It’s an all too-familiar scene. After days and weeks — even months — of feuding with your significant other the plug is finally pulled and the party is over. But for many, a painful breakup is just the beginning in a long struggle to gain independence, as well as finding a way to amicably put a painful relationship behind them. Is there an easier route than the drawn-out, gut-wrenching marathon breakup? Of course there is, but it takes honesty, self-control and a whole lotta perspective. After all, breaking up is hard to do.
When things have gone from bad to worse and bright dreams of freedom begin to become a daily thought, many believe it’s the perfect time to tell a “white lie.” A non-malicious half-truth designed to save the other person some of the heartbreak. I agree with this, but I must amend this prior advice by adding that you must be as honest as possible. Without offering a genuine explanation, all your kind parting words don’t ring true. So “It’s not you, it’s me” just won’t cut it.
In the days to come, feelings of regret and remorse will seep in. This is the most natural thing in the world. Mourning the end is important — after all, something wonderful must have brought you together in the first place — and although that something is now in the past, it still deserves some reverence while attempting to move on. But if you feel compelled to show up at her door, or call her after one too many drinks, fight the urge. That is simply backpedaling, reopening a wound for both of you, and ultimately causing everyone a whole lot more pain.
It’s very common for people to convince themselves that if this relationship — the one that involves so much shouting and fighting — doesn’t work, then they’ll never find someone else worth spending their life with. That belief is tired and existentially paints you in a corner. There are many ideas about what a “soul mate” is. I’m of the mind that “love at first sight” and “star-crossed love affairs” begin and end in movie theaters. If “soul mates” exist, then you sure as hell won’t know it instantly. It takes time and perseverance to achieve that kind of attraction and that intimacy. My point is that romance is not a roll of the dice. Think of it instead as the pairing of keys and locks. The teeth of the key and the tumblers of the lock have to fit, and that takes time to discover. So if the relationship has run its course, have the courage to say it out loud and try to press on.
This is a thoroughly-exploited cliché, but that’s what makes it a cliché. Time does indeed heal all wounds. If you can, try to remember this current painful relationship five or ten — even twenty — years down the road. My hope is that you remember the good times fondly and come to understand that it was never a waste of time. No one likes long good-byes (even if they look like they do on TV). Ending a troubled relationship quickly and gracefully is an act of mercy, not malice. This is one of those moments in life when you must be selfish. So say what you feel and stick to it, because life is too short to debate what could have been.