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Dr Gabrielle Morrissey: Sexologist

Dr Gabrielle Morrissey has been a sexologist — sexuality educator, sex therapist and sex researcher — since 1990. She is also the author a number of successful books. ASK ME A QUESTION

How can I break up with someone?

Gabrielle Morrissey
Wednesday, October 27, 2010
Bored in marriage. Image: Getty

Question:
I've been seeing someone casually and I want to end it. I've met someone else and really I'm just not interested in her anymore. I hate break- ups, though! I don't want to seem callous, but once my feelings have turned off for someone, I just don't want to have anything to do with them anymore. It doesn't feel nice to break up with someone. Everyone always talks about the person who got dumped but it's hard to end a relationship too.

How can I do it, given I just want to ignore the whole thing and hope she gets the hint and goes away?

Answer:
Breaking up the right way may be hard to do, but if you have decency in your character, respect for the relationship you've been in, and any care for the person you once were fond of or loved, it's the right thing to do, no matter how hard. Breaking up the wrong way, the cowardscoward's way, or the mean and disrespectful way, can certainly be easy enough.

These days, some people send a simple text message! "It's ovr. Dont want 2 c u anymore." Or via a note left casually for the dumpee to see, such as a Post-it note, as was made famous in that a Sex in Tthe City episode. Others will call and leave a message, ringing deliberately when they are sure the other person won't have their phone on. Or even if it's not deliberate, get their voicemail and chicken out, leaving the message anyway, finishing with, "Don't call me back. Don't call me ever again."

And others still take the silent treatment or take the sticking- your their-heads- in- the- sand approach – — if I never answer my phone, he’ll/shethey’'ll get the message eventually and stop calling. The End.

But is this the right way to break up? Well it really depends on what you're breaking. If you're splitting up a long- term relationship, no, definitely not. And obviously if you have kids to share, or you have a home to divide then you can't be quick and one -sided about it. If other people or things tie you together, the cut between you is not a once -and- it's- done sever, but more like a tangled knot that needs to be undone.

Say you don't have very many ties and complications that bind you, though. Say you've been dating, whether for a month or a year and it's not working and you want to make the break. Can't you still send that easy- way- out text? No.

Whether it's out of decency, good character, a sense of relationship karma, pity, respect, kindness, care or a feeling of obligation to yourself, the relationship, or your soon to be ex, doing the right thing is important in life, and love, and that means in break- ups too. A genuine break- up is less likely to get messy.

If you break up with a sincere explanation, with clarity as to why, (and the good will to do it face to face) then you're far less likely to find your things piled unceremoniously on the curb, or receive prank phone messages, or find there is a new Facebook page dedicated to you being a jerk. Nothing can guarantee that your newly scorned and rejected ex won't behave badly, but chances are if you handle the break- up badly, they're more likely to be angry at you, rather than just plain sad and heartbroken, which is yes, awful, but better in the long run for both of you to be able to move on.

So, okay, you've gathered the courage to make a face- to- face meeting to break up. They may or may not see it coming. What do you do now? What should you say? How should you act? Well basically, you should be as honest, open and respectful of what the two of you shared as you can be. Always keep your end goal in mind: splitting up. Don’'t get embroiled in yet another fight – — fights just prolong the connection between you, which is counterproductive to your goal.

Be prepared before you meet them with what you want to say. The more specific reasons you can provide, the more answers you give, the clearer and clearer the break, and then you'll both be in a position to get closure. Knowing what went wrong is an important step in being able to let go and move on. Remember, you've come to this conclusion and want it for yourself but they haven’'t yet so need to be given the understanding as to why it’'s not working. Communicate in sentences that start with "I" rather than "You". This is your decision so take the responsibility.

Regardless of how irritating, obsessive, annoying, possessive, etc, they have been, if you explain how you feel yourself, instead of accusing them of this and that to contribute to the break-up you put them in a position of wanting and needing to defend themselves, and also you give them things to fight for to change in the relationship in the hope of saving it. Instead, save yourself all that trouble drifting away from your end goal.

Saying "I feel suffocated" is a lot more effective than "You're just too possessive." Apologise for any wrong doing in the relationship on your part, make sure you’'re clear that this is the end, you won't be communicating with them anymore, and be grateful for the part in your life they played, when it was good. Wish them well and then leave.

And once you leave, it's not over. Delete them from your phone (it's too easy to call them again if they are in your phone, especially on speed dial), erase them from your Facebook friends, email, MysSpace, everything. Make the total break. Don't try to be friendly, especially if you have a tendency towards the break- up, make- up, on- and- off- again relationship pattern!

It's not necessary to be friends with your ex in order to be a decent person. Handle the break- up genuinely, with respect, and that's as far as you need to go. Now you do what you need to in order to move forward. Don't visit the local hangouts you both shared hoping to see them again. And don't ever have sex with your ex.

Whenever you're tempted to go back, remember why you wanted to split. You did the right thing breaking up cleanly and honestly, with decency. Don't mess it up in the aftermath. Even though you're the one who wanted to break up, be prepared for it still to hurt and feel lonely. But stick to your convictions, do what your heart and head tell you, and sooner rather than later, you'll feel free again, with an open heart to love again. And you'll be a decent catch too.


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