distance that can take place over time for both people.
8. But… they really mean it. They really want to be friends.
And, if you’re asking that after reading everything that came before, as gently as I can say it: So fucking what? Ok they mean it. So? Ok they care about you. So?
They still left. Besides, you really wanted something more…do you think they sat around and went “But… they really want a relationship” ? No. Because that’s not how relationships or friendships work. Neither is an obligation.
They care about you and you also care about them. Caring about someone doesn’t need to involve any presence in each other’s lives. You don’t have to hold a grudge but neither do you owe them friendship, especially not right away. And anyway, friendship isn’t about owing; it’s about wanting to be there in each other’s lives in a way that feels comfortable and good and genuine. If you don’t have these things naturally, it’s just not there. Call it what it is: the end of a relationship. If you need to close the door for now, do it. If you can envision reconnecting later when you are both different people, leave the door open a crack (some people have trouble with this; I used to and don’t anymore).
The next time someone I’ve invested in emotionally, romantically, breaks up with me, I know exactly what my response will be: I will pack my things as they are speaking. I will get up without a word. And I will leave them, mid-sentence. And the only point where I break my silence will be if they dare ask me “Wait – hey – where are you going?”, or “So you’re just going to leave?” because then I will answer: “Me? You’re the one that left” and walk out the nearest door and also out of their lives. It doesn’t matter if this was a month long passionate affair, or years of dating.
New rule for the end of a relationship – UNLESS reconciliation/getting back together is on the table and both of you want that: These are the 3 things a breakup means:
1. This person did not choose you.
2. They owe you nothing anymore except a good closure, gentle/kind ending.
3. You owe them nothing from the minute they say “I don’t want to be with you anymore.” Nothing.
Look, bottom line: The next time someone tells you they don’t want to be with you, no matter how much you like them or love them or want this to work, you must get up from the table, pack your things, and leave. You don’t owe them an explanation. You don’t even owe them a goodbye. You owe yourself whatever you need, at whatever cost, to tend to your heart that has just been broken. You owe yourself the time to wade through the humiliation you may feel for thinking a connection meant more than it was, or to mourn a sincerely good connection that is now dead. You don’t need their explanations for closure – there is only one real explanation: “I am not choosing you.” There is no reason for the break-up other than the break up itself. You must make your own closure, live your own life, find and follow your dreams and passions. And if this person and you should meet again, and be friends down the line, so be it – and at that point, it will be a new thing, new people, with new stories and new ways of connecting.
The second conclusion, like LOTR, where everyone had to pee in the theatres but no one could and the eagle scene was like amazing but always reminds me of a full bladder ok:
Look, I still really care about my ex. That hasn’t changed.
I think he cares about me too probably maybe I don’t know; he’s certainly never given me any reason to doubt his care for me. I do think he and I will be (could be?) friends down the line eventually probably maybe who knows really i sure don’t do you does he nope no one knows and that’s actually ok (wow). I also think I could have been friends right away with him…with a lot of emotional effort on my part (because I’ve done it before with other people) but then I had to ask myself how fair that would have been to me. Answer: not fair at all. This ex also really supported me in the aftermath of the breakup but I also recognise that’s a bullshit thing for me to ask for from exes and really not my place to do that.When I finally said goodbye, I felt relieved, and able to focus on myself in a very real way. I also felt relieved that I wouldn’t be over-demanding from him, especially on days when I was miserable.
So I’m sincere, and not bitter, by ending off on this lovely Nayyirah Waheed poem:
not wanting me
the beginning of me