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This is the end, my friend

When it's time to break up, feelings still can be spared - even if it's not possible to be friends

When it's time to break up, feelings still can be spared - even if it's not possible to be friends

May 11, 2004

andrear@herald-mail.com

"L8R. It's over. NRN. :-("

Sending an e-mail or text message, especially one like that - "Later. It's over. No reply necessary." - is not the way to end a relationship. Neither is breaking up over the phone or through another person, experts said.

Shannon Wade said she typed a quick e-mail to break up with one of her first boyfriends - they only went out for a few weeks - because she felt bad about telling him goodbye to his face. He didn't take it so well, she said.

"Yeah, he was kind of mad," said Wade, 18, of Hagerstown. "I've learned a lot since then. I wouldn't do it again."

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Ryan Brady has been on the receiving end of an e-mail breakup - and it didn't feel good, he said.

"It's kind of short. You're not really talking to the person - you're talking to a computer," said Brady 19, of the Gettysburg, Pa., area.

His advice?

Do the deed in person. Be honest.

"Definitely don't play it out," he said. "And give them a reason why."

That's good advice, according to three nationally known teen relationship gurus. Breaking up is just about always hard for both people in the relationship, but honesty and face-to-face communication can eliminate mixed signals and cut down on hurt feelings and long-term resentment, said Dr. Gilda Carle, columnist for Teen magazine and author of "Teen Talk with Dr. Gilda: A Girl's Guide to Dating" (HarperCollins, 2003).

"The research tells us that the person who does the breaking up is more tormented than the person they're breaking up with. Apparently there's a lot of guilt involved," said Carle, whose Web site at www.drgilda.com includes pages just for teens. "Too often, kids continue bad relationships because they're too guilt-ridden to break it off, and fearful that they won't find somebody else. The two of them coupled together makes for some scary decision making. ... You have to be able to understand that you are the most important person in the relationship. If you're miserable, you're going to bring misery to the relationship."

Carol Weston, who has served as advice columnist at Girls' Life since 1994 and has written five advice books for teens and preteens, agreed that ending a relationship hurts - and it should.

"Hurt goes with the territory and is inevitable," said Weston, whose latest book is "For Teens Only: Notes, Quotes, and Advice You Can Use" (HarperCollins, 2002). "If it doesn't hurt, it means it wasn't much of a relationship. When your heart aches, at least it shows that you cared and that you are a human - capable of caring and loving - which is better than being a robot."

But if those good feelings are gone, end the relationship quickly, the experts said.

"Don't delay. It won't get easier for either of you," advised social psychologist Susan K. Perry, author of "Loving In Flow: How the Happiest Couples Get and Stay That Way" (Sourcebooks, 2003) and relationship expert for online dating service MyEMatch.com.

"Breaking up is like yanking off a Band-Aid," Weston said. "Whether you go fast or slow, it hurts, but if you have to, do it. It's better than hanging onto a dying - or abusive or toxic - relationship."

Just do the dumping right. That means:

  • No e-mail.


That's one-way communication that likely will leave unanswered questions, Carle said.

  • No messengers.


"That's very sixth grade, and you owe the person more," Weston said. Using a third party to do your dirty work also leaves too much room for interpretation; the third party's words to the dumpee will differ from yours, Carle said. The words you use, your tone of voice and your body language all contribute to the breakup message - so it's best to be honest and kind in person, the experts said.

  • No personal attacks - especially with regards to looks.


"Just say you like them but the chemistry is wrong and you owe it to both of you to let go - even if it's really their weight or height or something like that," Perry said.

  • No assuming.


"Some guys and girls break up without informing each other and this is also considered lame-o," Weston said.

  • No blaming.


It takes two to be compatible, Perry said. "Just say you've given it a lot of thought and that the two of you don't make the kind of match you've been seeking," she said. Or, say you don't want to spend time devoting yourself to just one person, Carle said.

  • No bad timing.


That means breaking up with someone the day before a big important test, the dumpee's birthday, prom time, "or during a time when you know everything else is imploding in the person's life," Weston said.

  • No cop-outs, like "I just want to be friends."


That's a transparent and over-used excuse that can lead to trouble, the experts said. A jilted boyfriend or girlfriend might even use that excuse to try to manipulate the so-called friendship into something more, Carle said. Besides, "It's absolutely impossible to go from boyfriend-girlfriend to being just friends right away," she said.

  • No mixed messages, such as those that give hope when there is none.


That just "prolongs the misery and leads to misunderstandings, and sometimes you feel stalked when the other person is just responding to your mixed messages," Perry said. "So don't get into an argument or let the other person try to convince you. Just repeat that you've made up your mind and you'd prefer not to go around in circles."

  • No flaunting a new relationship right after the breakup.


"Don't say, 'I've met someone else,' and even if you have met someone else, be discreet and wait before going public," Weston said. "It's tacky and mean to hold hands with someone new two periods after dumping your ex."

  • No trashing your ex.


"With a little effort, you can hold onto your dignity, and then the people who liked you both as a couple can continue hanging out with you as individuals," said Weston, who also offers advice for teens at www.carolweston.com on the Web.

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