How does the dumper feel?
April 1, 2010 2:31 PM   Subscribe

How does the dumper feel?

Most of the posts on this forum are about dumpees and how to deal with the pain. How the one that initiated the breakup is an idiot, doesn't know how lucky he is, will come to regret it later...etc.

But what about dumpers? How does it go for them? For example, I've experienced horrible guilt and a lack of self-worth for inflicting pain on someone I love. But there's few I would expect to forgive or feel sympathy for my plight!

And truth be told, the guilt of knowing that my heart wasn't in the relationship as much as it should be is what made me finally end an otherwise happy relationship of 7 years.

Now however, I'm locked in guilt, and go over and over the relationship, wondering if I should have just kept it going...

So, Mefites, I ask you. How did you deal with these emotions? Have you ever regretted dumping someone? What's the cycle of dumpers after having dumped someone? Did you feel the languishing guilt? How did you come to terms with all the emotions and forgive yourself?

Especially, when the world is against you, and most would say you deserve the pain!

Would be glad to have as many answers as possible.
posted by anonymous to Human Relations (23 answers total) 20 users marked this as a favorite
The one time I flat-out dumped someone I wound up feeling bad because I (being relatively young and inexperienced) handled it rather gracelessly, not because it wasn't the right thing to do in the long run (the relationship having run its course). I wasn't breaking up/dumping the lady in question because I had someone else lined up, so I didn't feel like I was doing anything wrong. But hoo boy, I sure could have taken some steps to soften the blow a bit.
posted by The Card Cheat at 2:42 PM on April 1, 2010 [1 favorite]

I left my husband after almost 10 years of marriage. So many parts of it was terrible, not only the guilt that I felt for hurting him, but also the awful reactions from so many of our friends and the pain I was already experiencing that caused me to leave him in the first place. What helped was remembering that there was a reason that I dumped him and focusing on those reasons. I also stopped worrying about what other people thought of my decision and instead spent time with people who truly supported me. Other than that, time really does heal most wounds. If you have anything specific you want to talk about, you can MeMail me. Good luck, it will get better.
posted by The Light Fantastic at 2:43 PM on April 1, 2010 [5 favorites]

There are a lot of posts on here by people who have ended a relationship and feel terrible, guilty, or regretful about it. And the responses here have been almost universally supportive, although also tend to warn them against contacting the dumpee just to assuage their own hurting feelings.
posted by peanut_mcgillicuty at 2:59 PM on April 1, 2010

i still feel guilt for the end of my last relationship. i realized that it is mostly misplaced and that no matter how i went about it he was going to be devastated, but in my own crumbling mind i just couldn't take the care i would have liked to.

besides hurting someone and not being able to explain it and the fact that it drug on for over a year - i'm also resentful and angry about the roles we were put into by our at the time mutual and now my former friends. because i was the dumper, he became the underdog and people love to root for the underdog - so i was pushed out and not considered and deeply betrayed.

even when everyone you know tells you should leave your partner - when you do - be prepared for them to take his side.

years ago, in a much less dramatic breakup, i was the dumper and the dumpee gave me the best piece of advice i've ever received at the end of a relationship - "i know you're hurting, but this was your decision - and because of that, i'm the only person in the world who can't make you feel better about it".
posted by nadawi at 3:14 PM on April 1, 2010 [7 favorites]

I recently broke off a relationship of 4.5 years with someone and it was one of the most awful things I've ever had to do. The thing is though, it gets easier as each day passes. If you are at a point where you are telling yourself you need to do this or have already done it, its probably for a good reason. As TLF said, you have to keep in mind why you broke it off. I would imagine in a lot of cases there is mutual pain so maybe you are doing them a favor; some people have trouble ripping the bandaid off or can't see what's wrong til its behind them. While it's very hard for me to do this myself, sometimes it's not a bad idea to think about yourself and your needs/interests. Sure it sucks to hurt someone, but why keep hurting yourself for someone who doesn't even see that you are hurting?
posted by zennoshinjou at 3:21 PM on April 1, 2010 [1 favorite]

The one time I was the one to end an important relationship was terrible - I was causing terrible pain to someone I loved without there being anything I could do to make it better. The memory was very present with me for months afterwards, every word, expression, the way they looked and I felt played through my head on a daily basis. I don't often think about it now, three years later, but when I do the pain and guilt and pity I felt then still have the power to hurt; are still a part of me. But they're not overwhelming anymore, and looking back on it with clearer eyes I am very sure that I made the right decision. Time and the knowledge it was the best thing to do were what caused me to come to terms with that guilt.

There are events in your life which will leave you changed irrevocably from the person you were before, for better or worse; that was one of them for me.
posted by frobozz at 3:23 PM on April 1, 2010 [6 favorites]

I'm far more likely to be dumped than to dump, so every time that I've broken up with someone it has been because being with them any longer had become intolerable to the point that I was considering drastic self-harm as an alternative to staying with them. With that in mind, I'd say that the thing that I've most commonly felt after dumping someone has been an overwhelming sense of relief.
posted by Parasite Unseen at 3:59 PM on April 1, 2010

It is miserable. I would actually prefer to be dumped, if, indeed, the relationship must end.

I guess you have to accept that you didn't have the responsibility to keep the relationship together--that you did not promise to be with that person forever and that it is okay that the relationship ended, as most relationships do. If you did promise to be with them forever, then I guess you have to remember that a relationship does not succeed based on length, but on quality. A relationship can still be successful even if it ends.

Make sure you're being as fair as possible, to the point of generosity, with any financial or practical concerns or disagreements. Do your best to minimize the practical discomfort.

Make sure your ex has contact info for all of your mutual friends. Tell your mutual friends that your ex-partner is wonderful. Don't let them take your side

Tell her how much you meant to her and tell her you will always be grateful for the wonderful time that she gave you.
posted by internet fraud detective squad, station number 9 at 4:01 PM on April 1, 2010 [3 favorites]

I still feel bad about some of the things I said when ending my first long-term relationship. It was a very stressful time for both of us, but that's not really an excuse.

That said...

Now however, I'm locked in guilt, and go over and over the relationship, wondering if I should have just kept it going...

No, no, no. Nobody wants to be in a relationship with someone who just isn't into it. You did your ex a favour by not prolonging that.
posted by ripley_ at 4:02 PM on April 1, 2010 [2 favorites]

(Sorry to assume that she is female...)
posted by internet fraud detective squad, station number 9 at 4:02 PM on April 1, 2010

In the last ten years I've only ever broken up with two people, both times after carefully deciding that, under no uncertain terms, I no longer wanted to be romantically involved with them. It wasn't mutual.

Though I don't regret the decision to leave those men, I regret not being willing to cut off contact with them in a more timely fashion. It's difficult to say how much someone deserves or benefits from "answers" as to why I'm breaking up with him, or how much I should be willing to be available to him and divulge my thoughts. But the answer is most likely "less than what I gave". My reasons were interpreted as items to be negotiated on or something he could change, and really those things weren't items that could reverse my decision, because I'd officially lost interest. Didn't stop them from trying though.

Most of the guilt came from them suggesting I wasn't willing to be a friend or a good person in spending time with them after the breakup... but I know now that "it's cruel to be kind" and what's best for them is for me to just be a cold bitch and take the blame for it. Give them some explanation, sure, but cut it off and don't let them come back into my life while I can see they're still pining for me. Let them hate me for a brief while, and move on, rather than think I can be convinced to come back, and never truly let go.
posted by lizbunny at 4:04 PM on April 1, 2010 [7 favorites]

Having lots of guilt is normal. It might help you to view it as inevitable or not your fault. Your feelings are not something you can control. If you could have stayed with her, you obviously would have, right?

There are ethical issues for dumpers and soon-to-be dumpers (e.g., being honest about the problems rather than pretending everything is fine), so people can handle it better or worse, but in general, you don't need to feel bad for the fact that this relationship wasn't right for you.
posted by salvia at 4:53 PM on April 1, 2010 [1 favorite]

I left my wife about a year ago. The divorce will be final soon.

It was the hardest thing I ever did, and it certainly wasn't mutual.

I left because I just did not love her the way she deserved to be loved, and I did not love her the way I wanted to love somebody.

My guilt came from two areas. The main one was that I wasted years of her life. Even before we got married, I knew, deep, deep down, that she wasn't "the one." I married her because she was perfectly fine and acceptable and somewhat funny and somewhat smart and I liked being in a serious relationship. Those were years I would like to give her back, would take years off my own life to give back to her. She deserves it.

The second thing I felt guilty about was blind-siding her. She had no idea how I felt or that it was coming. Because you can talk about and work though money problems, alcohol problems, sex problems, whatever, but how do you talk about a lack of feeling, a feeling that, when it was there, had more to do with the relationship itself than the person?

I confided in no one, not even my best friend or family. Everyone was shocked. SHOCKED. Few took my side, including in my own family, which as someone implied above made me feel strangely....glad. I was glad I was the bad guy even to my loved ones, because she deserves no ill will.

But although that guilt is there and will always be there, what I do NOT have is regret for the breakup.

Because although I wasted six years of her life (and mine, really), I could have wasted the rest of our lives. Instead, I did what I think a lot of people are too complacent and afraid to do. I actually feel proud I did it, which is not typically an emotion that stirs with guilt. Now I am in the kind of relationship I wished for when I was married to my wife. I feel like I did a difficult, right, strong thing, and it makes me feel good. But oh, to have not gotten married in the first place.
posted by mreleganza at 5:27 PM on April 1, 2010 [19 favorites]

I think all of the answers here have been really good so far. I felt a tremendous amount of guilt after ending a five year relationship. I remember every word he said during that conversation, some of it was really painful, some of it was really pitiful. It played in my head over and over, and I was really afraid that I didn't know how to be alone. Still, I knew that not wanting to be alone was a terrible reason to stay.

Two years later I can see that I still miss him sometimes, but most of the relationship was really unhealthy. We fell into patterns of avoiding conflict and being unable to express anger. I wanted to go out and he wanted to stay in (but wanted me there). Staying with him would have been compromising my desires and needs, and ultimately once he got past the pain I think he got healthier too. I wish that it could have worked out, but it didn't and I wouldn't be who I am today without having experienced that relationship and that breakup.

As to the roles of dumper versus dumpee, I definitely lost any mutual friends, but I learned that in future relationships I need some friends that are "mine". It took me a long time to see that our relationship made it really difficult for me to build my own friendships. I won't allow that to happen again.

My advice is the same as the above: focus on why you broke up, and don't forget the lessons this relationship has taught you.
posted by thankyouforyourconsideration at 5:29 PM on April 1, 2010 [2 favorites]

Ok, I'm about to admit something that I've never admitted publicly. But I think I can answer this question from a unique perspective.

I wonder how much of the guilt stems from personal experience with the feelings of being dumped? I ask, because I've never been dumped. And I've been the 'dumper' in every serious and not-so-serious relationship I've had. I don't say this with arrogance or flippancy...I have felt the losses of every relationship, big and small. Grief is grief, and losing something is a boatload of other way around it. But the guilt...and as a Jewish girl raised with this concept of guilt...I've not experienced guilt as the dominating emotion in all of these breakups. Rational mind steps in and knows it's been the right decision every time. Even through the moments where I wasn't so sure. Past experience has shown me it was the right thing to do. Every time. Even when it wasn't. Because I did it, it was, for some reason that became clear to me later.

I say all this, because you are in a situation where you A) probably know the feeling from the other side, B) don't have the past experiences reinforcing that this was the right decision for you (which gets you through the moments of doubt and feelings of anguish). I think that if you can find a way through A and B, you might have an easier time of things. So what I guess I'm trying to do by sharing my perspective is add something to get you through A, B, and onto C. Which might just aptly be named for Closure. Which, for you, may just involve some soul-searching, arriving at a point of forgiveness. Books, writing out thoughts, writing lists, writing letters (but not sending them!), this may all help get you there too. Even if doing these things is 'not your thing', I bet if you even just do something small, like making a list, you'll end up with at least one thought outside of your head, which is a good thing (things can fester there, blech). Think of every outward expression as the world taking on some of the weight of what you've been holding inside. That's what it's there for.

Looking out for yourself and committing to the tough call the long run it does you and your ex big favors. It doesn't mean you love them less per se, or that you don't care...but you can't hold somebody else back and more importantly, you can't hold yourself back. Keep your eye on this one. It's a long game, but life is short.

Also, can you imagine the guilt of dragging something out, tangled up in an ill-fitting relationship, because both of you were unable to break it off and move on? And for how long? And how many opportunities missed and dreams deferred? You are doing the right thing. If you tell yourself this now, even if you don't believe it, you will be pretty proud of yourself later, when you actually know it in your heart. Also, acting honorably, honestly, and with compassion towards your ex and all the people in your circle(s) will come back to you in kind. Put your energy into that. Peace 'n kindness to you; it gets better, trust me. :)
posted by iamkimiam at 6:10 PM on April 1, 2010 [4 favorites]

I remember thinking that this was a great guy, and wishing that I could make myself feel differently, and wondering if I was crazy for letting him go, and wondering if I was making a huge mistake, which I would only figure out later. I wished I could see into the future just to make sure that I was doing the right thing. Because we'd sort of circled around each other for five years, and I still couldn't 'feel it'.

And I had seen friends who were truly in love, and I wanted that. And I wanted that for him. And as long as he was with me, he wasn't going to get that. But without me, he had a chance to find it. Maybe he would, maybe he wouldn't - but he certainly wasn't going to find that "every single day I am so happy that you are in my life" sweetness if I became his wife.

And I was right - soon after he found an incredible woman who pursued him like he was the last best man on the planet, feel in love, married her and they have three kids. I know that if you asked him now he'd probably say he had no regrets. So I was right - it's now the future, and I did to the right thing. The only thing I regret is wasting all that time feeling guilty, not trusting myself, and trying hard to make something work, that truly, at its best, would have been, well, mediocre.
posted by anitanita at 6:34 PM on April 1, 2010 [14 favorites]

Yeah, it's a really crappy feeling when you still care for the other person but don't wish to be romantically involved with them any longer, while you know they don't feel that way about you. I dumped a good guy a few years back, in my early 20s. It was my first long-term relationship, and it took him completely by surprise, although things had gotten a little rocky leading up to it. It wasn't anything he didn't think we could work through, but I wasn't interested in working through it. I just wanted it to end.

It took all my friends and family by surprise, too. And I felt terrible afterwards. I cried, and I missed him, and I wondered if maybe I didn't do the right thing, wondered if he'd take me back if given the chance, etc. It was hard not having him there to talk to about these feelings. I also kept reminding myself why I did it, and there was never a time where I didn't think my actions were justified.

What I found surprising was that - even though people were shocked that I dumped him since we seemed, well, fine together - there were a few older women, around my mom's age, who commended me for being strong enough to leave him, as opposed to just settling for this guy I no longer had strong feelings for, marrying him, and feeling trapped for the rest of my life. There are many, many people out there who are so afraid of being alone that they'll stay in that relationship that they aren't really happy with, just so they don't have to be alone.

I decided I'd rather be single, living my life the way I wanted to, and not worry about being in a relationship. That can be an invigorating feeling, a time when you can really find yourself so you're in a better position to love someone else if someone else does come along. Yeah you'll get lonely, you might get random crushes on people you have no chance with (I did, anyway), but it's great to have that freedom also. It's been a few years since I broke up with that guy, but both of us are now in much more satisfying relationships and, as far as I can tell, much happier than we were with each other.
posted by wondermouse at 9:43 PM on April 1, 2010 [5 favorites]

I'll chime in as someone who's always been the dumper, never the dumpee, and say that I still get crushing guilt, feel physically sick, feel sad, cry buckets, the whole bit. I've had my heart broken in other ways and I can empathize with how painful it is when someone you love doesn't love you back. I just broke up with someone yesterday and while I know it was the right decision I still felt (and feel) sad. I still miss him. Less guilty this time because I know that if we stay together neither of us will find what we are looking for. And I've learned that space is the best gift you can give after a breakup, so I will let his friends care for him and mine for me and I know one day we can both look back on our time together as something special but which ran it's course. I'm sad that the relationship had to end but it did. I don't want someone to be with me in the hope that I will change so I can't do that to anyone else.
posted by Chrysalis at 12:23 AM on April 2, 2010 [3 favorites]

Relationships ending is fucking sad. Peoples feelings get hurt, and Everyone feels guilty as sin.

I'm a long time dumper, never a dumpee. It still sucks, and hurts and makes you feel guilty.

But nothing is worse than being in a relationship where one person knows it's over and that person is you.

In the end you're doing everyone a favor.
posted by French Fry at 8:24 AM on April 2, 2010

In the process of getting a divorce. It's not mutual. She still wants to try to work things out.

Of course it sucks because I'm hurting someone that I still really care about. It's really f'ing hard to have someone cry and yell at your and be angry and hurt and *know* that you were the one to cause the pain. Of course I feel guilty for that.

However, there's another thing that goes on in my mind too; the feeling that maybe I failed, you know? Like I'm quitting or something. I don't really screw things up in any aspect of my life (friends, professional, family, etc.), so there's a nagging feeling that I f'd up. That's been something a little tough to confront.

But, as has been said by others, my guilt is assuaged by the knowledge that I am absolutely doing the right things for me and my life. You only go around once; it's a 60 year bet. It's not worth settling. If you know, deep down, that the sig other isn't the one, you owe it to the both of you to cut it off.
posted by kryptonik at 9:53 AM on April 2, 2010 [2 favorites]

Oh man it feels absolutely and mind numbing terrible specially when you break-up with someone because they are not "right" for you rather than a lack of love or another specific reason. For me it ended up becoming one of the most important decisions of my life that still reverberates through my being everyday, yet it ended up being the right one, that knowledge carries me everyday. The (much better) person that I have become since then has makes it all worthwhile.
posted by The1andonly at 11:21 AM on April 2, 2010 [2 favorites]

Having been on both sides of this coin, I think all other things being equal the dumper feels more or less the same as the dumpee, except without the anger the results from the hurt of being dumped, and with the guilt and questioning that comes from wondering if you in fact, made the right call. But it still sucks. You still have to morn loosing the relationship, even if you know it was the right thing to do.
posted by dyslexictraveler at 11:34 AM on April 2, 2010 [3 favorites]

Been on both sides, dumped lately. Guilt is natural, but don't let it bother you too much unless you have other reasons for feeling guilty. If it's not working for you, then it's time to leave, period.

There's no reason to feel bad about doing what's right for you.

I've regretted dumping someone, but in the long run it's been best for all involved.

There's way too much unnecessary guilt over ending relationships when the real injury is letting a bad relationship continue and not letting the other person get on with their life.
posted by jzb at 12:47 PM on April 2, 2010 [1 favorite]

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