As you move towards your late 20s, breakups are supposed to go from “Whyyyyy” to “Bye.” And true to form, my last breakup conversations have lasted about five minutes each. But don’t take my brusqueness to mean I don’t care. I do, a lot. (Probably.) But the intricacies of why our relationship is ending? Save your breath, because unless I very specifically did something wrong, I doubt what you have to say will be of value to me. Here’s why:
1. The overarching reason is always the same: You’re not the one.
There are two kinds of problems in a relationship: fixable and unfixable. Fixable is “You talk about your exes too much” or “You’re irresponsible with money.” Unfixable is “I can’t marry someone who isn’t Jewish” or “My feelings changed.” If your justification for breaking up with me is a fixable problem, and you didn’t care enough to address it with me or have enough patience to, you know, FIX it, we are probably not meant to be together. It indicates deeper problems of chemistry, communication, expectations, and/or commitment. If it is an unfixable problem, there is nothing I can do, and anything more than a brief overview is just going to make me feel even more frustrated and helpless. I can’t make you love me, I can’t change my religion or ethnicity, so what is there to discuss?
2. I’m not going to get the real reason anyway.
I have broken up with people for reasons ranging from “you turned out to be kinda dumb” to “despite what you seem to think, you do NOT need Magnums and I can’t have that conversation with you.” Did I tell these guys the real reason for our breakup? No! No reason to kick them while they are down. The next girl that comes along may not feel the same way I do, so nothing to change. (Plus, again, see No. 1—if I really wanted to make it work, we could have an awkward conversation.) When someone is hurting, it may not be the time to lay down the brutal truth. So, I don’t expect you to be honest with me right now (or ever) about your true reasons for ending things.
3. Whatever reason you give me still won’t be enough.
If the breakup is really affecting me, I’m going to wonder and overthink what I could have done better regardless of how much we talk about it. When you’re younger, you have a tendency to interrogate your ex about their reasons. But you eventually learn that no matter how many times you ask, you’ll never have an answer that is satisfactory to you (until you realize No. 1).
4. You are probably not the right person to tell me how to improve.
There is a fine line between “improving” and “changing who I am.” I am open to changing my life for the better, but I trust people who want to be a part of it to tell me how to do that in a good and healthy way. Why should I try to change to fit with someone who is not staying to grow with me? If you indicate (key word: You. Not me.) that you want to get back together, at that point what you have to say about the relationship will need to be addressed. But otherwise, my next relationship may be completely different and “our problems” may not apply. Maybe the next person I date will think my extreme competitiveness is endearing, instead of a deal breaker.
5. I just want this conversation to be over.
The longer you talk, the longer I have to wait until I can break down crying (or laughing, whichever is appropriate). I am not going to cry in front of you—it’s messy, my mascara gets fucked up; no one wants that. But I can only keep it together for a certain amount of time, so let’s make this as quick and direct as possible.
6. I’m not going to argue with someone who doesn’t want me in their life.
If you have already made up your mind that we’re going to break up, and not try to fix things; if you are creating the possibility that I will be with someone else and completely exit your life, then there is no point in talking about it more than absolutely necessary.
Breakups do suck, but they open the option to change and better yourself in ways that are important to you. In fact, a study has shown breakups result in learning and growth. Is it possible you have some insight to help me grow? Absolutely, and hopefully you brought it up during the relationship. Is the breakup the time to through all the things that went wrong? No, let’s just get this the hell over with so I can move on with my life. Though people seem a lot more nonchalant about relationships ending as they get older, what changes is not how much you hurt or how much you care. It’s knowing your self-worth. It’s having the experience to know that no matter how much this hurts now, you will be okay. Eventually, you’ll even be better.
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