You are not a bad person for wanting to break up, and neither is he.
October 6, 2012 10:01 AM   Subscribe

Any resources for healing after a breakup when you're the one that initiated it? And that doesn't demonise either party?

After six years my partner and I are now just friends. It was necessary and a long time coming: we still care for each other a great deal but the relationship as it stands wasn't sustainable anymore. We'd still like to be friends, he's practically family to me anyway, but understandably things are still awkward and raw right now (it's been less than a week).

I'm trying to find resources for healing and support, but so much of it runs along the lines of "that bastard doesn't know what they're missing!". Even the ones that are slightly more sympathetic to the initiator are very "well that person was an asshole anyway" - which, NO. He is not a bad person and neither am I. We have both been very good for each other. It just wasn't working out healthily for both of us. It doesn't help that a few other friends have been dumped around the same time, and a lot of what they report the *other party* saying is stuff I relate to...and I haven't the heart to say `well I can see where they are coming from` because they're obviously hurting.

My special snowflake guilt was that a large part of the breakup was because last year I came out to myself and him as more interested in girls than I thought I was (I'd known I was queer for ages and so did he, but some incidences made me realise that I tend to like girls *exclusively*). But because we still loved and cared for each other as companions, and had an open relationship that was working really well for a while, we figured we'd give it a shot. But it wasn't working. I felt like the breakup was the only way for me to be honest and authentic with myself - but sometimes I wonder what is the point of authenticity when it only hurts the ones that already love you as you are?
posted by divabat to Human Relations (11 answers total) 10 users marked this as a favorite
For me, I actually had a good cry with my ex and it was good for both of us to know that yes, it hurt but it's also over. But we didn't stay friends. He moved away and we don't talk at all now. YMMV.
posted by ethidda at 10:18 AM on October 6, 2012

I read "It's Called a Breakup Because It's Broken" 50 million times. It's by the same people that did "He's Just Not That Into You", and it's super-cheesy but it works.
posted by windykites at 10:50 AM on October 6, 2012

You might try "cinema therapy" -- looking for movies with breakups of this sort. The first thing that comes to mind is "Out of Africa" where she remains friends with her ex husband in spite of affairs and other dramas. When she remarks on it at some point, he says "Well, we started as friends". Bonus points: The movie is based on real life events.
posted by Michele in California at 11:33 AM on October 6, 2012

Michele in California: ooh that's an interesting idea. Any other suggestions for books/movies/etc that are similar?
posted by divabat at 11:40 AM on October 6, 2012

I will think on it, but that is the only title that immediately comes to mind. Another movie comes to mind, but I have no idea what the title is or how I could find it. (Though, really, I was thinking that would make a great AskMe.)

If I think of any others, I will post more later.
posted by Michele in California at 11:51 AM on October 6, 2012

So, are you asking for ways to get over the *relationship* or to get over the guilt of ending the relationship? Because it sounds like you broke up because you were already over the relationship.

Getting over the guilt is harder. Don't make it easy for him to stay attached to you, and be very deliberate about letting him go. Care for him by facilitating his healing, by having some no-contact time (a few months to a year is appropriate after a 6-year relationship; this should be regulated by whoever feels like they need the most time).

Throw yourself into your new life with abandon! When you feel guilt, think good and positive thoughts about your ex, and wish for his happiness instead of worrying about his pain.
posted by katya.lysander at 1:39 PM on October 6, 2012

Oh also - the book How to Survive the Loss of a Love was amazingly helpful to me, and a great antidote to "that bastard doesn't know what he's missing!" (which is also sometimes helpful).
posted by katya.lysander at 1:41 PM on October 6, 2012

If you dumped him, your option of least cruelty now is avoiding contact. This will be hard, because your natural inclination will be to fuss and fret and make sure he's OK.

The thing is, that nobody who has just been dumped is OK. He'll be hurting bad for a while. And he will undoubtedly try to get comfort from you, because you're the person he's accustomed to getting that from. But your present circumstances are such that he needs to find other sources for that because if he doesn't he's going to be emotionally stuck for far longer than he could be.

what is the point of authenticity

The point is that the lack of it is emotionally crippling, and leads to the inexorable white-anting of any intimate relationship you're part of and a life dominated by regret.

when it only hurts the ones that already love you as you are?

Hurt is unavoidable. It's part of being alive. But there's not much virtue in choosing to prolong it for years and years and years.
posted by flabdablet at 10:26 PM on October 6, 2012 [2 favorites]

I am in a similar situation, having just ended a long term relationship with a really wonderful person who just wasn't right for me anymore. The guilt is immense.

Try to find a balance between staying busy and distracted, while also giving yourself some time to be reflective and maybe cry for a bit. I'm in therapy once a week and that helps a lot.

I know that I made the right decision but I also regularly think that I shouldn't have, just because of how much pain it seems to have brought upon him and the world. It sounds like you are in a similar place. It feels selfish and terrible to do something for your own happiness when it hurts someone you care about so much. My therapist is trying to get me to understand that I have a right to my best life, but I'm not sure I'm able to do much beyond pay lip service to that idea so far. But I'm working on it.

I have had to detach a bit so that I'm not constantly hearing/seeing how hurt he is. For a while I think I forced myself to hear it and feel the pain and guilt as a sort of penance, but I'm actually not sure it's helpful for either of us. You're allowed to ask for space for yourself, even as the instigator of the breakup.
posted by misskaz at 9:58 AM on October 7, 2012 [1 favorite]

Cry a lot. Eventually you'll be finished.
posted by ead at 12:49 AM on October 8, 2012

Also, the point of authenticity is to avoid getting ourselves into bad situations in the future. It doesn't apply retroactively.
posted by ead at 12:50 AM on October 8, 2012

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